By Morgan James
Photo Credit: Danielle Tinsley Photography
Will Kelly is not only an outstanding vocalist who writes and performs inspirational music, but an upstanding human being with a passion for changing people’s lives. A unique perspective on the human condition through his own life trials and through the trials of his patients as a clinical social worker for the Navy, Will Kelly captures hearts through his focus on love as its most pure, spiritual essence. Working with legendary producer, Ronnie King and world renowned producer Esjay Jones, Will has quickly learned what it takes to make it in the world of music and hopes to continue on this journey, sharing his message of love and inspiration through his heartfelt songs, with the world around. With a new stunning music video just released for his song “Carry The Love,” directed by Grant Bell, Will Kelly is on his way to doing just that.
MJ: Where did you find your love and passion for music?
WK: “I started singing in church back in South Carolina when I was around 4 years old. I grew up in a somewhat dysfunctional family dynamic that eventually led me to a group home for a period of time. But I was always able to get lost in music and my imagination. I was quite sheltered but I eventually went to college for my Bachelor’s degree in psychology and eventually, my Master’s in social work. I joined the Navy in 2009 and became a licensed clinical social worker as a Lieutenant. It was during this time in uniform that my passion for humanity was ignited. The Navy took me around the world. I remembered when I was getting my Master’s degree, my research center boss gave me a frame with a quote stating, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and my travels and experience in the Navy gave me the foundation for my purpose….which is to inspire. The Navy eventually led me to the Naval Hospital at the Marine Base in Twentynine Palms. (For education purposes: The Marine Corps is under the Department of the Navy so all medical services (mental health included) support the Marines). From there I met Hal Hiner, who I considered my Desert Grandpa, for suggesting I try out the Open Mic at Pappy and Harriet’s, which led to where I am today. Sadly, Hal passed away this time last year, but he will forever live in my heart. He was a blessing to many and I’ll forever send my love to his family.”
MJ: How have you been involved in music in the Coachella Valley?
WK: “In 2014, I was encouraged by a co-worker to go the CV Open Mic Competition for its first season. I did not compete on my first visit, but I did during my second visit and I had the privilege of meeting you Morgan, who I consider to be an amazing individual, and you were the host of the event. I eventually won the competition and had the opportunity to work with the very reputable and Coachella Valley’s own Ronnie King. It was with him I recorded a version of my original song “Listen to the Music.” That was an AMAZING experience to work with a seasoned and very well respected producer. Then you, Morgan, became my manager for a period of time, and opened so many other doors for me. Winning this competition is where the fire was lit and it just keeps burning!!”
MJ: Your music is inspirational and deeply personal. What experiences have led you to write some of these songs?
WK: “Well, one of my songs “Tired” was inspired by a situation where my faith was challenged by a pastor of a church I was playing for. Without going into detail, I decided to focus on what God is…and that is love. This way of living has allowed me to show uncanny compassion towards myself and others which leads to a better human experience.
I recently wrote a song called “Be There,” not yet produced, but it was inspired by the people I’ve counseled over the years as a therapist, mostly the Marines I’ve worked with in Twentynine Palms. I wanted to capture the surrendering moment when someone accepts they need help. It’s very unapologetic.”
MJ: Tell us about some of your most memorable moments in music so far.
WK: “Last year, I sang in an open mic in Edinburgh, Scotland…that was pretty cool! I was there visiting a friend, found this open mic, and just went for it.
I also had the opportunity to go on “The Ryzza Mae Show” in the Philippines in 2013. I got selected to be interviewed by the young host. Hahaha! You have to YouTube it! Type “September 3, 2013 Ryzza Mae Show” and it should pop up. Great experience!”
MJ: You just released a new music video. Tell us about that experience.
WK: “Probably the most life changing experience has been working with Esjay Jones, because she not only produced an amazing song, but taught me so much about music as a craft and business. The song “Carry the Love” has ‘carried’ me a long way and eventually to my first music video where I had the chance to work with an amazing young director, Grant Bell, who also worked with Esjay. That was an AMAZING experience! The concept for this video came from my friend, fellow social worker, and Navy officer, Ayesha Edwards, who is currently deployed. Grant brought it to life in such a beautiful display.”
MJ: Now that the video is complete, what are some of the next goals that you’d like to accomplish?
WK: “I just performed at the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs for Esjay & Friends: Acoustic Sessions on July 22 and it was EPIC! So, I hope to perform more in the valley and San Diego as well. Currently, I’m working on getting booked shows, private parties, and such. I definitely will be working with Esjay in the very near future on some singles. I do have plans on recording an EP, but still selecting and creating the right sound and songs for that project. I definitely plan on doing more videos, so stay tuned!!”
MJ: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
WK: “I’m so grateful to the support of CV Weekly. It’s amazing how sponsoring an open mic can influence the musical career of an individual; just a reminder that small acts of kindness can have large effects.