By Emily Honeycutt – A&F Editor – firstname.lastname@example.org
Far from being shy or starstruck, the crowd at The Social in Asheville last Friday welcomed Rory Kelly and his bandmates like old friends, only because they are.
“We call it grassroots like everybody else. We build it from the ground up. I make it a point to talk to my friends and remember people’s names and be kind to people who are kind to you,” said Kelly, lead vocalist and guitarist for the band Rory Kelly.
The band, tagged as dirt southern rock, has only three members. Kelly on lead vocals and guitar, Billy Miller on bass and Mike Kelly, Rory’s father, on drums. The family dynamic, according to Kelly, is the key to the band’s success.
“It’s really cool. Musically, it’s over the top. We are right and locked in with each other all of the time. From the financial end of my mom doing the managing to the playing on stage. Even Billy’s like family,” Kelly said.
Even though the band’s music is on point, Kelly said there are still obstacles to overcome in the family business.
“When you’re with family when you’re not in game mode, there is fighting that happens, just like with any other band. We’ve kind of set a rule down that when we’re in this van and at a club, no matter what, it’s band business.”
Growing up 30 minutes down the mountain in Marion, Kelly said Asheville is more of a home to the band than his hometown.
“I consider Asheville more of our home turf because we play more here and we have a lot more friends here,” Kelly said. “My dad grew up in Jersey and then just moved here 25 years ago with us. Billy, he lived in Marion his whole life.”
Of the three in the band, Kelly said Miller was the first to make his big break.
“Billy was the first one from our Marion group of people that went out touring with bigger bands on the road all the time and stuff. That was one of the reasons I wanted him, because not only was he a good bass player, but because I knew he knew how to be on the road,” Kelly said.
Kelly said he wanted Miller in the band for a long time, and he patiently waited for his chance to replace the band’s first bass player.
“We played together, me and Pops and the other guy, for about a year, and then it was just a perfect opportunity to get rid of him and to get Billy. You got to make the decisions and make the moves in that growing process, so I called Billy up and he was off tour with his other bands, and it just didn’t seem like he was going back out with them at that time so I snatched him up,” Kelly said.
Miller joining the Kelly’s, along with the release of a new album and an increase of touring, were all keys to the band’s success thus far, according to Kelly.
“Billy joined up, and we released the Family Tree record, which got us national and international recognition, and we started getting magazine write-ups and articles and radio stuff,” Kelly said.
Another key to the band’s growth was the release of their first video to the song “(Don’t Shake My) Family Tree,” which also revealed Kelly’s connection to his community.
“We did it ourselves. I called up a bunch of my friends and put it on Facebook and said, ‘Show up at my buddy’s backyard.’ My mom, she did the videocamera work. I edited it, mixed it down and did all that. It was the first time I really ever tried to do all that with so many camera angles flashing because I kind of wanted it to resemble ‘Paradise City’ where at the end of the video it’s just all these shots and clips,” Kelly said.
The next step for the band is working with Jack Mascari, a local producer who, according to Kelly, has a close relationship with the Allman Brothers’ guitarist Warren Haynes.
“This next record that we’re working on is going to be shopped and worked toward that angle. We have a big name and a guy I really look up to in Jack that is going to take this album, produce it with us and really do a lot of work to get this thing big,” Kelly said.
In the meantime, Kelly said the band works hard every day to make the record possible.
“We’re playing gigs Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then we take Monday and Tuesday and we work hard in the studio. Wednesday, we gear up to get back on the road again. We don’t even rehearse anymore,” Kelly said.
Whether playing for friends in local bars or touring for two weeks in Europe, Kelly said it’s all still work.
“As crazy and fun as it might seem, and partying and all that kind of shit, there has to be a uniform understanding no matter, what like a job. But it’s a fun job,” he said.