Floyd Kelly

Solo Artist Profile: Floyd Kelly

Floyd Kelly“If you like listening to music that’s ‘out there’ … you’re in the right place.”

So says Floyd Kelly, a resident of Metaline Falls, Washington, USA.

You wouldn’t guess from the town he lives in – a place that Floyd describes as “storybook, tucked away in the mountainous region of NE Washington state” – but among its some 200 residents is a musician who writes music for the ages.

“I’m kind of like a hobbit,” Floyd says. “(I wake up) every morning to sit down with pen and paper to write a story – except I’m writing music, and I create music everyday in a place of beauty.

“This is my existence and I really enjoy it.  I do it for the love of creating.”

Floyd was kind enough to spend some time recently answering a list of questions I posted to him via email.

His answers should inspire solo artists everywhere.

1. How would you describe your music?

“I like to think each of my music compositions akin to art by a painter or sculpter. A painter may work on a piece for a very long time and, in the end, is a reflection of the individual’s spirit – a reflection of what makes each of us unique.

“Because each of my compositions can take four weeks – sometimes up to eight weeks – the colours of my daily living are reflected as the months go by.

“If I’m feeling blue, I may create something dark or sad. Or I may be in an upswing in my home life and that may inspire me to create something very oddball or unique.

“My music is a series of notes and chords, melodies and harmonies, each reflecting a bit of my personal self as time goes by.

“I categorize my music as ‘New Age’ and, just recently, with the release of my latest album, ‘HeliosXII’ (pronounced hee-lee-ohs 12), iTunes categorizes my music as ‘Alternative New Age’ which is where I want to be.

“My music is unexpected in many ways as I try out so many differing structures to glue melodies together. You can listen to one track of mine and not get the whole picture of my creativity.”

2. What and/or who inspires you?

“I use my environment to inspire me. I live in a grand place where people see the photos, they get jealous. The motion picture ‘The Postman’ was filmed in this area. Many of the scenes were shot just outside my home.

“The mountains, rivers, tall evergreens, the distinct aroma of terra, the lakes, the wildlife all come together to inspire me to be as creative as I can be. In terms of music, I do get ideas by listening to other music.

“But when I compose, that is tuned out and I simply create as if I was putting a jigsaw puzzle together – with no idea what it will look/sound like until I’m well into the production.”

3. What message do you have in your music?

“If I don’t feel it, I don’t want to release it. That’s my motto. I seek out that wonderful area where musicality, instruments, harmonics come together to evoke an emotion.

“What that emotion is, is different depending on how I’m feeling in my personal life. I’ve listened to so much music by others and I have learned a lot.

“Personally, I get disappointed when I hear music that doesn’t shock somehow or leave that ‘wow factor’.

“I prescribe to a personal ethic: If I cannot wow you in some way in the span of two minutes with my music creation, then it’s a no-go for me.

4. How long did it take you to get proficient in producing your music?

“I am by no means proficient. I’m always a student, trying things, breaking things, learning new techniques to keep life into this music-making venture. Now into my fourth year making music consistently, I look back and see/hear all the areas I have improved.

“I’m doing what I engineered myself to do. By that, I mean, I find the weaknesses in my creations, study it and learn to not make the mistake in the future. And I do it on a self-imposed time schedule, which forces me to learn and live with some of my mistakes.

“I am in the beginning stages of learning differing styles and getting deeper into music theory. After dabbling in notation software a few years ago; coupled with my ability to work with software interfaces.

“My strength is my consistent workflow — to produce anything I can dream up.”

5. What obstacles have you faced on the way to creating your music?

“My environment is small – I live up in the mountains in a small house built around 1918. Hence, it does not take a lot of sound to sound big. My version of big sound does not equate to real-world environments.

“Thankfully, I’m relocating to a new space which will give me the ability to open the spatial and volumetric qualities of my music.

“I also have hard times finding anybody to work with or collaborate due to my distance and not knowing anybody.”

6. Do you produce your music in a home studio, professional, or both?

“If you saw my set-up you would feel sorry for me. Well, it’s all relative to what a person has in the pocketbook.

“I happen to be one of these guys who is considered low-income and my assets by way of technology for music creation are way behind the times – they go back 15 years.

“My computer is circa 2000 with a simple pair of speakers. I really do need better equipment. My system is antiquated. That being said, I manage to zero-in on what needs to be done, how to do it, using limited resources.

“I do hand off my tracks to a mastering engineer in Washington, DC: Joey Cutless, who has a broad range of noteable credits. He does his best to make my sounds come to life.”

7. What is your music production workflow? What aspects are unique to you?

“I am in a unique situation. Being a stay-at-home-music-maker, I get to work whenever and as long as I want – or no work. It’s up to me. With a regular time schedule, there are three steps I go through consistently to create a piece of music.

“Every month I set a date that a music single should be at the mastering studio. This gives me about four weeks to create.

“Sometimes I make the deadline; sometimes I don’t. When I don’t, it usually means it’s a more complex piece that requires more work.

“There is the discovery phase. This can take anywhere from hours to days. At this time, I play around with notes, melodies, song structures and scales to get a feel for what sounds closest to my personal feelings.

“Sometimes I’ll take a piece of music and tranpose to different keys over and over to see how the sound changes.

“The next phase is the composing, where I use notation software. Just like an author may wake up every morning and put pen to paper to write a story on a daily basis, I too wake up every morning and do the same, but with notation software.

“This is the cornerstone phase. If I fail in this phase, the next will not help.

“And then there’s the mixing of the composition. I usually allow one to two weeks if possible, as my skills have improved over time. I actually spend more time in the composing phase.

“The next step is to hand off to a mastering studio. I go by the rule of thumb of never mixing and mastering my own music.”

8. Are there challenges you still face in producing your music? How do you overcome them?

“In this year’s release I did not use any compressors during the mixing stage. Some say it is noticeable.

“Because of this, people tend to think of my music as un-mixed and un-mastered – even though it is mix and mastered. It’s called the ‘loudness wars’ and I’ve deliberately engineered my sound with dynamic range in mind.

“My first CD was a 5; the second CD was an 11; and this year it is a 12.5. So, I’m getting better.

“If I can’t give the sound and strength I want using just the instruments, then I’m not doing a good job at commanding a full set of hardware and people on a stage set.

“It is much preferred to turn music up, not down. My music is engineered so if you want a big sound, turn it up. And when you turn it up, not only do you get volume, but you will also hear clarity.”

9. Do you sometimes lack confidence in your music? How do you overcome that?

“All the time, and with good reason. I know I am writing this because somebody, somewhere, took a liking to what I have created. Amazingly, I do not have any education in the creation of music – not in the sense of anything considered formal.

“My interest in the making of music did not enter my life until only four or five years ago. Before then, I gave making music no thought. Because of this void, it hampers me in what I would like to create.

“Technology has helped me immensely in making music. But without an understanding of the ‘music theory’ part it’s not going to take me far. That is why the book ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory’ is always in front of me.

“It’s worn out. I’m constantly on a learning curve. I force myself to learn.”

10. What piece of music that you’ve composed and produced are you most proud of?

“I believe ‘Blue Reflections’ from my latest album, ‘HeliosXII’, would be my favourite in my library. The reason is it displays the most in my sound-engineering and musicality.

“Although, I do get a 50/50 split in likes and dislikes on that musical piece, the ones who like ‘Blue Reflections’ tell me it should be performed for an audience because it’s a definite crowd-pleaser.

“The chord progressions I chose, along with the characteristics of the varying instruments, makes me feel something – and others tell me the same.

“Runner up would be ‘No Turning Back’, a chaotic yet unique piece of music. Another music reviewer at the web site Yeah I Know it Sucks told me this music piece would get a standing ovation if performed for concert-goers.

“When I play this piece here at home, I play at 80 percent volume for maximum effect of the power strings and the big drum/snare break.”

11. How do you promote your music? What marketing channels have served you best?

“Promotion for me is very difficult. I don’t use automation in social media so I’m relegated to people discovering me by mistake. I get that a lot.

“When a person like me has so many hats in business, it becomes difficult to maintain a certain footprint in social media.

“Most of my music sales are face-to-face, where people hear my music at a venue and I’m there to talk with them.”

12. What goals do you have for your music?

“I had no idea what to expect when I started this venture into earnestly making music on a self-imposed schedule. I know I have the flair for creativity. I didn’t know a few years back that I would be this far along.

“For many composers, getting another to perform your creation is the ultimate goal and honour. That one has not happened for me yet.

“I do make the intermediate-level sheet music available online. Transcription is costly, so I’m waiting for somebody out there — maybe a conductor — to perhaps hook me up with transcription, so that a certain composition can be performed.

“My other goal is just pure entertainment. At the time of this writing, I’m at the bottom of the Billboard music charts – mainly because I do not have a PR firm or access to resources that would push me up.

13. What’s the biggest success you’ve had to date with your music?

“I have composed, mixed, had mastered, and published 31 music compositions in about three years. I’ve just released my third music CD. For me, I am successful, even if I’m not mainstream and even if I don’t make much in sales. It’s my journey.

“I competed in the 57th Grammy Awards, and did not garner any nominations and I knew I would not as my production on that album was not up to par. I was able to go through the process. Not many people get to say that.

“Let’s hope there’s a 58th (Grammy Awards) in my future with this year’s release of ‘HeliosXII’.”

14. What musical legacy would you like to leave behind?

“I remember times when I gazed up at the dome of the Burke Baker Planetarium in Houston, Texas, and there would be some beautiful music playing while images of the cosmos were displayed for all to view.

“I remember the wonderment in my younger years. That moment we all share in common, when we experience a certain emotion and flights of fancy dance in our minds.

“I would like to create something like that for people around the world, where maybe people close their eyes and relax to a beautiful soundscape — or get caught in a maelstrom of sounds and instruments, hearing something they’ve never heard before and get swept up into the sound.

More information

Floyd Kelly is working on his next album, tentatively titled Escape from Earth. Update (June 2016): Floyd has completed this album, which you can listen to on iTunes

Website: floydkellymusic.wordpress.com
SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/floyd-kelly/sets
Twitter: twitter.com/floydkellymusic
Facebook: facebook.com/floydkellymusic
Instagram: instagram.com/floydkelly.music

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