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Art&Seek Q&A: Kelly Brown
by Betsy Lewis 18 Dec 2008

Photo by Can Turkyilmaz Kelly Brown has survived so many ebbs and flows in the Texas music scene that Kris Kristofferson should probably write a song about her. Frankly Scarlet, Kelly’s band with her sister Kim, was a staple of the Deep Ellum music scene in the 90s and seemed destined for the elusive national […]


Photo by Can Turkyilmaz

Kelly Brown has survived so many ebbs and flows in the Texas music scene that Kris Kristofferson should probably write a song about her. Frankly Scarlet, Kelly’s band with her sister Kim, was a staple of the Deep Ellum music scene in the 90s and seemed destined for the elusive national breakthrough. When that dream was dashed by The Man, Kelly regrouped, focusing a frenetic energy on her own solo sound, the revolution in digital media and the rejuvenation of a group vibe in the Dallas arts. Local Honey is her ongoing multimedia project for the new era, a fusion of things musical, visual, digital and original. This undertaking will be onstage and festive at Local Honey’s 3rd Annual Holiday Mix, a Christmas concert of sorts, Friday night at the Lakewood Theater. We caught up with Kelly recently to ask her about her re-emergence to the scene.

Is Local Honey you? Is it a band? Is it a collective?

Local Honey is me as an artist, and it’s also kind of a band, and it is me making stuff. In other words, I’m a producer of stuff. Stuff can be videos, stuff can be what you’re doing – I am interested in interviewing artists – and it’s photography. I love portrait photography. It’s sculpture. It’s anything, really.

What are the differences between the Deep Ellum of the 90s and now?

It takes five bands now for a club to make money, because each of those five bands can only pull in maybe 50 people tops. In the 90s when we were doing Dada and a lot of stuff in Deep Ellum, any one of several bands had a pretty good draw. We were back in the days with Big Boss Groove and Ten Hands, all those people. So you’d have similar audiences and they might book you together, but people had their pull, you know? So I think it’s a little different now. If the audiences are smaller for each band, they have to book more people.

Do you think there are more bands?

I can’t figure this out. If we look at what’s going on with marketing and product, the music market is saturated, which is one of the reasons I think record companies started having a problem with wanting to control things and wanting you to sound like this person. They’d had success with that, so be this cause it’s proven.

Maybe there is more competition with other entertainment sources? Gaming did not have the presence, or the new way of downloading one song at a time —

That has something to do with it too, because people don’t buy CDs the way they used to.

You don’t hear a collection of one artist’s work, you get one espresso shot.

Right. You like a song. Your attention span is different because of it. I am also that attention span. I’m going to sing jazz. I’m going to sing country. I’m going to sing pop. I write what I write, it just comes out, and that’s the deal. But I do think it has to do with that culture. It’s not the context of a full CD or the body of work of one group.

Your Web site lists several different art forms: music, photography, multimedia, video and art. Does one predominate?

The dominant is going to be music, because that’s basically how I frame things. I’m also a visual artist. One might take the lead and another might come into play. Like I might do a gallery show with portraits of artists, then I might put together a set with those people. So you come to the show, see them on the wall, see them walking around, and then hear them play.

What can we expect from the Lakewood show on the 19th?

It’s got a community aspect. I want Dallas to see these artists, because I know that it’s frustrating for us to find vehicles to show our work or be heard. Having been frustrated with this myself, I’d like to help other artists in different ways. This show at the Lakewood is eclectic not only in the material, but also the players. Some of them are formally trained – they play with orchestras. Others have been alternative players forever. And that’s what’s really cool about it, to put these very different kinds of players together and see the music they can make. I’m taking these guys out of boxes that people think they should be in, like Bryan Wakeland of Polyphonic Spree. His whole thing started in Fever in the Funkhouse, then he was in Tripping Daisy, but Bryan’s playing jazz. Then taking the first violinist from the Richardson Symphony Orchestra and having her play country alongside Reggie Rueffer, who plays fiddle with Charley Pride.

Looking at your bio, you seem to have navigated that whole music business corporate culture. Have you given it up entirely?

I had to give the idea of that up in order to want to write again, because it becomes frustrating when you’re not delivering their expectations. They’re asking for an order of fries and you’re giving waffles. But you’re just creating, right? So it shuts you down a little bit, and my sister and I really hit a wall. We finally got signed to an exclusive scouting thing, which was some entertainment attorneys in New York, and we stopped with the business side of it ourselves. It stopped our momentum of trying to push forward. But then they didn’t do anything for us. That was the last straw on the Frankly Scarlet thing.

Now that I’ve become Local Honey, it is more like a curator or a producer. Because of my frustration with the business side of music, I thought, well I’m just going to do it myself, as any kind of creator would do. Gestate. Heal. And begin again in some other form.

DETAILS: Local Honey’s 3rd Annual Holiday Mix is a benefit concert for La Reunion TX and the Wilkinson Center Food Pantry. Showtime is 8 p.m.; please bring a canned good.

The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.

  • Jeff Stover

    I know Kelly and her creative ability is spectacular. She is a true artist, professional and innovator. I would recommend that you see her any chance you get.

  • The sad news is that with the consolidation of the music industry into 4 giants, we have a mainstream of only watered down, safe music.
    And the sadder news for musicians is that if you are over 24 so is your career.
    Time for a revolution in arts where talent matters more than album cover looks.