Take Me Home: Kelley Mickwee

Trishas singer steps out front

Kelley Mickwee’s You Used to Live Here drops today. After spending years singing as a duo with Jed Zimmerman and finding success with the currently on-hiatus Trishas, Mickwee went back to her personal drawing board, starting from scratch as a solo artist.

The album was recorded in Mickwee’s native Memphis. Although only seven songs, the singer says, “I’m not calling it an EP, because it’s not an extended play from anything.” In 2001, Mickwee graduated from the University of Memphis and has pursued music ever since.

“Kelley’s solo debut has been a long time coming,” says Jamie Lin Wilson of her Trishas bandmate. “She’s always brought something special to the groups she’s in. That soulful voice and presentation – humor, confidence. Once she got into songwriting, she became an unstoppable force.

“She’s got something to say and a unique way of saying it. This record is great, and we as her Trisha sisters are so proud.”

Two of the tracks are covers, including one by everyone’s favorite rising folk star, John Fulbright (“Blameless”), and Eliza Gilkyson’s “Dark Side of Town.” Other tracks on You Used to Live Here were co-written with locals Kevin Welch, Phoebe Hunt, Jimmy Davis, Jonny Burke, and Owen Temple.

“Writing songs with Kelley is a pleasure,” praises Temple. “She’s got a lot of soul, great ideas, high standards, and a voice to deliver the songs so you can feel them. I love what she writes and records.”

Mickwee’s song “Take Me Home” came about when she was feeling homesick for her adopted home of Buda. Her sultry Southern drawl coats her lyrics: “My soul is crying, take me home. Sing for me quietly, walk me slowly, dance with me, smile for me, comfort me, hold me. Somehow I ended up tattered and torn, take me home.”

I caught up with Mickwee, 35, on her way to Dallas a few days ago while she was stuck in heavy traffic outside of Waco. We talked about her new path as she inched along I-35.

Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Austin Chronicle: How did you pick the cover songs?

Kelley Mickwee: For those two particular songs, I fell in love with them the first time I heard them. I first heard Gilkyson’s song when I moved to Austin seven years ago. I just love singing it. Fullbright hasn’t recorded “Blameless” yet except on his live album, so he’s kind of letting me borrow it for a little bit.

AC: How does it feel to be out in front now?

KM: Well, I’m still figuring that out. It’s still pretty new to me. I just started playing with a new band about two months ago. And now when I play, I’m able to put the guitar down and just sing, which is what I love to do the most – sing. It feels really good to stand up there knowing I trust everyone with me to kick ass and make it sound good. It feels empowering to do that and that’s going to grow on me.

But it definitely still makes my nervous being the only person with a microphone.

AC: How do you qualify your sound?

KM: I feel more comfortable calling my music roots more than I do Americana for some reason. It’s a blend of roots, soul, R&B, folk, country, and blues.

AC: How do you feel about the business side of music these days?

KM: It’s so different every time I go to release another record in whatever group I’m in or solo or whatever. It’s like all sorts of stuff has already changed. We’re all constantly trying to figure it out and probably always will. The Trishas never made a record with a label so I don’t know what that’s like. We released our records on our own because we were able to tour and save up enough money and pay for it all ourselves. We created a little label within the band and released our records through that. The same goes for me. I saved up some money and I payed for the thing on my own.

AC: What does happiness look like in a perfect moment?

KM: My idea of happiness involves a beach, a cold Corona, and a hammock, mangoes, music playing in the background.

AC: What inspires you to write?

KM: I love my job. I think it shows when I play. I try to show how much I love to play music at every show. The muse is ever changing thanks to different songwriters. I'm especially inspired by all of my songwriting friends.

AC: How do you spend your days off?

KM: On the weekends I’m probably somewhere with my golden retriever. I love to go to Barton Springs, go on on walks in Buda, sleep late, and go hear some music.

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More Kelley Mickwee
Crazy From the Heat
Kelley Mickwee
Texas Platters go mondo

Jim Caligiuri, Aug. 8, 2014

More by William Harries Graham
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Kelley Mickwee, Trishas, John Fullbright, Eliza Gilkyson, Jamie Lin Wilson, Kevin Welch, Phoebe Hunt, Jimmy Davis, Jonny Burke, Owen Temple

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