Hailing from Fort Dodge, Heather Kelly is a prolific singer-songwriter who debuted on the music scene in 2006. With over 20 years of experience in the music industry, Kelly has released four albums as a singer main band of HipKnosis, formerly known as H&K, and numerous singles as a solo artist.
In describing the very beginning of her career, Kelly said “In 2004 I was invited to play fiddle with the Humboldt-based Blue Canoe Band. That’s when I met lead guitarist, Erick Hovey, who is my oldest adult friend to date. At some point Erick saw potential in me and took me to Junior’s Motel Recording Studio..
It was then that Kelly met Kirk Kaufman, with whom she would form H&K. Kelly said “As soon as Kirk and I met, we immediately connected.”
H&K will release their first album in 2008 titled “Catch a rainbow.” The album would feature Kelly on vocals, piano, fiddle and percussion while Kaufman played bass guitar, kick drum and also did vocals. It would be the only album under the H&K name as they would move to HipKnosis with their second album, 2010. “HipKnosis”.
Kelly and Kaufman were later joined by Melvin James on lead guitar in 2008. Dave Hearn would join and provide new music and piano in 2010, and Jon Passow would join on drums creating the full HipKnosis lineup by 2012 HipKnosis would go on to release the other two of their four albums before disbanding in 2015.
“We disbanded in 2015” said Kelly. “And you know, a lot of people may think that when you break up it’s a bad thing. But there weren’t any hard feelings. Kirk had aspirations and things he wanted to complete, as well as d ‘others.
Kelly added “I started a solo career, just Heather Kelly’s music. And the interesting thing about how HipKnosis dissolved, I’m now a solo artist, but everyone who was in HipKnosis is playing my tracks So I mean it’s kind of a full circle. They’re all great to play whenever I need them.
Kelly is very grateful to all the musicians she has been able to play with. All of the other members of HipKnosis have been inducted into the Iowa Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and have been able to contribute their experience to Kelly’s growth as an artist. Along with his former bandmates, Kelly is currently writing music with Hearn who played with Fort Dodge band The Hawks alongside Kaufman. Kelly praised everyone she’s had the privilege of working with, especially Kaufman, who Kelly says has “has supported me and every single one of my ideas or projects for the past 17 years.”
HipKnosis had a more pop rock sound while Kelly’s solo work takes on a more varied sound quality.
“One thing I don’t do is I don’t try to create trending music,” she says. “I want to create my own sound.”
While Kelly doesn’t necessarily approach music making with a genre in mind, she also said “I think what I really liked was just indie, alternative, pop, rock music. You know, right there. It’s kind of what I like.
“I usually write on the piano” she says of her approach to music writing.“And I’ll kind of start writing something, and then I’ll actually get to a point where there’s a verse and a bridge and a chorus, you know, and I feel the structure coming together. At that point, I sit down and stare at the paper, with my pen in hand until the words seem to make sense. Well, once you think you sort of figure it out, you make a base track, you record a base track so you can start building around that. And when I say build around that, that’s when Dave or Kirk or Melvin or whoever else puts their pieces into it.
Kelly went on to say “The piano is my favorite writing instrument, so I usually invent what I call a piano ‘chantette’. And then when it starts to take shape, that’s when I start putting words to it. I tend to write songs myself that sound like ballads, but when I explained it to the band, how I want it with Melvin with ‘OK, now that’s when I heard that big guitar ‘, you know, or heavy the bass here and the drums, you know, then I can start producing it the way I want.
While Kelly publishes her solo work, she also hosts a podcast for Fort Dodge Radio called The Indie Music Room. The podcast started on June 15, 2019, with the 40th episode releasing on November 1 this year. The Indie Music Room is a podcast where Kelly brings in upcoming artists to showcase some of their music and discuss their creative process.
Speaking about her mission statement for the podcast, Kelly said “I know all the aspects of promoting your music and booking and then writing and recording. So I just thought I’d open up a platform where people who don’t can -be not had the chance to be heard, can submit to me and with their independent music.
“I just feel like I want to help these people spread the word and I will share my knowledge with them, promote them and help them as much as I can,” she added. “I don’t make money doing what I do, but I do it because I enjoy it.”
Submission guidelines can be found on their page on the Fort Dodge Radio website.
When asked what advice she would give to new musicians, Kelly said “I would tell them to be patient.”
“I would tell them never to try to appease people,” she added. “Be true to yourself, authentic, because sometimes people don’t know what they like until they hear it. You have to stay true to yourself. You have to work hard. is not an easy business. I certainly don’t get rich on this. But I enjoyed the whole ride and I continue to do so.
“I would say reach out to other people who are independent artists and see what they are doing to get ideas for marketing and promotion,” she says.
Kelly’s years of experience in the music industry is something she hopes to share with many upcoming artists in the future.