By Noe Gutierrez
Kelly Derrickson is unequivocally a country music artist. She recently reached #20 on the European iTunes charts ahead of Blake Shelton and George Strait. Her first album Warriors of Love, released in the summer of 2013, has garnered a lot of attention around the world. “Warriors of Love was so organic and came from my heart and soul. It’s about the earth and protecting the animals,” said Derrickson. She was recently in the city of Winnipeg, Canada attending the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards (APCMA) where she was nominated for Best Country Album. There were over 25,000 music fans in attendance. “It was a huge honor to be included. I was blown away by the talent and the people. They were so welcoming. I didn’t bring the award home but it was a cool experience for my first album and first time nominated. I got to connect with so many incredible artists and make life-long friends. You become brothers and sisters. I was asked to perform next year.” Derrickson now calls the Coachella Valley her home along with the “love of her life” and manager Robert Cooper as well as their family companion Lady Dogga.
In acclimating to the desert life Derrickson has not wasted any time in continuing her passion for music and supporting social causes. Derrickson is a social dynamo when it comes to her Native culture and addressing the dangers of texting while driving. Derrickson was raised in Canada and is a member of the First Nations. She attended the Victoria Conservatory of Music in British Columbia and the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, where she completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Professional Music and Music Business. Her father, Grand Chief Ron Derrickson, served six terms as Chief and helped initiate the “Idle No More” movement which brings attention to the unfair treatment of Native people and their land rights by governments worldwide. These different roles that Derrickson plays is a common theme with her. “For me one didn’t come without the other. “Idle No More” is the last song on the album. It’s about peaceful revolution and honoring our indigenous sovereignty. These causes are really important to me. There’s the country in me, then there’s a little bit of the rock, which is this duality in me and there’s part of me that’s rebellious in nature. Let’s kick the door down and start a revolution but in the most peaceful loving manner possible. I really want to make a difference with all these things. Native people are very non-violent people. We’re very peaceful people and we’re strong,” said Derrickson.
That strength has also led Derrickson and her friend Jimi ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald to conceive Stash It B4U Crash It, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization, which aims to go beyond awareness of texting while driving. According to Derrickson, “It takes action where needed and goes about making lives that have been devastated by this irresponsible behavior better. I never thought there was a way I could help to alleviate it. Then, it was suggested that through my music I might be able to help. I ended up writing and recording the song LOL (Laughing Out Loud), a painful song that addresses the loss of a loved one as a result of texting while driving. I wrote it from the mother’s perspective. I wrote it for Dena Allen, mother of Tyler Allen who was severely injured when he was a passenger in an automobile accident in which the driver of the vehicle was texting. That driver was Tyler’s friend Michael Stillman who was killed in the accident.”
This tragedy has galvanized Derrickson to do more about it. “The idea was always that I would donate a certain percentage of the proceeds that I received from the sales of the song to specific charities. But when it comes to texting while driving, most charities are about awareness and we all know that awareness campaigns are limited despite their good intentions, so I decided to form Stash It B4 U Crash It, an organization with a different agenda.” The primary intent of the organization is to create a professional network of volunteers with specific skill sets that are applicable in all phases of the post-accident recovery process. Areas that include, but are not limited to; legal, medical, financial, insurance, physical therapy, family counseling, transportation, caregivers, etc. Robert Cooper, Derrickson’s manager, is also championing the fight. “Families affected by this are faced with a barrage of problems. This will be similar to Angie’s List where anything related will be available. Anything that you can do to help, speech therapist, trainer, whatever, then people can log on and list their services. This will enable us to do something that carries forward to help those directly affected and help their families receive the help and care that they need.”
Derrickson, Cooper and Christopher Raphael, Derrickson’s agent and Director of Communications for Stash It B4 U Crash It, are planning to facilitate events that will raise funding to continue the mission to provide resources for affected families. They plan to work with local auto dealerships in devising yearly concerts with various artists performing. Derrickson also plans to provide CDs of her music to customers. In addition, Cooper is developing a reality show entitled “Ballroom Bootcamp” with Sharna Burgess, professional dancer from “Dancing With The Stars”, with all proceeds going to Stash It B4 U Crash It. These notable connections and events will without a doubt help sustain this organization.
In continuing to network, Derrickson has also connected with some of the best musicians the valley has to offer. Her band members include Bobby Furgo on fiddle and keyboards, “He’s our team captain.” Martin Barrera on guitar, “Martin is an acoustic guitar phenomenon! He’s fantastic and I love him. He’s all heart and soul. He’s my backbone when I play with him.” Keith Otterbeck on bass guitar and Patrick Mitchem on drums. Genevieve King provides background vocals, “She is fabulous and a great singer. She’s got the chops to back it up.” When his schedule permits Ronnie King will step in and perform keyboards. “Ronnie was essential in developing some of the songs before they went to Nashville. He’s a good friend and he and Lisa are like family.” Another popular valley pillar in Derrickson’s corner is Jimi ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald. “Fitz and his wife Wendy have been huge supporters as well. He has used his platform and radio show to promote my music.”
Her music is rooted in country and standards. On the flip side, you can also hear the downright rock music influence. “I listened to bluegrass, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and started with opera training. I also listened to Metallica growing up and AC/DC was another favorite. My brother had me so brainwashed with heavy metal there was no way I could escape it.” The country and rock come together on Warriors of Love triumphantly.
Derrickson continued to share her joy when she was asked to perform two of her songs at the ‘Music Friends – Believing for Desi’ event held in August at Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert. It’s this devotion to service that sets her apart, “I love to help with positive action.” She has expressed interest in involving herself more with her Native brothers and sisters in our local tribes as well. “I’ve had nothing but positive experiences in the pow wows here. I would like to do a lot more work in the community with them. We’re ready to reach out.”
Along with extending her support of Coachella Valley tribes, Derrickson has several projects in the works. She is currently working on another album and is awaiting the release of her video for the song “Warriors of Love” filmed in Hawaii and featuring the Maui Barefoot Ninjas. Cooper is currently developing a reality show based on these cliff diving and helicopter jumping thrill seekers. Derrickson showed me some raw footage that reveals them performing the traditional Hawaiian warrior dance which parallels the title of the song. As a warrior, Derrickson specializes in fighting the battle for love. Thank you for sharing your spirit with us. Welcome to the Coachella Valley.
I will leave you with a quote from Derrickson that, for me, encompasses her life’s philosophy, “When you sing from your heart and soul someone is going to listen to what you’re saying.”
Learn more about Kelly and her causes below. You can find her album Warriors of Love on iTunes.
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