During a 10-year period, Kelly was involved in three different relationships with men who were both physically and emotionally abusive. The last of the three relationships, the most serious, brought her to the brink of suicide. Through the support of her sister and parents, she was able to end the abuse cycle.
Her music reflected her personal life. Kelly describes her first two releases, “Take Me Away” (2004) and “Where the Past Meets Today” (2006), as “angry girl dealing with her past.” The albums garnered both commercial success and critical acclaim. Kelly said she could have continued to make music from the depths of her pain, but it was time to return to her roots with the 2008 album “Born to Worship.”
“I wrote some of the songs on the album when I was 7 or 8 years old,” she said. “I do believe that God created me to be a worshipper. I have the heart of a worshipper and a rock voice. That puts me into different genres.”
Kelly will perform songs from her first three albums and new material on April 4 at Cup o’ Joy Coffee House, 223 S. Broadway in Green Bay. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and music begins at 7:30 p.m. Bobbie and Rosemary Salinas and Danen Kane will also perform. Kelly said that she is excited to return to Green Bay.
“I love the Cup,” she said. “It’s a smaller venue, and, as a singer-songwriter, I like that it’s so intimate. I love you guys. When I play the Cup, I find that I’m really energized for months afterwards. I will be sharing some new stuff hot off the press.”
Playing the keyboards for Kelly will be her husband of six months, Jonas Ekman. The couple met in Sweden, his homeland, where Kelly performed at a festival. She often combines a visit to a local church to provide worship music with a concert appearance.
“I thought he was cute, but I figured that he was probably married with four kids,” said Kelly. “He was playing the keyboards at the church. He came up to me and asked for my e-mail address. It turned out that he was at the concert the night before and was scared to come up to talk to me. We hit it off. He later flew to Rockford (her birthplace) to take me on a date.”
Kelly added that being happily married has led her to scale back her concert schedule. Spending more time at home in southern California also allows her to pursue other musical interests.
She has opened two piano schools, teaches a class on songwriting at the University of Southern California and is working on a Web site to create a connecting point for church-written songs.
“I want to put together an online school for original songs,” she said. “Songwriting inspires people. It’s provided so much healing in my life. I know that it will do the same for other people. I also believe we need more church-written and less artist-written songs for worship. I would like to see church choirs sing one original work for every four artist-written songs.”
Kelly, who has been compared to numerous mainstream recording artists, including Sarah McLachlin, Janis Joplin, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones and Carole King, continues to work on new music. She has released a live album and at a recent concert in Cincinnati introduced her new single “Live Every Love Song.”
Music from the heart touches all faiths, said Kelly.
“A good song is a good song and crosses those boundaries,” she said. “Songwriting has strengthened my relationship with God, and I want to share that with everyone.”