Ruston Kelly has lived several lives in the span of twenty-something years. He spent time roaming Belgium with an African Tiger hunter, working on a chicken farm in North Carolina, and has battled demons along the way. But there was one guiding force that continued to pull him back, time and time again. His passion for music and the need to create it; whether it was with his previous jam band Elmwood or in the Nashville songwriting circuit. With influences that span The Carter Family, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez, he always knew that music, songwriting specifically, was in him. After coming to Nashville, it became a safe space to pour his failures, confusion, and frustrations out; and each one of those emotions created the dark, gritty tracks on his debut EP, Halloween.
After a tumultuous few years of going in and out of rehab and witnessing the spectacular end to a disastrous relationship, Kelly begin to write songs that were a reflection of the inner turmoil he was experiencing. The result was the uber-honest, incredibly self effacing EP. With songs like Black Magic and Hurricane In My Head, there’s an authenticity to the each song that touches the darkness in all of us.
“Black Magic was hard to write because it was the most honest,” he reflects. “I wrote out what the future of my current relationship was, at the time. It was the most difficult relationship I’d ever been in. The song is a testament to the feeling of being stuck in something, when you know you should get out, but by some strange force, as if the cosmos have tricked you, you’re constantly falling and you allow yourself to keep falling. A relationship that’s just poisonous to you. It’s about knowing that if you don’t have the right intent in loving yourself or another person, then bad things are certain to follow.”
With Dying Star, the full length album that’s the aftermath of Halloween, coming out early next year, Kelly is set to give people an extend glimpse into what Halloween only touched on. “Where as Halloween was living in the black, a free fall, Dying Star is the crash,” he says of the new album. “Why I call it Dying Star is that, when stars die it’s one of the most beautiful explosions, and then the debris from that is sent out into the universe and the galaxy and meant to create new stars. So there’s a slight redemption to the death of a star, and that’s what this new album will be about.”
On June 21, 2017, Kelly played a 45 minute set for a select group of people at Berlin on New York’s Lower East side. The attentive crowd got a chance to hear many of the cuts off of Halloween, including my personal favorite, Hollywood, 1000 Graves, Hurricane In My Head and Black Magic. It was an intimate evening that allowed each song to flourish in all of their distinctively emotional qualities.
“My big belief is that you learn the most from the things you suffer the most from,” he says of songwriting and the reason he is unafraid of diving into the darkness for the sake of his art. “The point of art is to heal and inspire, in my opinion. So, that’s what I’m really trying to do.”
Check out some of the photos from that night below and watch the video for his newest single, Black Magic.