If you’ve happened to catch Jay-Z performing “Empire State of Mind” live over the past couple of years, there’s a good chance that wasn’t Alicia Keys you saw performing the chorus, but actually Roc Nation signee Bridget Kelly. Like most new artists who get signed to major labels these days, she didn’t come out with her own project immediately, but instead has been patiently waiting for her turn while touring and performing with her boss. However, the waiting is almost over. With her debut album almost complete and her new single “Thinking about Forever” already generating buzz all over the internet, Bridget Kelly is one you need to be ready to look out for.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Take me back to earlier in your career about how were you originally discovered by Roc Nation.
Bridget Kelly: I’m originally from New York and I always wanted to be part of the Roc movement because it was such a powerful musical presence and representation from New York. Ironically enough, I had management that was working at Def Jam at the time underneath Jay-Z when he was there and then when he left. It was just a perfect opportunity to send some music over and let them take a listen and have meetings. We were very fortunate to be able to get involved with Roc Nation. It was the perfect timing.
YKIGS: I read that before you got signed, you used to perform showcases around New York City. One of things you did was performing at the subway platform at Union Square. Take me back to that experience and talk about what you were looking to accomplish.
BK: *Laughs* That was a real move on my part because you’re supposed to have a permit when you go into the subway station to perform. We all could have gotten crazy tickets and got arrested. *Laughs* We had a microphone and a speaker box that plugged into it. Basically, it was a heavy karaoke machine. One of the producers that I had been working with at the time put together some TV tracks for me and we just went down there. We didn’t know what to expect. I think the idea was just to see if people were responsive to the music we were putting together. I think a couple of the songs that I did are still on YouTube! I remember going down and being petrified! It actually generated a really positive response and a lot of people stuck around for a little bit, at least until I finished the song as opposed to a typical rush hour response of taking a look and then continuing with their journey. *Laughs*
YKIGS: Were people giving you quarters and dollar bills too? *Laughs*
BK: At that time, I wasn’t even really trying to do it for money. I really just wanted to see people’s responses. We were putting together a work set for me and one of the songs we were pushing was called “Stuck”. So we made these little stickers that read “Stuck on BK”. I made about 1000 stickers and I had on little shorts and an “I Love BK” t-shirt and everybody was taking the bumper stickers and it was leading them to the website and they were checking out the music. So it was very cool, it was a nice little independent project we were working on and soon after, everything with Roc Nation picked up.
YKIGS: Since you’ve been signed to Roc Nation, I know you’ve been on tour with Jay-Z and performing with him, especially filling in for Alicia Keys on “Empire State of Mind”. What have you learned from Jay-Z in the time you’ve had to be around him?
BK: He’s very passionate. In order to maintain that longevity and success, you really have to love what you do and he really does. It’s work. A lot of the stuff we did on tour was very difficult, long and tiring. Regardless of how sick or tired he was, he always gave 110% on the stage. You would never know if he was tired or drunk. As soon he hit that stage, it was an incredible performance. He gave it all and he’s a really humble dude. He’s really appreciative and respectful of everybody’s efforts around him. I think a lot of artist’s success is from his team and he has a very powerful team of a strong group of people around him. All these people who really keep him grounded and support and encourage him as much as possible. He’s love everyone for it and he’s very humble about it and I think it’s helped to take him as far as he’s gone.
YKIGS: I read that Alicia Keys was one of your influences coming up. I’ve heard your name compared to hers in terms of as an artist. How do you respond to that comparison?
BK: I’m flattered. *Laughs* That’s my dream to be compared to somebody like that. She embodies to me what is I think every artist strives to embody; I think it’s just pure creativity and musical evolution. She has such a power. Her voice is powerful, the message is powerful. I think it’s a beautiful thing. When I first started, I was little worried because I didn’t want her to be disappointed like “Damn, she’s kind of wack.” *Laughs* I really wanted to impress her and do the song justice like she did so it was an incredible compliment to be compared to her in any respect.
YKIGS: Tell me about the current single you have out “Thinking about Forever” and give me some background on the song.
BK: It’s all over the place, isn’t it? When I first heard it, it was so nostalgic for me which I think is very fitting. In general, it is a lot of imagery through words that makes you remember and recall certain periods of your life as a kid. I love “Thinking About Forever” because to me, it made me feel like I was a kid. Almost like if I was at a beach. It took me to a beach as a kid, looking out into the ocean and it made me feel like it was limitless. I felt like it goes on forever. The chorus (“Do you think so far ahead? Because I’ve been thinking of forever”) Is a true statement. As women, we all feel that way. We all going into a relationship or even before the relationship or even after the second date, if we like the guy, we always get ahead of ourselves and start planning the wedding before we even get to meet his mama. It’s definitely a song that covers a lot of emotional ground and that’s really what I want people to take from my project and so I’m very happy that was the first song we went with.
YKIGS: Another song you recently released was a cover of Miguel’s “Quickie”. What was the inspiration for putting that together and how’s it been received?
BK: I wanted to pick a song that people really loved and related to. I think a lot of what my music is and what I want my music to represent are perspective on things that aren’t necessarily talked about all the time. So because of that, I wanted to pick a song that was a little bit taboo and turn it around and take it from a woman’s perspective and that was the best song to do that with. A lot of men aren’t necessarily going to tell you that they just want a quickie. Some will, but most won’t. That’s a little bold. I felt like the answer from a woman would be “We’re too old for that shit, that’s not going down.” *Laughs* The response has been pretty great. It’s funny because I did it with Fisticuffs who are the producers that did the track. Miguel actually came to the studio while I was recording it and it aught me completely off guard.*Laughs* He actually thought it was very cool that was my take on it.
YKIGS: Talk to me about the project you’re working on and what we can expect.
BK: I’m almost done. I’m about 90% done. We recorded a lot this summer with it being completely dedicated to the album. We have a lot of material, a lot of great material. Some stuff we actually had from a year ago that we wanted to keep, ones we worked really hard on and wanted to include on in the project. With all the stuff we have, I think we’ll be able to come with an EP and an album. We have an EP we’re working on now that we’re going finish the track list and shoot a couple of videos and put that out in a couple of weeks. I’m very excited about that because it’ll be an incredible introduction to what the album will be and what type of the songs will be on there. The album will hopefully be out by first quarter. That’s what I’m going for. So it’s a lot in the works. *Laughs*
YKIGS: Who did you work with on the album in terms of writers, producers and features?
BK: You know what, I didn’t do any features on this album. A lot of people are surprised by that, but it wasn’t on purpose. It wasn’t like I went in and said I didn’t want anybody on the album. Just the way that everything came together and the way that the songs came out, it didn’t happen. Out of all of the producers that I worked with, Shea Taylor is my all time favorite producer. He’s also a part of Roc Nation and he did a lot of Beyonce’s last album that she just put out. He’s got an incredible ear and working with him was incredibly inspiring. I worked with a great guy named Harmony as well. He’s from London so he’s got a totally different, fresh perspective on music and a different approach. I did a record with Oak and Pop, they put a little Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay into one of my songs. They’re kind of…I don’t want to say they’re up and coming because I think they’ve been around for awhile, but I think they are kind of on the low key. I love working with people who aren’t necessarily the obvious go to people, and I think I was able to accomplish that on this album.
YKIGS: You mentioned you’re looking to shoot a couple of videos. Is there a song you’re looking to follow up with as the next single or a song we should look out for?
BK: There’s a couple. I think we are definitely going to shoot a video for “Thinking about Forever” and then I think there are two more songs that we are going to shoot a video for. I don’t think that we’ve really decided on an actual single to push with a video. I think we’re just going to flood the media with as much content as possible and just let the fans and people decide what they love and what they’re most attracted to and take it from there.
YKIGS: I know the industry has changed a lot over the years. I know that being signed to a label doesn’t guarantee anything like it used to. I’ve even heard from artists that even know they were signed, they didn’t feel like they’ve really made it yet and there’s a chance they might never come out. Even though you’re signed, talk about the work and effort you have to put in as an artist.
BK: I think the most important element when doing an album is patience. *Laughs* I had a really hard time in the beginning adjusting and fighting everybody else’s words and opinions of my project not coming out. I think that the difference with being a part of Roc Nation and being part of a mass production organization is we’re like a family. If there are questions and concerns and things like that, then we need to have voices and we’re allowed to speak up and are respected. I worked really hard before getting signed, and then I think getting signed was even harder. *Laughs* The work entails sitting back and kinda letting other people hold the reigns a little bit and be able to navigate and figure out when to move and how to move. I think it’s a blessing to be with people who know what they’re doing. I’ve been doing this for half of my lifetime and I’ve been successful at it. We’re a family so we have personal relationships and I trust in them like they trust in me. At the end of the day, we’re all working towards a common goal. In order to get to where we all want to be, that open communication with them allows me to not worry about certain things. I remember wondering certain things, especially after going on tour for over a year without even setting foot in the studio for more than a week at a time. I was a little nervous but I remember having a couple of conversations with people and I was told “When it’s your time and when you get to really do it, you’re going to do it. You wouldn’t have come this far if you weren’t being prepared for something bigger.” As a new artist you have to keep that in mind or else you’ll worry yourself into the ground and never rise up.
YKIGS: Anything you’d like to add?
BK: I’m just excited! I’m just excited to get my material out and have everybody love it. I’ve been bumping some of it in the car and I turn it up all the way and look around to see if anybody is looking at me like “Hey, who’s that??” *Laughs* So I’m just ready to release everything and get back to performing and getting back on that stage.