An Interview with guitarist Kelly Richey, her playing standing among the best rockin' blues guitarist known today

"Some musicians (and listeners) may prefer blues that is more traditional, and some may prefer more Rockin’ blues. Like the colors of a rainbow, it’s all good!"

Kelly Richey: The Spear Shakers Blues

Kelly Richey has been described as “Stevie Ray trapped in a woman’s body with Janis screaming to get out.” From Lexington, Kentucky, Kelly Richey is a master Blues guitarist who has been compared to such legends as Hendrix, Walter Trout, Bonnie Raitt and SRV. Richey’s powerful guitar chops capture an audience with muscular, aggressive guitar leads that will amaze even the most seasoned blues enthusiast. Richey has been touring as a pro since her teens; Richey has been burning up the fret board on her Strat with hard-hitting, riff driven, gritty blues-based rock. Simply put, her live shows have to be seen to be believed. The heady combination of Richey’s powerful alto and the sheer intensity in her playing solidify Kelly Richey’s standing among the best blues guitarists known today.                     (Kelly Richey / Photo by Jeff Shiflett)

Richey has shared the stage with such legends as Lonnie Mack and Albert King, and has opened for Joe Cocker, Johnny & Edgar Winter, Walter Trout, Little Feat, Foghat, REO Speedwagon, George Thorogood, Average White Band, Warren Zevon, and James Brown. Based in Cincinnati, Kelly Richey is one of the hardest working independent musicians out there; gigging a grueling 275 days out of the year. Today, a staggering 4,000 gigs later, she more than earns the title of master guitarist. In 2006, Richey created Music for Change, a non-profit committed to bringing music education into public schools; a variety of programs offering live performances, lectures, and interactive participation serve to facilitate learning opportunities for students while keeping the history of American music alive and prospering. In addition to the above, in 2013, Richey joined the TrueFire guitar instruction roster, the largest, most successful online guitar instruction school of it’s kind. Kelly Richey’s 16th album ‘Shakedown Soul’ (2016) encompassing a 35 year career as a singer/songwriter and master guitar slinger known for her fiery chops, was an album that deftly mixes blues, funk, electronica, and gritty rock n' roll. Kelly Richey joins forces with Sherri McGee to form a new power duo is called The Spear Shakers– a force to be reckoned with. Richey’s vision to develop an all-original power duo was inspired by her love for the White Stripes and the Black Keys. The name “Spear Shaker” comes from the Greek goddess Athena, a spear shaker who shook her spear in the face of justice! The band will be playing a limited number of shows while recording and preparing to tour in mid-2019, so keep your eyes wide open as the Spear Shakers explode on the scene this fall…!!!

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos: Sonya Ziegler, Jeff Shiflett, and Sara Dreibelbis / All rights reserved

How has the Blues, and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

When I first started playing the guitar, rock n’ roll ruled…! It ruled my life the lives of those around me. There was one only one genre, one volume, and one station. Adults were not allowed, and music was the only authority. I didn’t know that my favorite rock n’ roll was blues, on steroids! All I knew was that Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Bad Company, and the Rolling Stones turned everything that was upside down, right-side up…! I grew up in a Southern Baptist family, in Lexington, KY. My parents weren’t against rock n’ roll; we just didn’t have any in our home. We had Engelbart Humperdinck and Roy Clark; Tom Jones was the closest thing to rock music that we had. When I got my first guitar, I had no idea who Jimi Hendrix was, and the first real song I ever learned to play was “Hey Joe.” The first song I ever heard by Jimi’s was “And the Gods Made Love,” I was hooked, I was mesmerized, and I was inspired. Thanks to Jimi Hendrix, I discovered Bob Dylan. From there I found Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, CSN&Y and their lyrics made me think, made me ask questions, and made me push past conformity. My journey was determined by what was stirring in me. My guitar never left my hands, and… freedom really became, “…just another word for nothing left to lose.”

When was your first desire to become involved in the blues and rock music?

Shortly after I got my first guitar at age 15 I began to discover blues/rock music like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Cream. I loved it right away; though I didn’t realize it was blues-based rock at the time-- I suppose I was too young still. I just thought of it as great and powerful music. It was later on in my music career that I began to understand that the music I loved most was all blues-based.

What do you learn about yourself from the blues rock and what does the BLUES ROCK mean to you?

I find that “blues” rock is packed full of emotion and it allows me to emote in ways that other genres do not. This powerful form of musical expression inspires me to perform to my fullest potential, and also invites me to take pen to paper and write down my deep-seated feelings for future songs ideas or poems.

"I read the audience, I feel the audience, I play to the audience and I play off of the audience.  The pure emotion of blues makes it very interactive." (Kelly & Rikk on stage /Photo by Sara Dreibelbis)

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD MUSICIAN and SONGWRITER?

As a player and performer, I think repetition makes the well I pull from very deep; but honestly, personally evaluating each show, every tour, and every record I make pushes me to grow. I also feel that playing professionally opens one up for critique from peers. Feedback is good and should never be ignored. As a songwriter I think it’s important to find my voice and constantly develop my writing style, especially being willing to be vulnerable. Great writing is honest writing. The more honest we are the more we have to share that people can identify with.

How do you describe Kelly Richey's sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

My sound is a product of my performance style: raw, intense, soulful and passionate. I also take great pride in my guitar tone! If I tried to deliver music with this level of intensity and did not do so through deep, rich, textured tones, I might sound abrasive. I think the way in which each note is delivered is just as important as the note selection itself.  I also feel that being “one” with the guitar, the song, the band, and the audience is critical… it allows people to feel safe to experience this level of power (and I use the word “power” specifically because my approach to guitar playing is muscular, ruthless and absolutely no-holds-barred!) I aim to deliver my heart and soul, and my blood, sweat and tears with each and every performance. I want people to see something they’ve never seen before and I want them to hear something they’ve never heard before, even if it’s when I play a song classic such as “Hey Joe”.

How do you describe "The Spear Shakers" songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

The sound of the Spear Shakers is pure Blues based Rock n’ Roll. Our songbook mainly consists of songs from my last two studio releases, Sweet Spirit (2014) and Shakedown Soul (2016), and anything else that happens to evolve as a result of our extended jams. Ironically, I wrote all of the songs from these two CDs to drum loops and added bass once I got to the studio. Much of my drive for writing comes from riffs and grooves that flow out while I’m on stage during a live performance. I’m continually capturing ideas on my iPhone; grooves, lyrics, and poetry, and from there I spend as much time as possible in my studio cultivating these ideas.  Ever since I became a Spear Shaker, I’ve recorded most of our shows. The places that we end up are so magical; I don’t want to lose the ideas. I’m a big fan of R.L. Burnside, the Black Keys, and the White Stripes. I’ve also recently been inspired by a new artist that just hit the scene, Tash Sultana, a solo performer from Australia. I was in San Francisco celebrating my birthday this past weekend, and my friends surprised me with V.I.P. tickets to her show at the Fox Theater, in Oakland; she was fantastic. The energy and overall vibe that comes from fronting this Female Power Duo inspire me to my core, and it forces me to keep it simple and to keep it real. I love the challenge and the freedom it brings-- I’m free, I’m having fun, and my Muse is happy…!

"I find that “blues” rock is packed full of emotion and it allows me to emote in ways that other genres do not." (Kelly Richey with Sherri McGee, the power duo The Spear Shakers / Photo by Jeff Shiflett)

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the music? 

My first guitar teacher, Eddie Beckley was an amazing teacher. He was a perfect fit in every sense. He would not stand for me to get away with anything.  He put the bar just a little bit higher than I could reach-– always! Jimi Hendrix was a huge influence for me. His feedback drew me in, and the easy way in which he played was fascinating. He truly was one with the guitar. Jimmy Page represented power, tone and tremendous grooves-- and coupled with John Bonham and John Paul Jones, extended jams were so exciting. Stevie Ray Vaughan was also one with his guitar. I found him to be an extension of Hendrix, but he also brought “blues” clearly in to the picture for me. Finally, my favorite guitar player of all time is Roy Buchanan. Roy had it all in the tips of his fingers.  He was a tortured soul and it was clear that the only peace he found inside was played through his music.

Do you consider the Blues Rock a specific music genre and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind? 

I think Blues, Rock, and Blues-Rock are all music genres, and more. Blues and Rock are both powerful states-of-mind. There is a certain persona, a certain vibe, and a very distinct energy that defines and separates them from each other, and from all other genre’s as well. I think Muddy Waters was on to something when he said, “Blues had a baby and named it rock n’ roll.”

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

Best moment was when I got to play with Albert King. I had no idea how special that was until later in life. At the time I was young and it was another experience that was exciting; it was also an experience that made me take blues music way more seriously. I never really listened to blues and didn’t even realize all my favorite bands were blues influenced until playing with Albert. Then it all crystalized. My worst experience, so to speak, is touring. Touring is brutal-- travel is hard, and living in a van for days on end only to arrive at an empty hotel room is difficult and draining. But having said that, being on stage is definitely worth the hard work and sacrifice!  I took time off in 2010… I loved being off the road but I really missed performing.

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

The most interesting period was when I took time off in 2010 and got to know myself as a person, not as a “Kelly the guitar player”, which was the only identity I had ever really had. I did a lot of soul searching during this time; I got sober and lost 50 unwanted pounds, to boot. I think life brings us the lessons we need. I needed that time for me.

"My sound is a product of my performance style: raw, intense, soulful and passionate. I also take great pride in my guitar tone! If I tried to deliver music with this level of intensity and did not do so through deep, rich, textured tones, I might sound abrasive." (Photo by Sonya Ziegler)

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I met Lonnie Mack in 1994, after releasing my first CD. Lonnie has been a friend to me throughout the years, and encouraged me to place serious focus on my vocals, which I immediately did. Lonnie’s influence, coupled with my opportunity to pay with Albert King shortly before he died, had a major influence on my development as a blues-rock artist juxtaposed to strictly a “rock" guitarist. Stevie Ray could play circles around anybody. He just could, that's who he was. But he knew that what Albert had in one note could take him down, just “Pow!” It was 1988, and I was living in Nashville and playing with this band called Stealing Horses. I was bartending at a place called the Cuckoo Club where Albert was playing a show. I was just young enough and just dumb enough to ask if I could sit in.

I was just a kid, but he said, 'You bring your guitar and you can sit in.' He played two sold-out shows that night. I showed up at intermission with my guitar and amp and said, 'Mr. King, I'm here.' He had a sheriff's badge on his guitar strap and a real pistol in his lap. He was a little intimidating! He said 'Let me see what you got in there.' It was my old '65 Strat. Apparently that was a plus! He stood up and looked down at me and said, 'Don't you make me ashamed.' That was my first big reality check, but he kept me up there on stage all night and gave me a lead on every song.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from twenty-five years of touring and sixteen albums?

The first thing I’ll share is that if I would have known how hard things were going to be, I don’t think I would have had the guts to do what I’ve done. With that said, I have no regrets. Yes, I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve always done my very best, even when I fell short, it was the very best that I had to give.

The second thing is that following your dreams is not for the faint of heart and the dreams that mean the most to us last a lifetime. Achieving your dream is not about reaching a destination point, it’s about following your heart and listening to your soul. If you do that, the songs will come, the riffs will be there, and somehow, it all works out. Finally, make friends with your Muse because everyone is an artist and life really is, the ultimate art project.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?

Follow your heart and constantly educate your mind and skill set! Practice, play with others, learn, and listen to great players. Seek advice from people you have respect for and don’t worry about criticism - it’s part of life! Get from it what you can and let it go. You must always be learning and growing in this business - it’s a tough life and you really have to be driven to survive if you’re going to be successful.

"I fear that we’re losing connection with what’s real. I embrace technology and I absolutely love what it provides for me as an artist, but it’s also a dangerous slippery slope, in that it requires more discipline to turn off than it does to turn on… and actually be present in the moment." (Photo by Sara Dreibelbis)

Are there any memories from Lonnie Mack and Albert King which you’d like to share with us?

Albert was real, he was bigger than life and he was NOT messing around. He had a pistol in his lap (seriously) when I entered his dressing room to see if I could sit in.  I played a few things for him, he checked me out and then agreed to have me sit in. He really put me to the test on stage in front of everybody. It was then and there that my journey in blues began, and I got real serious with myself musically after that show! Lonnie Mack saw me play at a benefit in Louisville, Kentucky and got me up on stage with him later that night. Lonnie has been a mentor to me ever since. I love Lonnie. He’s shared stories with me, and he’s pushed me hard; most importantly, he challenged me to work harder at my vocals early on. So, I did work hard-- I listened to the artists he suggested and I pushed myself to get stronger. I absolutely love Lonnie’s guitar playing, but he and Albert both influenced me more vocally than with their guitar work. They were masterful at delivering a song vocally; they were one with their guitar and vocals. Suffice to say that I experienced major learnings from both artists, on stage and off.

What's been their experience from Johnny Winter, Little Feat, George Thorogood, and James Brown?

I have never met Johnny Winter, though I was honored to open for him twice. His health had been up and down and I didn’t want to bother him, so I just played and enjoyed watching him perform. Little Feet was an amazing collection of players performing an amazing collection of songs. Oh, how I wish Lowell George could have been there! The George Thorogood show was a great crowd of rowdy fans… lots of fun. James Brown was simply an honor! I was in a band on Arista Records and we played a show on Daytona Beach for an MTV special in 1986.  Stealin’ Horses was the first band that I ever toured with, and opening for James Brown was amazing!

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

The time spent playing together, jamming together, and interacting with other artists. Everyone is so busy these days, and it’s painfully clear that social media seems to be the norm in communicating. The absence of true human connection seems to be getting lost, unfortunately. I fear that we’re losing connection with what’s real. I embrace technology and I absolutely love what it provides for me as an artist, but it’s also a dangerous slippery slope, in that it requires more discipline to turn off than it does to turn on… and actually be present in the moment.

"The most interesting period was when I took time off in 2010 and got to know myself as a person, not as a “Kelly the guitar player”, which was the only identity I had ever really had." (Photo by Sara Dreibelbis)

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

Albert King and Lonnie Mack would be hard to top, but honestly, my previous band presented the best jams I’ve ever participated in! I was so excited on this journey with Freekbass and Jyn Yates-- they are both such powerful, proficient players and we fit together so well musically. We really had a blast on stage together and the crowd, in return, reacted to us with such great energy!

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES

The blues allow an artist to emote, to be real, and to express his or her soul fully. This genre will always be alive as long as there are artists who feel and express deeply. The blues allows us to feel without complexity. The blues is an outlet for our pain and misfortunes in life. It’s all about the emotion.

How do you describe your contact to people when you are on stage? Happiness is…

I read the audience, I feel the audience, I play to the audience and I play off of the audience. The pure emotion of blues makes it very interactive. “Happiness is” when I look out on the audience and I see on someone’s face that they are feeling what I’m playing. There’s nothing better than that!

Are there any memories from ‘Shakedown Soul’ studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

This is the first album where I’ve had the actual luxury of time. I began writing the songs for Shakedown Soul in late 2014. After playing many of the songs live throughout the 2015 festival season, it seemed natural to have my rhythm section Tobe “Tobotius” Donohue (drums and DJ/sequencing), and Rikk Manning (bass) to play on the record, and I asked Tobe to produce the tracks. Shakedown Soul was a real team effort: Sonya Ziegler (my band photographer and blog editor) had co-written many of the songs, and she designed the CD artwork. She also wrote all of the press materials. Her multi-faceted talents are amazing, and are as much appreciated as my fantastic rhythm section!

"I think Blues, Rock, and Blues-Rock are all music genres, and more. Blues and Rock are both powerful states-of-mind. There is a certain persona, a certain vibe, and a very distinct energy that defines and separates them from each other, and from all other genre’s as well. I think Muddy Waters was on to something when he said, “Blues had a baby and named it rock n’ roll.”"

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Wow… I could write a book answering this question alone. I started touring in 1986, with Stealing Horses, a band signed to Arista Records. We toured with a number of bands, and in the spring of 1987, the label paired us up with Whang Chung…AKA…bizarre… We played MTV’s Daytona Beach Spring Break concert with Wang Chung and got to open for James Brown. It was real and it was surreal.

One of the most defining moments of my career was in the late ’80s, when I got to play with Albert King. I was living in Nashville, TN, and bartending at a club called the Cuckoo’s Nests while off the road; that’s what artists do in Nashville when they’re in between gigs. Albert King had two sold-out shows that night, and after his sound check I asked him if I could sit in; he said yes. I went backstage before the show, he asked me what kind of guitar I had, and I pulled out a 1965 Fender Strat and played a few licks. We talked for a while, and when they came to get him, he sent me out to kick things off. As I was walking out the door, he stood up, looked down at me and said, “don’t you make me ashamed.” That night he kept me on stage throughout the entire show, and I learned first-hand what the blues was, and what it wasn’t. His voice still echoes in my head. That night was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget; it changed the way I looked at guitar, and it showed me where the roots of the music that I love came from. Before experiencing Albert King up close and in person, I had no idea what the blues really was-- wow, that’s where my journey into the blues began. 

In 1994, I got to play with Lonnie Mack, and he became a mentor and friend.  Lonnie is where the quote “Stevie Ray Vaughan trapped in a woman’s body…” came from, and a few years later, a journalist completed the quote used by adding “…with Janis Joplin screaming to get out.” After seven studio records and four live CD, I decided to change my approach in the studio and record live. I play better live, it’s more natural and allows me to take risks that a studio environment cannot match. I decided to record with Duane Lundy at Shangri La Studios in Lexington, KY. At the time, Duane had a large warehouse space, so I had the luxury of setting my rig up with my amps close enough for me to hear and feel what I was playing to without them bleeding into the drum mics. I set up just like I set up on stage; I had my pedal board, two live powered monitors for vocals, with a touch of my guitar amps fed back into a vocal mix. It felt great…! There is a certain magic that comes from a live performance that you just can’t get sitting down with a pair of headphones on…! These are just a few stories that stand out, but each represents a turning point, a transition, and a valuable lesson learned.

"When I first started playing the guitar, rock n’ roll ruled…! It ruled my life the lives of those around me. There was one only one genre, one volume, and one station. Adults were not allowed, and music was the only authority. I didn’t know that my favorite rock n’ roll was blues, on steroids!" (Photo: Kelly & Sherri / The Spear Shakers

What touched (emotionally) you as Spiritual Director at Wellstreams? How does the philosophy of On the Road impact you?

There is no short answer to this question, so I’ll share a few stories that I hope will suffice as an answer. I’ve been deeply moved as I’ve taken a deep dive into contemplative studies. I was raised in a Southern Baptist church in Lexington, KY, so Christian roots were branded on my soul. Growing up during the Civil Rights movement left the south in constant turmoil. My uncle was the pastor of our church, my mom played piano, and my aunt played the organ. In 1969, the church was burned to the ground because it was the first church to integrate. As soon as this event unfolded, the black community joined with our church, and we held revivals. This was my first introduction to black gospel music, which would become one of the main musical influences growing up. It wasn’t until I played with Albert King that I realized my roots began in church and I’d overlooked the impact that black gospel music had had.

Spirituality has always been a big part of my life, and my path has taken many turns.In 2010, I took a break from the road for a full year, got 100% sober and began gaining certifications as a life coach. In 2015, I went through the Conscious Feminine Leadership Academy and became a writing facilitator for Women Writing for (a) Change. It was through this training that I was introduced to the Wellstreams Ecumenical program to become a Spiritual Director. I started my training in the fall of 2016, and I complete my training in May of 2019.

Studying the works of mystics, cultivating a solid prayer and meditation routine has helped to ground me in ways that I’ve never known. Music is a part of my being, and so is the spiritual foundation that I was raised on. One evening during our class dealing with the different forms of ancient prayer, we were studying the “Jesus Prayer.“ This prayer practice centers on the embodiment of Jesus Christ. I immediately began to feel like religion was becoming too close for comfort and all at once I was struck light lightening. It dawned on me that I’d been embodying Jimi Hendrix my entire life; I memorized his licks, how he stood, the gear he played, the lyrics he wrote and the way he sang. I never doubted that the teaching of love that Jesus taught was anything less than powerful, but religion can distort our perception of things. Once I reconsidered what it was to embody something for an entire lifetime, I realized that the teaching of love required our full attention to the same degree as learning to play the guitar. This realization was a teachable moment for me and for the class as a whole.

"The landscape has changed in so many positive ways for women, but as the landscape has changed, I find that there’s a demand to face a “man’s world” with many of the masculine qualities required to survive." (Kelly, Rikk, & Tobe on stage / Photo by Sonya Ziegler)

When we talk about blues, we usually refer to memories and moments of the past. Apart from the old cats of blues, do you believe in the existence of real blues nowadays?

As long as we have the ability to feel (as artists) blues will exist. Blues is just so foundational; it’s the earliest voice of American music and it gave birth to rock and roll. It’s a simple template that can come alive in so many different ways. Real blues remains steadfast to this day because it’s music that is based on primal feeling and emotion that we all connect with.

Do you believe that there is “misuse”, that there is a trend to misappropriate the name of blues?

No, not really. My thought is, if you can feel it and it makes you move, there’s probably some blues in there somewhere. East Coast blues, Delta blues, Jump blues, Chicago blues, electric blues and blues-rock…. it’s all blues! Some musicians (and listeners) may prefer blues that is more traditional, and some may prefer more Rockin’ blues. Like the colors of a rainbow, it’s all good!

Which incident of your life you‘d like to be captured and illustrated in a painting?

Hmm… no incident in particular, just a painting of me reaching for the hardest and richest note-- with the most passion and emotion I can possibly attempt to feel. That would sum it all up!

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the local music circuits?

My band constantly makes me laugh! They’re hilarious! I’m blessed to be working with two extremely bright and talented guys that have the ability to find humor in the midst of problems. I was emotionally moved recently as I received the tragic news that my previous drummer Ken “Big Bamn” Smith was killed suddenly in a car accident in mid-January. Bamn was a bright light and a shining star in the local and touring music landscape. Bamn was only 30 years old, and he left behind a wife and five children. Words cannot express the hole he left in so many lives— he will be missed.

"The sound of the Spear Shakers is pure Blues based Rock n’ Roll. Our songbook mainly consists of songs from my last two studio releases, Sweet Spirit (2014) and Shakedown Soul (2016), and anything else that happens to evolve as a result of our extended jams." (Photo: The Spear Shakers)

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would like to see society place the arts and music as a high priority in our schools and in our communities. I believe that the arts and music help to foster healthy, sustainable communities that enable creative problem solving, enhance self-esteem, and critical thinking skills.

What does it mean to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

The landscape has changed in so many positive ways for women, but as the landscape has changed, I find that there’s a demand to face a “man’s world” with many of the masculine qualities required to survive. Women are allowed in to the musician’s “inner circle” today, but It’s still the masculine energy that pervades. It would be refreshing to experience a rebirthing of the arts in ways that helped to actually foster community— so many musicians just struggle to survive and remain full-time artists. Many don’t make it.

From the music point of view what are the differences and similarities between the BLUES & ROCK?

In general, rock tends to be played a bit louder, with a bit more force. Rock is often heavier and tends to incorporate the back beat that blues is known for with a straight ahead 4/4 feel. 

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day?

It would be a real toss-up!  I’d like to time-travel to Haight/Ashbury (circa1967) and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and experience Janis Joplin in concert, or I’d choose to see Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival.

Which memory from recording time with your band and Bernie Worrell, makes you smile?

The fact that Berrnie said “yes” makes me smile! My bass player Freekbass made the connection possible, as Bernie played on Freek’s last record. Bernie cut his track for the song on my record Sweet Spirit in New Jersey, so I’ve yet to meet him in person. I hope to play with him on stage one day.  Now that would REALLY make me smile!

"Spirituality has always been a big part of my life, and my path has taken many turns. In 2010, I took a break from the road for a full year, got 100% sober and began gaining certifications as a life coach. In 2015, I went through the Conscious Feminine Leadership Academy and became a writing facilitator for Women Writing for (a) Change. It was through this training that I was introduced to the Wellstreams Ecumenical program to become a Spiritual Director." (Kelly Richey / Photo by Jeff Shiflett)

What do you miss most nowadays from Janis and Hendrix era?

That era was all about the music; not so much the music business. The music was pure. There was magic in the air for so many reasons. Rock n’ Roll was the voice of so many struggles, yet it was also the voice for new discoveries. I often wish I could have been there to experience the magic in person, but I know that I feel it in my soul especially when I play. I am driven to “pay it forward” and give back to my audience what Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix and that whole era of music gave to me, so that magic never dies.

What is the impact of Rock n’ Blues music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

When I shifted more towards playing “blues” from a rock/folk background midway through my career, I felt that being a white woman presented many obstacles… obstacles that I no longer sense in the market. As of late, being a lesbian artist that identifies strongly as a guitarist and never has felt drawn to use sexual preference as part of my marketing, I’ve found people just don’t seem to notice that I’m white or gay! Interestingly, they do still notice I’m a woman.

What from your memories and things (books, records etc.) you would put in a "capsule on time"?

Three things: first, my copy of Roy Buchanan’s vinyl record, “You’re Not Alone.” I will treasure that album till the day I die. Secondly, the Jimi Hendrix fuzzy black light poster I discovered in the basement of the house we moved into when I was eight years old. At the time I had no idea who Jimi Hendrix was, but I thought the poster was cool. It said “See you in the next world – don’t be late.” And lastly, my old 1965 Fender Strat. I got the guitar in 1981 and it had never been played--- it didn’t have a scratch on it. I’ve played it relentlessly for over 30 years now, so it’s heavily road worn and battle scarred and I’ve had it regretted more times than I can remember, but it plays like no other.  It is a VERY special guitar.

Kelly Richey - Official website

Photos by Sonya Ziegler, Jeff Shiflett, and Sara Dreibelbis / All rights reserved

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