KELLY MONEYMAKER: "READING HELPED ME ESCAPE CABIN FEVER"
Interview by Carl Marsh July 2015
So, you were born and bred in Alaska, that is one place I will go to one day. Such a vast place of beauty when you see it on the screen, how was it for you growing up there though?
I loved growing up in Alaska and it’s exotic, wide-open spaces! When I was little I’d zip up my snowsuit, sneak outside and drop back into a pillow of snow to watch the Northern Lights.
Was it a necessity to leave home to further your career in music?
Yes, but I'm a gypsy by nature anyway. I hit the road at thirteen years old with a local act. By the time I was fourteen I met my manager, Rick Fisher, in Seattle and joined the music biz circus!
You were in the pop trio Exposé but are now concentrating on a solo career, what made you make this decision?
Exposé is a sisterhood I'm grateful to be part of and I sub for them on occasion, but I'm addicted to the creative process, so writing, recording and producing led me down a path of self-discovery.
With your latest LP Stone, who were your influences for this, and why?
This album ended up being a tribute to the artists who blasted on my home stereo while I was growing up—Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Tom Petty, Sly Stone, Graham Central Station, The Supremes and Tina Turner. It’s also about embracing life’s challenges with a healthy sense of humour and gratitude. My last album, Race Against The Sky, took 9 years of writing, producing, learning about myself as an artist and person. The band and I left no stone unturned in that process, so this album is named STONE for the empowerment I’ve gained from that learning experience.
You know that I promote reading as a core thing that people should do, so, how has reading helped you through your life? And why should people read more books?
Reading helped me escape cabin fever during the long, dark, cold winters in Alaska. Joy Elementary had a 100 Book Club, which was a good motivator because we were given tickets for each book read, to then use in the school store. I experienced myriad adventures just by cracking open a book!
When you watch a movie, you are subjected to someone else's interpretation of a story, which is like wearing another person's glasses. I think it's important to read so you have an experience outside your normal existence, yet you'll have your own interpretation of whatever you've digested.
What sort of genre of books, and of this genre, what authors and/or books would you say were your choice of escapism?
I enjoy many genres and usually have a few books going at the same time. Dystopian stories such as Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, George Orwell’s 1984, The Road by Cormac McCarthy and EM Forrester's short story, The Machine Stops, were all influential in my becoming an eco-head. Instead of taking on a “sky is falling” approach to life, it inspired me to become a solutionist.
Heroic Tales like Gene Wolff's Shadow & Claw and The Sword and The Citadel, or Isaac Asimov’s Sci-Fi Foundation series get my blood pumping. Angela Carole Brown’s The Murder of Gabriel Champion is about the dark underbelly of the LA art scene, and it forces you explore the stretching boundaries of art and morality.
I'm an aspiring Buddhist, so The Tibetan Book of the Dead and The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama are on my bedside table. Shel Silverstein spawned my early love of poetry and now my daughter is a huge fan. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay helped me do just that. Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath, The Tipping Point and Outliers are must reads! Alaskan author Velma Wallis wrote two of my all-time fave books - Two Old Women and Bird Girl (And The Man Who Followed The Sun). Peter Bowler’s The Superior Person's Book of Words is in my powder room for guests. Ken Follet's historical research meets story-weaving in The Fall of Giants is masterful. My copy of Love In The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is in shameful shape. I dig healthy cooking, so I’d recommend The Plantpower Way by Rich Roll and Julie Piatt. Right now I'm reading A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel, and What The Dog Knows by Cat Warren.
If I can get back to asking you about your current plans, are you visiting the UK this year, if so, will it be to promote Stone?
Yes! I’m very excited to perform songs from Stone acoustically in the UK from July 22nd through August 16th! I’ll be singing live at a mix of clubs, radio shows, parks and vintage clothing stores. We’re adding new dates all the time, which will be listed on KellyMoneymaker.com.
Apart from Exposé, I know you have shared the stage and studio with quite a few musical legends, of these, who were you most in awe of, and what did you take from that experience?
I had the honour of singing on Ringo Starr’s 2012 LP. He’s one of the funniest humans I’ve ever met, humble and he’s still got killer chops! He and Dave Stewart wrote a song on the spot, then Ringo played the drum track in one take. That’s how it’s done!
One of first live performances with Exposé was a televised Music For Our Children fundraiser. I remember standing back stage, feeling overwhelmed by this somewhat surreal experience when Bonnie Raitt came over and asked, “Who Are You?” When I told her my name, she said, “Moneymaker?!” then she took me by the arm and introduced me as her new best friend to Wynona Judd, David Crosby, Marc Cohn and many others. I will never forget her emotional generosity, and I pay it forward when I meet up-and-coming artists.
Todd Rundgren’s genius (in and out of the studio) is awe-inspiring, but it’s his wife, Michele Rundgren who has been my life-long mentor. She taught me how to own the stage and how to conduct myself off of it.
The musicians I’m in the trenches with are the ones who move me most. Gabriel Moses (guitar), Herman Matthews (drums) and Michael Mennell (bass) are the core band I write and record with called “In The Black”. They are pure talent, incredible people and they are my family.
What makes a great singer, someone who has the voice, or the talent to write their own music, or both, yet not many can do both it seems these days?
There are stylists who can take someone else's song and make it their own, which I think is an interpretive performance art. Then there are those whose inner artist must speak to share experiences and connect with people through storytelling. I don't think one type is more talented than the other. I think finding a means of self-expression is the most important thing.
What gets you out of bed each day, what gives you the drive and motivation?
Whether I'm writing a song, cooking, telling stories in character voices to my daughter, designing a house, doodling or making mud pies - as long as I'm being creative, I am happy.
Name three things that annoy the hell out of you?
Book stores closing!
People who throw cigarettes or trash from their cars.
That we've not made much headway concerning environmental issues such as Fukushima, climate change, endangered species and dependence on fossil fuels
And on the flip side, what three things make you really happy?
Time with family and friends.
Full belly laughter, especially a child’s.
When my band, the audience and I share an exchange of energy that is simultaneously explosive and zen.
The normal question I ask last is this, if you were an animal, what would it be, and why?
The Raven. It is my animal totem because it is a strong, clever survivor. Ravens have a type of anti-freeze in their blood, which is why they don't turn into popsicles during harsh Alaskan winters. They are also treasure hunters! I envy their ability to fly, track and adapt. They also co-hunt with my other favourite animal, the wolf.