Kelsey Blackstone is a Boston-based indie pop-soul artist who combines retro rock and blues influences with a fresh, contemporary pop flair. Her band prioritizes audience participation in their upbeat live shows, making use of everything from balloons to bubble wands. She’s also involved with the local performance nonprofit Hug The Tree. WRBB’s Fenner Dreyfuss-Wells caught up with Kelsey to discuss her latest release, her planning process, and what’s coming up for the rest of the year!
Fenner Dreyfuss-Wells: You recently released the music video for your single “My Superstitions.”
Kelsey Blackstone: Yeah, I’m really proud. Whenever I see the video, I just get so excited about it. I think when you have something that you’ve had in your head for so long, and it takes an entire team of really talented people to make that dream a reality, and it comes out even better than you were originally imagining, it’s just the most magical synergy. The single came out on my birthday this year, and I did that because my birthday very conveniently fell on a Friday, which is a great day to release new music, and I wanted to guilt people a little bit. But no, I’m just joking. Everything just kind of seemed like it would be ready by then, so it felt like the right move.
I wrote the song with a good friend of mine, Diana Flynn, at the start of the pandemic. We met through Instagram, which sounds kind of strange, but we just realized that we had a lot of similar styles, and we liked a lot of the same artists. So we just decided to try and set up some Zoom sessions and write with each other. And I’m very happy that we did, because that’s how “My Superstitions” came to be.
For production, I ended up working with Boston-based producer and composer Gōst Pepper, and he did an amazing job. He heard all my ideas and was able to incorporate them and kind of throw his own spin on things, too. We had a very equitable working relationship, which was really cool. And since this was happening when COVID was still really bad, some other friends recorded virtually and then sent the recordings in. I’m just really happy with how the song came out. It took a lot to get it out, but it’s out!
I would love to talk a bit more about the music video for the song. Did anything surprise you during the shoot?
Yes and no. I don’t know what initially gave me the idea to do a one-shot video. Maybe I’m crazy. But I was working with a good friend who I’ve worked on a bunch of other projects with. His full name is Remington Sage Strecker, but we call him Sage. He’s an amazing videographer, and it was pretty obvious that we should work together on this video. So I came to him with the idea, and he was on board right away. He asked me if I’d ever seen the movie Birdman. The entire movie is one shot, or at least made to look like it’s one shot. And there’s a lot of personnel in the background of each scene, kind of an organized chaos, everyone’s kind of coming in, doing one thing and then turning right around and leaving the screen. And we kind of wanted to pull from that and use it to inspire how we planned the video.
What was the hardest part of putting that video together?
I feel like on the shoot day itself, everything ran surprisingly smoothly. And I think the reason for that was because Sage and I spent months planning every single aspect of the video. We even made a chart that a coach would use to plan a football play. And it looks insane. Because I had the three backup dancers, and my band, and the production assistants, and we had to make sure everyone was in the right space, at the right time, with the right prop, doing the right dance move. With that being said though, everybody who was involved with the video did a great job and their hard work is so meaningful to me. But yeah, the hardest part was definitely the planning and the coordination of it all.
Can you tell me a little about the nonprofit you’re involved with, Hug The Tree?
Yeah, absolutely. In the summer of 2020, me and my friends were in our little COVID bubble in Boston, and we were just hanging out all the time, trying to figure out what to do with ourselves. And, of course, just really, really missing live music and the Boston scene and all of that. There was some other virtual stuff going on at the time, but it didn’t really seem to be scratching the itch that we all felt as musicians and performers. And we kind of started to build this idea, like, what if we got all of us involved and did a music livestream service thing, and what if at the same time, we would also be raising funds for a cause of our choice? So, that was kind of how the initial idea started. We had our first live stream show on Halloween of 2020. We raised a few hundred dollars for the Massachusetts bail fund, and the show was just really fun and really successful. And at the end of it, we all got to walk away with some quality audio and video recordings of our music, and we were like, you know what, let’s keep it going.
We had a live stream where we were raising money about every six weeks or so after that. At that point we started to reach out to other musicians and bands that we knew in the area, and we literally had them come to our house and film in the living room. We did that for about a year, and we were really successful, really enjoying it. We were like, you know, let’s actually turn this into something that we can keep building from so that we can help other musicians and artists in the Boston area. Just give them a platform and raise money for social causes that we believe in at the same time. And it has definitely been a wild ride, but it’s been really cool so far.
Last spring was when we officially were able to have our first in-person events, the first one of those being the Roots Project, which took place this past March. We decided to partner with a local Allston DIY venue called the Pelvic Floor, and we basically turned their entire house into an art and music gallery. We had several artists set up gallery spaces in the upstairs level, and there were more artists in the basement, and then we had bands playing all day. And again, that was another thing where it just took an immense amount of planning, and that was definitely the hardest part of it. But on the day of the show, it actually went extremely smoothly. The planning is always the hardest part. You’re just thinking of every possible thing that can go wrong, and what the hell you’re going to do if it does.
At this point in the Hug The Tree chapter, we’re starting to think about transitioning, because we’re starting to spread out to different cities. But we’re still in the middle of getting our official nonprofit status, and we want to keep reaching for that. We’re thinking of transitioning into more of a magazine, like an online type of publication. And I think that will also allow us to not just dip into the Boston community, but dip into the other communities that we’ll be a part of.
What’s in the works right now?
November is a very, very busy month for us. I think we have six or seven shows coming up in the next five weeks. So yeah, it’s going to be really crazy. I’m also in the middle of producing some songs that are set to come out at the beginning of next year. The best way to stay in the know about all of that stuff is to stay in touch on social media!
That sounds like a busy month!
Again, it’s all in the planning. The thing with the shows is I try to plan as much as possible, but the shows are a completely different beast. I’m really grateful for every show we get to play and every musician who we share the stage with. It’s my true passion. Performing with the band is one of the best feelings ever and each show is so different from the last! If you’ve seen us perform around Boston you know all about our free bubble wands and such…it’s always a good time!
Kelsey’s next shows in Boston are November 27 at Warehouse XI in Somerville, and December 3 with Sofar Sounds. More details available on Kelsey’s website and Instagram page!