Sean at Con Hall

Sean at Con Hall
Yamaha promo shot at Convocation Hall/Toronto

Sunday, 15 January 2012


Here we are, only halfway through the first month of 2012, and it has already been a crazy one!

Let it be known that I am going to fight the urge to brag about my beautiful son, Desmond Leo Kelly, born on December 11, 2011 on this Blog. Even though he is perfect and amazing, and has brought to our lives more love and meaning than I could ever hope to describe (my amazing wife Erin is also a super hero in my eyes, she is an incredible mother to our boy).

My first gig of 2012 found me playing acoustic guitar and singing harmonies with none other than Howie D of The Backstreet Boys. I was called to help arrange some of Howie's tunes from his new album Back To Me, and then perform live with him on an internet concert put on by Fans from all around the world paid to watch this online concert (the first of which was a premium package that actually had us playing some BSBs songs....that was a vocal workout!). Howie is a great guy, and was a pleasure to work with....100 million albums sold, and not one hint of an attitude, hope we can do it again soon!

Starting January 16th, I will also be working with the fine folks up at Coalition Music in Toronto on a course for young music industry professionals called The Artist Entrpreneur course.  I have been working over the last few weeks to help develop the course with Vel Omazic, the Director of Education at Coalition. Participants in the program will have access to a wide variety of resources, as Coalition is the management home to Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven, Simple Plan and other great Canadian acts. We will be looking at ways to successfully navigate the often murky waters of the music business, and I am looking forward to working with the next generation of great Canadian artists!

I am also working on putting bands together for a few artists. One is Kaitlin Kavangh, a young singer from the Niagara region who I met while playing on her Gavin Brown produced tracks. The second is Rob James, formerly of Canadian pop hit makers McMaster and James. Both of these artists are very talented writers and performers, and just as importantly lovely people. 

As far as my own recording career, the onus is on giving a proper push to my solo guitar/instrumental album Where The Wood Meets The Wire. I am very fortunate that I have been so busy with my studio and session work, but I am dedicated to making sure this album gets out there. After a meeting with my friends at Opening Day Entertainment, we have decided that we will be shooting some videos for the new album. I also have my first festival dates being booked in August in BC, so looking forward to getting back out west! I am also planning my next solo guitar record for Opening Day, which I hope to start on this year as well.

Of course, Nelly Furtado is a major priority for me, and it is looking like there will be quite a bit of touring with her as well this year. Playing with Nelly is such a treat, as I am called upon to play in so many different styles. Nelly is a constantly changing source of creativity, and I relish the challenge of rising to the very high musical standards she sets for herself and the band. 

And in case it is starting to seem that I am forsaking my rock n roll heart in these other pursuits, fear not...I have been hard at work working with Brian Vollmer on songs for a brand new Helix album that is going to be nothing less than incredible. There will also be a new Crash Kelly record being worked on, to be released as part of a larger project that I cannot yet announce...but one that I am beyond excited about!

So yeah...lots going on. Wouldn't have it any other way!

Friday, 2 December 2011

2011 wrap up...what a year!

Hey everyone,

As we prepare here at the Kelly household for our new arrival (any day now!!), I thought it would be best to summarize a wonderful year of music making while I still have a bit of time. There have been wonderful concerts, amazing recording sessions, tv shows and all sorts of crazy things that have cumulated to make this year the most eclectic of my career...I am truly blessed and grateful for the opportunity to make music for a living, and I look forward to what 2012 will bring.

In no particular order...

1) NAMM Show 2011 Anaheim, CA - I was honored to be asked to sign at the SIT guitar strings booth...standing beside childhood heroes like Bruce Kulick from KISS, Dave Ellefson from Megadeth, it was a real treat.

2) Gilby Clarke - 2011 provided a few opportunities to work with my pal Gilby...Dave Langguth and I were flown to LA to work on tracks for his new album, and we also had great concerts in Banff, Alberta  (playing for thousands of skiers flying down the slopes!), and Tacoma and Everett Washington

3) Helix - 2011 saw the release of two Helix recordings I was very proud to be a part of, Smash Hits...Unplugged! which I played on and co-produced, and the Skin In The Game EP, on which I played and co-wrote. I had two memorable shows with Helix, one was the first ever Helix Acoustic show at London's Aeolian Hall (I also opened with a set of classical guitar), and the other was subbing in for bassist Daryl Gray in Chisassibi Quebec, where along with Faber Drive we were flown in on a private charter from Montreal to the Cree Nation reserve and we rocked a packed show at Job Memorial Arena...our three hour party as we flew through the air is something I won't soon forget!

4) Nelly Furtado - We only played two concerts with Nelly this year, but what concerts they were! The first was in Lisbon Portugal at the Delta Tejo Festival, where Nelly's headlining set was taken in by 17,000 excited fans. The band was airtight, and Nelly was on fire that night...a lot of magical moments that night! The second show was at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, where we performed with the Kenyan Boys Choir at WE Day. No room for jaded cynicism in the arena that day, as 18,000 young people all came together to make their voices heard. Youthful enthusiasm is infectious!

5) Carl Dixon - I continued my almost monthly guest appearances with my buddy Carl Dixon at Seneca Casino, a great exercise in familiarizing myself with a catalogue of great songs...I also played guitar with Carl at the Canada Walk of Fame festival in downtown Toronto, where the crowd was treated to songs from Carl's new album Lucky Dog, as well as nuggets from the Coney Hatch and Guess Who catalogues (Carl sang lead for the Guess Who for a number of years).

6) Crash Kelly - There was only one CK show this year, but it was a gas...we rocked Sound Academy in Toronto with our friends Helix. It was so much fun to rock at a state of the art venue like Sound Academy, great lights, great sound and an amazing crowd. Writing has already begun for a new Crash Kelly record.

7) Cover Me Canada - I never thought I'd be a cast member on a reality tv show, but that's just what happened when I became involved with a talented artist by the name of Warren Dean Flandez. What was supposed to be a simple sideman gig turned into a much bigger commitment, but with a crack team of amazing musicians assembled to support Warren (Dave Langguth, Rich Brown, Calvin Beale and Chris "Sleeves" Bilton), we went about the task of taking some of the most beloved songs in the Canadian popular music cannon and re-arranged them as a collective to reflect Warren's classic soul/motown vibe. In the process we also became very good friends, and had the pleasure of working with some of the top producers in the industry today (Gavin Brown, Kuya Brother, Me and John, and Hawksley Workman) fact, I am still working with some of these producers to this day. Warren made it to the Top 4, a real accomplishment for an R&B singer in a market that has not traditionally been a hot bed for such sounds. Perhaps the greatest thrill was working in the studio and performing live with the great David Clayton Thomas of Blood, Sweat, and Tears...a true icon.

8) Sean Kelly - This year saw the release of my third solo guitar record on Opening Day Entertainment. The album is called Where The Wood Meets The Wire. It was co-produced by myself and my very talented pal Craig McConnell, who was also responsible for the engineering and programming. The album is an eclectic mix of traditional classical repertoire and modern production elements, and I was very fortunate to have amazing players like Dave Langguth, Dean Jarvis and Daniel Stone from Nelly's band play on it, along with incredible contributions from Ivana Popovic (violin), Craig McConnell on keyboards and the inimitable Brian Vollmer from Helix who lent his incredible Bel Canto-trained tenor voice to an epic version of Ave Maria...many thanks to my dear friends Chuck, MB, and Chris Daellenbach at Opening Day, as well as Thom McKercher from Universal Music Classics and Jazz for continued support and artistic guidance.

9) Carole Pope  - I was thrilled to participate in the recording of Carole Pope's new record Landfall...the record was co-produced by my dear friend and CK co-guitar slinger Tim Welch, and his genius is all over the record...other guests on the record include Rufus Wainwright, Hawksley Workman, Rob Preuss of the Spoons, Ray Coburn of Honeymoon Suite, mixer extraordinaire John Whynott and drum legend Randy Cooke...pretty great company. Carole's iconic voice and writing is fully evident on this record. I have been so honored to perform with her over the years, and this year saw us doing more acoustic shows. The acoustic shows are a real joy (we had a wonderful time on our east coast tour!!), and I love listening to Carole's voice in that setting...she has such a strong presence as an advocate and intellectual that I feel sometimes she doesn't get her due as one of the great Canadian vocalists of our time. We had some great full band gigs as well,one of the highlights being our gig at the Beaches Jazz Festival (never thought I'd be playing that one!!)

10) Lippert Music Centre - Last but not least, I was very proud to be named Director of Guitar Studies at Lippert Music Centre, an amazing music school that was founded by Joseph Lippert more than 50 years ago and is now run by Charleen Beard, a visionary who continues to take the school to new heights of achievement. Teaching is a huge part of my life, and perhaps the most rewarding facet of my career. I have been at Lippert Music for over 16 years now, and I look forward to continuing down the very exciting path that Charleen has set for the school!

May you all have wonderful Holiday, no matter what it is you celebrate....from my house, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and I look forward to an exciting 2012!!

Saturday, 19 November 2011


6:30 am here at the Kelly household...I've always been an early riser, which is gonna prove very helpful in a few short weeks...:)

ANYWAY, just wanted to keep things fresh here, and write about two great sessions I had this was on a song I wrote with my good buddy Craig McConnell, and the other was with a new pal, Gavin Brown on a project for a new artist he is working with.

Craig and I have sort of come up through the ranks together....the first album we did together was 69 Duster's MANIA! in 1996, an album I still look back on fondly. Craig is now a highly sought after TV and Film composer, and is still very active in the pop world, having written and produced some new tracks on Keshia Chante's new album. He also co-produced, engineered and mixed my latest guitar album Where The Wood Meets The Wire.  For the session this week, we just needed to add some lead guitars to a song that we wrote with Marti Dodson, an American songwriter who scored some big Billboard hits with her band Saving Jane...the song we wrote was in the New Country vein, and Craig did a bang up job on the production (no surprises there)...I am so pleased with how this turned out, from the writing session with Marty, to the final product we will use to shop the song. One never knows if it will see commercial release, but as Craig and I discussed over our post-session burritos we are just happy to have made a piece of music we really dig that didn't exist before!

The next session was with Gavin Brown, a producer who is currently working with The Tragically Hip, and has produced hit records for Three Days Grace, Metric, Billy Talent and many others. I was pleased to get the call from Gavin to head over to Noble Street Studios, a gorgeous room in downtown Toronto. He was working with an artist by the name of Caitlin Kavanaugh (I checked to see if there was a relation there, as my grandmother was a Kavanaugh, we are still looking!). One of the things I love about doing sessions is the demand for instant creativity. Gavin had his crack team there (including engineer Lenny Derose, who has engineered records by KISS, Alice Cooper, Hanoi Rocks...i grew up listening to this guys work!), and the session went swimmingly. It was nice to finally record with bass monster Marc Rogers, who I had previously jammed with at the Yamaha Guitar Roadshow. Marc is a deeply creative player, and a lovely guy to boot. Gavin is very much the mad scientist in the studio, concocting amazing tones on everything he touches, and he is also a kick ass drummer. We laid the tracks down trio style, live off the floor, and then settled in for some guitar overdubs. The three songs were sounding great when I left, and look forward to hearing Caitilin's new vocals on the tracks (her demo vocals sounded fantastic!).

Surrounded by amazing gear, talented people, a vibey room and great music is a pretty great way to spend a day....and I got to do that on two occasions this week with two of the best producers in the business. Life is good.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Guitar Influences...the (not so) usual suspects!

Hey y'all

I'm heading up to the offices of Universal Music Canada today to discuss promotion of my new album Where The Wood Meets The we kick things in to high gear (promo was put on hold as I worked on Cover Me Canada with Warren Dean Flandez), I have been thinking about how in interviews I am often asked to cite my influences. Of course, as a complete rock n roll guitar junkie, my ears have taken in a LOT of great music by the finest players in the world. I often end up citing the most popular of these players, as they are the first ones that come to mind...Hendrix, Van Halen, Beck on the rock side and John Williams and David Russell on the Classical side.

However, after gorging my senses this morning on an absolutely killer live dvd of Toto rocking an arena in Amsterdam in 2003 (I can hear the scorn amongst some of my "hipper" peers now!), it dawned on me that I there have been other, lesser known players that have probably had a much bigger impact...time to give credit where credit is due.  I mean, these players are still HUGE stars and are very well known, but they don't often get their critical just here it is....the first 5 players in an ongoing list of (relatively) unsung guitar heroes!

1) Steve Lukather (Toto) - Luke is everything I want to be in a player...perfect note choices, incredible vibrato, unbelievable heart-on sleeve songwriting, chops for days.  He is my current favourite player by a mile, and I was blessed enough to play for him as a finalist in Guitar Player Magazines 2005 Guitar Hero competition at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame...I am so not the shredder type, so I really had no place in that competition, but Luke was so encouraging and generous in his praise...he knew what my deal was, and I will never forget that great night of sharing pints and gleaning wisdom from this most humble of geniuses.

2) Neal Schon (Journey) - Neal has the blues deep in his fingerprints, and is another perfect combination of fire and melody. His guitar figures are as memorable as Perry's classic vocal lines. His tag solo in "I'll Be Alright Without You" from the Raised On Radio album ranks as my favourite solo. A close second is his melodic star turn on "Stone In Love" from the Escape album, where he snakes in and around the Cello-ish virtuosity of bassist Ross Valory to deliver a truly anthemic statement.

3) Andy McCoy/Nasty Suicide (Hanoi Rocks) - Where the aforementioned players represent my favorite AOR/Melodic Rock stylists, I also have a great affinity for the more rough and tumble aspects of true Rock N Roll, and there is a marked difference. This guitar tandem satisfies my thirst for bump and grind rhythms that spar with and compliment each other (Slash and Izzy took good note of this), and highly melodic leads that still left enough barbed wire around them to draw a bit of blood. Andy is a surprisingly sophisticated player, often coming across as a punk rock Django Reinhardt, all harmonic minor twists and Chuck Berry bruises. Nasty, while primarily the rhythm counterpart in this team, also managed to craft my favourite Hanoi solo, the heart-wrencing turn in Don't You Ever Leave Me from Two Steps To The Move. For the best example of their interplay, I suggest the Live at The Marquee album.

4) Gary Moore - My love of all things Thin Lizzy has been very well documented, and I am forever a fan of the classic Gorham/Robertson guitar line-up...but the player from the Lizzy camp who has most rubbed off on my style is the late, great Mr. Gary Moore. I loved how Gary played both melodically and FEROCIOUSLY at the same time...his were the type of chops I aspire too, not the squeaky clean (yawn) precision that the over-compressed, hyper distorted sweep picking bedroom Youtube virtuosi display on any given Sunday evening when the homework is done. When Gary unleashed a torrent of blazing licks, you could feel the intent behind them, and those lines were often punctuated with one of the wickedest vibratos this side of Belfast. I count his work on Lizzy's Black Rose album as his finest, but just under that masterwork in my estimation is his playing and writing on his solo album Wild Frontier...I love how Gary marries an icy cool 80's production aesthetic (more to come on that subject...I love 80's production!!) with his intrinsic sense of Celtic melody, and the bluesy snarl of a man who has lived through one too many bar fights. Throw in his later period blues mastery, and you have a portrait of one of rock n rolls brightest acolytes.

5) Warren Demartini/Robbin Crosby (Ratt) - Oh, one day fellow music geeks, I will unleash I truly detailed (scary? unnecessary?) list of the great hair metal guitarists, and there were many...but Warren has always stood above them all. Deeply syncopated and highly articulated post Van Halen lines merge with the scalar construction of Uli Jon Roth in his prime with the Scorpions (damn, I'll get to him next time!) in Warren's playing to create real art and a heightened sense of musicality that even rivals the height of some of the hair styles! My favourite example is the solo in Lay It Down, which starts off with sinewy unison bends, rolls into some snaky Mixolydian melodicisim, and ultimately builds into a bluesy climax that is driven home with a wide interval home run swing....whew, not bad for a song about, er...Laying It Down. Plenty more examples of Warren's magical playing on Round and Round, Wanted Man and a host of other Ratt and Roll classics. Of course, these wonderful lines were supported by the foundation that Robbin Crosby built, his sleazy signature riffs a cut above your typical Sunset Strip fare. Points also go to Robbin for his pentatonic based lead work that, while not quite reaching the heights of eloquence that Demartini hit, swung and swayed with more than the requisite rock attitude and swagger.

*Note - Blogs are fun, because they can often start out as one thing, and end up being totally different at the end...kinda like my favourite solos, this one started off slow and simple, and gradually got more complicated as time went on, haha!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Fun and Faith...cornerstones of the new music business?

I just got back from a great meeting with my record label. We looked over royalty statements that we couldn't understand (but how cool to get full disclosure from a label...when does that ever happen??), and talked about the new realities that face artists and labels alike. You'd have to be living under a rock to not know that it is a tough grind out there.

Doesn't sound all that great yet, does it? However, one word kept coming up over and over again that made the meeting so! Fun is the driving factor behind anything I do in the music business...and I was thrilled to hear it was the driving motivation behind my record company as well. I am fortunate that the records I have made for Opening Day Entertainment have, to date, been successful enough to allow me to make more records. My sales numbers are certainly not making anyone rich, but they aren't driving anyone into the poor house either. I guess this puts me in a position to make records because it'! Sitting in that meeting, discussing grassroots approaches to marketing my new Where The Wood Meets The Wire record and reaching out to people through a variety of different media was very exciting, and I was thrilled to listen to and participate in such a conversation. These people were having fun thinking of ways to buck current trends, and start new ones...trends that were artist friendly, and goals that were achievable and realistic.

An interesting thing happens when you are having fun and doing something you develop faith that there may be people like yourself out there that feel the same way, and this in turn attracts like minded people to your activities. When I am doing something that brings me (and hopefully others) joy, I am always filled with a great sense of faith that things will work out.

Anyway...I could spend the whole day rambling about this. I guess I'm just feeling very blessed that I get to work with such great people. I truly admired the art and creativity that goes into all facets of bringing music to the public, and I have faith that this team is going to bring a lot of great music to people for years to come...and of course, have fun doing it!

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Someone asked me recently how many albums I've played on....and I wasn't sure. It certainly isn't many compared to a lot of people, but there were more than I could think of off the top of my head (which speaks more to my slow recall than my prolificness!).

So, in chronological order, here we go!

Obscured - "Suck" EP - (1991 Independent) - Produced by Jamie Stewart of the Cult

69 Duster - Mania! (1995 Independent) - features Dale Martindale of Images In Vogue on vocals

Chad Richardson - Legends of Brud (1997 Aquarius/EMI) - album came about as a result of winning Q107's Home Grown contest in 1996

Wild Strawberries - Quiver (1998 Nettwerk) - played acoustic guitar on the track Speak Of The Devil

Heater EP (1999 Independent)

Chad Richardson - #1 Fan (2000 Independent) - Recorded in New York City while Chad was starring in Rent on Broadway

69 Duster - Ride (2001 Bhurr Records/RCD Music)

Neil Leyton - Brighter Side of Her Midnight Sun (2001 Fading Ways)

Crash Kelly - Penny Pills (2003 Bhurr Records CAN, TB Records UK, 2005 Liquor and Poker/Century Media USA, 2006 Spiritual Beast/Universal Japan)

Rye - Wolves (2004 Vibrahive/Maple Music) - band was fronted by Jeff Pearce of the band MOIST

Revolver - Turbulence (2004 Sextant Records/EMI CAN, 2005 Drakkar/SonyBMG EU) - features Nick  Walsh of Slik Toxik

The Show - (2005 Virgin/EMI) - played guitar on a few tracks

High Voltage EP (Bhurr Records/RCD Music) - I produced this EP, which won a Hamilton Music Award for best Loud Music changed its name to Dean Lickyer

Crash Kelly - Electric Satisfaction (2006 Liquor and Poker/Century Media US, Bhurr Records/Fontana CAN, Spiritual Beast/Universal Japan)

Sean Kelly - #1 Classical Guitar Album (2007 Opening Day/Universal)

Crash Kelly - One More Heart Attack (2008 Opening Day/Universal CAN, Warrior Records/Universal USA, Spiritual Beast/Universal Japan)

Crash Kelly - Love You Electric (2008 Bad Reputation EU) - A "best of" compilation for the European market

Sean Kelly - Christmas Guitar (2008 Opening Day/Universal) - Top 10 on the US Billboard Holiday Chart

Shobha - (Independent) - CD produced by Chad Richardson and Craig McConnell

Allister Thompson - Shadowlands (2008 Independent) - guitar on one track

Helix - Vagabond Bones (2009 Helix Records/Fontana/Universal) - Producer, Songwriter, Guitar, Bass

Nelly Furtado - Mas Acoustic EP (2009 Universal Music Gmbh) - Itunes exclusive from a live concert in Freiburg, Germany on the Mi Plan promotional tour of Europe

Helix - Smash Hits ...Unplugged! (2011 EMI Music Canada) - Producer, Guitar

Helix - Skin In The Game EP (2011 Helix Records) - Executive Producer, Writer, Guitar

Sean Kelly - Where The Wood Meets The Wire (2011 Opening Day/Universal)

Carole Pope - Landfall (2011 Le Petit Mort) - Bass on a few tracks

Warren Dean Flandez - (Cover Me Canada Productions/Universal) Seven singles recorded for CBC's Cover Me Canada program

COMPILATIONS (too many to remember, but here are the ones I do)

Metal For The Masses - The Canadian Assault (2005 Century Media) - Crash Kelly track She Gets Away

Metal For The Masses 4 - (2005 Century Media) Crash Kelly track Love Me Electric

Metal For The Masses 5 - (2006 Century Media) Crash Kelly track Ride The Wire

Liquor and Poker Music Sampler (2005 Century Media) Features tracks by Crash Kelly, Hanoi Rocks, Hellacopters, Backyard Babies and Fu Manchu

Be Naughty, Be Hair Metal (2010 WEA France) - French compilation featuring David Lee Roth, Skid Row, Twisted Sister, Ratt and many other hair metal heroes...and the CK track Ride The Wire

A Very Merry Christmas (2010 Opening Day) - Features three Sean Kelly Christmas tracks, Top 10 US Billboard Classical charts.

High Voltage Box - A Tribute to AC/DC (2008 Cleopatra Records/Cherry Red Records UK) - Crash Kelly covers Shot Down In Flames

Tribute to Motley Crue - (2007 Versailles Records) - CK covers On With The Show

Tribute to New York Dolls (2005 Fastlane Records) - CK covers Lonely Planet Boy

Friday, 4 November 2011

Everybody's Workin' For The Weekend...

Well, at least I am...heading to Seneca Casino in Niagara Falls NY to do an acoustic duo gig with my pal Carl Dixon. Carl is the lead vocalist of Coney Hatch, and was also hired to sing for the Guess Who when Burton Cummings departed...a tough gig, but one he handled with aplomb.

The Casino gig sees us covering a lot of material from the Guess Who catalogue, as well as tunes from Carl's solo and Coney Hatch stuff and a wide variety of 70's FM radio classics....because Carl has been playing these songs for years, it is often a "learn on the job" situation for me, but I enjoy the challenge.

The best part of this gig is the hang...Carl is a very intelligent guy, and as a survivor of a horrific car crash in Australia in 2008, his perspective on life is refreshing and valued...go check out his website, and pick up a copy of his new album Lucky Dog. It is wonderfully void of cynicism, and chock full o' great tunes and inspiring vocal performances.

Next week....I get my studio in order!!!