NORRIS ARM, NL — Emily Kelso grew up on country music.
If you asked the Norris Arm native who her favourite singer was when she was two years old, it would have been George Jones.
That country influence helped shape the sound for Kelso’s first full-length album project “Something Beautiful.”
The 21-year-old has compiled a CD of 10 original songs and two covers. A songwriter since the age of nine, Kelso ramped up those efforts around 2012. Some of the songs on the album date back to that time in her life.
“For me, writing every song was a totally different process,” she said. “Sometimes I’d come up with a melody first, or a random lyric would pop into my head and inspire me, or sometimes I’d just sit down with my guitar and write the music and lyrics at the same time.”
Kelso reflects on her own life in her songwriting.
“I tend to write about my own experiences because I believe that’s when my songs feel the most authentic and meaningful,” she said. “It might be a little cliché, but life is my biggest inspiration.”
Having written nearly 500 songs, narrowing down the options of what to record for the album was tough. With 30 of her favourites as contenders, Kelso enlisted the help of her mother Brenda to help decide what would make the cut.
“I had my Mom help me from there because she knew most of them already and she had her own favourites,” she said. “I really tried to set aside my own attachment to the songs and think objectively, ‘Is this catchy?’ or ‘Are these lyrics clever?’ It took a few months to decide.”
As for the cover songs, Kelso chose Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough” and George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s duet “Golden Ring” which also features Dillon Budden of Baytona.
“They’re two of my all-time favourite songs,” she said.
Kelso performed both as a member of the Hann’s Point Dinner Theatre group over the years. Last summer she starred as Loretta Lynn in “Honky Tonk Girl.”
“Loretta has always been one of my idols and ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough’ was the first song of hers I ever heard, so it seemed like the perfect choice,” she explained.
Kelso presented “Something Beautiful” during a CD release event in Lewisporte on Friday evening. She’s no stranger to having an audience, having appeared on stage since she was 10 years old.
“My favourite part of performing is when I can see that the audience is getting lost in the music — they’re tapping their feet or clapping and singing along,” she said. “The best feeling in the world is when people get up and dance while I’m playing a song. I love seeing people enjoying the songs as much as I am.”
Kelso acknowledges the input of Michael Kirby of Groove Den Recording Studio in Norris Arm in making the album a reality.
“He understood exactly what I wanted my music to sound like and did an amazing job of bringing the songs to life,” she said.
There’s also her “musical partner in crime,” Dillon Budden. In addition to being part of the duet on “Golden Ring,” Budden adds his vocals to 10 more tracks on “Something Beautiful.”
Kelso also extended appreciation to the community and supporters who contributed to a GoFundMe page and attended a fundraising concert to help raise funds to record the album.
“I am incredibly thankful for all the donations I received and I wouldn’t have been able to record without the help of everyone who contributed,” she noted.
Kelso looks forward to people enjoying the album. As for what’s next, she is working towards completing a bachelor of arts degree in psychology at Dalhousie University in Halifax
“I know the music business is tricky, but once I finish up my degree in the spring I’ll have time to really try to pursue music,” she said. “I want to be more active in the Canadian country music scene and really promote this album and get my name out there.”
Where to find “Something Beautiful”
The CD is available at A&B Variety in Norris Arm, Midtown Esso in Lewisporte or online through emilytaylorkelso.bandcamp.com.
Digital copies of the album are also available through iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play and Spotify.