Bria Kelly’s take no prisoners approach to her music served her well with a barn burning rendition of the James Taylor tune “Steamroller Blues.” Last week, she and Tess Boyer formed a strong union with their take on the Janis Joplin classic “Piece of My Heart.” Usher chose Kelly to remain on his team, while Boyer was stolen by Blake Shelton.
Kelly,who cites singer-songwriter ZZ Ward as an influence, is one of this season’s powerhouse vocalists, and her swagger is backed up by her first rate musicianship and performance prowess. During the interview, Kelly talked about her love for “Steamroller Blues,” what she’s learned from Usher, and how growing up in a small town didn’t stop her from pursuing a music career.
You really knocked “Steamroller Blues” out of the park. How did you come to pick that song during the Blind rounds? (Kelly received a four chair turn from the coaches)
I used to perform with a guitarist in my area named Grant Austin Taylor and he suggested that we perform the song together in one of his shows when I was around 13 years old. Since then, it has been my favorite song to sing and I have been performing it for many, many years.
I just emotionally connect to that song and it’s a great song to perform. I thought it would be perfect to audition with.
What have you learned from your collaboration with Usher?
I’ve learned to basically become much more vulnerable on stage instead of just (having the image of) “I’m tough and I’m a badass and I have my guitar in front of me.” I definitely explored a softer side of singing. I’ve learned how to look more vulnerable and perform more vulnerably. It’s great to say I can do that now.
For the next stage of the Battle Rounds you competed against Madilyn Paige, who has a completely different style. Obviously, you really can’t say much about this match-up.
It’s going to be interesting to watch because we are so different, whereas me and Tess – we’re really similar. Yeah, that’s all I can say. (laughs)
Did your previous experience from America’s Got Talent help you prepare for The Voice or is performing, in general, always going to have its share of challenges?
I’ve been performing since 11. I’ve been on huge stages, small stages, bars, I’ve played in fields. It’s all the same to me as long as there is a crowd. I’m nervous every time, but it’s like a good type of nerves. It’s not to the point of where it’s going to mess up my performance. It’s just adrenaline. I’m always at home on stage no matter how big it is or how many lights there are.
What kind of rush do you get from performing?
It’s definitely a great feeling because people yell when I hit high notes. There’s some people who say that I scream too much. It’s all the same, and as long as people can feel something from my performance then I’ve done something right.
You’re a very confident singer. Is that quality something you’ve developed along the way?
Definitely not. I did not have that confidence when I was younger. It’s kind of grown and it’s definitely developed, as it should for any artist who’s been performing for seven years. It comes with time.
What was it like for you, as an artist, growing up in Smithfield, Virginia?
It’s a very small town and there’s not a whole bunch of places to play in my town so I kind of have to drive an hour away to Virginia Beach to be able to get to some shows that I can play. But it’s really cool to say that I come from a small town because it shows that people from tiny places can do big things. So it’s cool to be able to say that I’ve done that.
Bria, well thank you so much for your time.
To follow Bria Kelly on Twitter, go to @BriaKelly. Round two of the Battles begin tonight on The Voice(NBC, 8 pm et/pt).