Birmingham SlossFest profile: Ruston Kelly

Birmingham SlossFest profile: Ruston Kelly
Ruston Kelly performs at SlossFest July 15. (contributed)

Performer: Ruston Kelly

About: Ruston Kelly is a popular Nashville songwriter who is finding new success as an artist.

In the past two years, he has amassed an impressive catalog of cuts, including writing tracks for Kenny Chesney, Josh Abbott Band, and Tim McGraw’s track “Nashville Without You.” However, his indie, folk, and rock personality is also drawing fans around the country, thanks to singles such as “Poison” and “Black Magic.”

“When people hear my songs, I want them to be affected in the way music affected me before I started doing it for a living,” he says in his online bio. “I want them to think, ‘Damn, that made me feel something important I didn’t know I needed to feel.'”

Kelly has shared his musical story on tour with artists including Robert Earl Keen, The Oh Hellos, and The Lumineers, and at festivals such as Bonnaroo and Wakarusa. “Poison” racked up more than 516,000 Spotify streams, while “Black Magic” soundtracked the Season Finale of the CBS series Scorpion.

Kelly grew up on the road, shuffling around the country with his family. He spent his late teenage years in Brussels where he immersed himself in classic country music and roots.

“Subconsciously, I think I wanted to reconnect with the homeland,” he said. “It started with The Carter Family, then Woody Guthrie, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Leadbelly, and Johnny Cash. All of that influences what I do. I was raised with good old Southern kindness, but I was also taught to keep an open mind about things. There are so many different types of cultures and people out there. That’s definitely a theme for me.”

Kelly  picked up and left Belgium at 17, relocating to Nashville to live with his older sister. He went on to form the popular jam band Elmwood and tour from 2008 until 2011. By 2013, he had signed his first publishing deal with BMG in Nashville and was landing high-profile placements. In the summer of 2016 he released his first EP entitled “Halloween” featuring the single “Black Magic.”

“I love playing music; it brings me so much joy. If I’m still doing this years from now, that’s more luck than I deserve.”

Kelly is engaged to country music artist Kacey Musgraves. You can follow Ruston Kelly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Spotify.


Discography: “Halloween” (2016)

Playing at SlossFest: Kelly will take the Shed stage from 1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 15.

Sloss Music and Arts Festival takes place at the historic Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham July 15-16 and features 40 performers on four stages. Tickets can be purchased here.

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