Legend maintains that Robert Johnson gained his talent by trading his soul to the devil at the crossroads. That crossroad has become a powerful metaphor for the paths ahead and no one knows that better than Kelly Richey.
The Blues singer/songwriter/guitarist arrived at that divergence in 2008. After a 25-year career, seven studio albums, five live recordings and countless fans, music failed to motivate her. Richey gained weight from a psychological food/alcohol reliance and serenity eluded her. She defined her identity solely through music, with no sense of self beyond that.
“I got really burned out,” Richey says over a mid-morning caffeine jolt at Sharonville’s Alreddy Coffee. “I was constantly staying one step ahead of the game, praying a band member wouldn’t quit, micromanaging things. The last thing I did was make music. I stepped off the road last January because my dream had become a nightmare. I built my dream as a 15-year-old, and I’d outgrown that model.”
Through a course on self-publishing books, Richey discovered Marcia Weider’s “dream coaching” process, which led to transformative healing, a 50-pound weight loss and a purposeful clarity. Richey eventually attended workshops to get certification in Dream, Life and Health and Wellness coaching herself.
“I’ve been doing Dream and Purpose coaching for several years and love helping people identify what they’re designed to do and be,” Richey says. “It’s something you don’t sell, it’s something you offer. If you do your best work, people find you and you’ll work with who you’re supposed to.”
It’s been 15 months since Richey restructured her music career and priorities. Her Redmoor show this Friday represents a limited stage return after rethinking her life/music balance as well as the focus of her show.
“My first band show after over a year off was in Cleveland in March, and it was one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had,” Richey says. “I wasn’t there to prove a thing. I was there to establish a relationship with the audience. I had mistaken my talent for my purpose, so it was refreshing to realize that I didn’t need to prove that I can play guitar. I needed to figure out how to create an experience the audience could participate in. Have you given somebody a Jimi Hendrix experience or a true connection with themselves and each other? There’s a whole new set of possibilities for playing music now.”
Life and music have been inextricably intertwined for Richey since her childhood. The Lexington native learned piano, then inherited a neighbor’s drum kit; her father bribed her with a guitar to stop drumming. Richey took the guitar everywhere, including school, where officials disconnected outlets to discourage her impromptu performances.
“I was drawn to Led Zeppelin and the Blues-based Rock bands,” Richey says. “I didn’t know they were Blues-based. I thought Led Zeppelin wrote those songs.”
At 23, Richey joined Arista band Stealin’ Horses, and she toured and recorded with them for four years, while slowly recognizing her Blues passion. In 1990 she formed the Kelly Richey Band, beginning her two-decade Blues adventure, which included launching her own label, Sweet Lucy Records. Her 1994 debut album, Sister’s Got a Problem, hinted at Richey’s extraordinary potential, while her last CD, 2008’s Carry the Light, was among her best work.
With her quasi-hiatus ended (she’s done sporadic solo gigs), Richey is anxious to play out more and return to the studio. Her longstanding bassist, Jimmy Valdez, introduced her to new drummer Dave Kemp, and Richey feels rejuvenated, inspiring her begin writing again.
She’s also committed to the coaching process that facilitated her new career phase. She’s conducting her own coaching sessions at various locations, including Art of Entertaining in O’Bryonville (where she doubles as marketing director). Richey also offers Blues education programs for schools through her Music 4 Change Foundation.
Richey realizes that success for her means integrating her musical pursuits and coaching skills into complementary creative endeavors.
“I followed my heart and it’s been brutal, but it brought me to where I am,” Richey says with a serene smile. “I know how not to do just about everything and how to do some things well. I have a good mentor coach through the Purpose community, and I’ve (told) her, ‘Be a strong critic. I want to be great at this.’ I approach life that way, as a coach and in being coached. It’s never a done deal. You never graduate.”
For the latest on KELLY RICHEY (including live show dates), visit kellyrichey.com.