When Kelly Jo Ramirez, aka Kelly Jo, takes the stage this Saturday night at Gottrocks, she’ll be throwing Upstate music fans a bit of a curveball.
Any dedicated Greenville music fan will know Kelly Jo from her numerous performances around town and her powerful, passionate voice. But for the first time in several years, she’s begun concentrating on original music, preparing to record and release a new EP of original songs called, aptly enough, “Songwriting.”
Ramirez has always been a popular performer, and has spent most of the last few years playing shows with a multifaceted group called The Kelly Jo Connect. But they mostly concentrated on covers during her tenure with that group, and she says she now regrets not working on original material.
“We never actually released any product,” she says. “Fans would have to come to our shows to learn our original songs, which became a very humbling experience.”
With the Connect on hiatus since last year, Kelly Jo has been concentrating more on writing than performing, and says her true musical style has started to emerge.
“The songs I was producing before were with one motive: I wanted to get people’s butts out of their seats,” she says. “I wanted to get people moving. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re bad songs, but songs like that don’t have to be as genuine as when you have the motive of, ‘I want to get to the feeling of a song.’ I think I’ve found my niche in pop music with a little Latin threading in there. I think it comes most naturally to me as a songwriter.”
As far as getting a band together and recording these new songs – well, that’s a big part of what this weekend’s show is about.
“This is just an introduction of these songs to an audience,” she says. “I don’t necessarily want this to be a crowdfunding thing, but I want people to know that this is all coming out of my pocket, and that any help they could give me would be greatly appreciated. I want to capture an audience that will help me fund this EP.”
Kelly Jo’s band for the show will feature Greenville Jazz Collective guitarist Matt Dingledine, singer/guitarist Darby Wilcox, singer/keyboard player Audrey Hamilton, bassist Sam Kruer, drummer Josh Joyner and keyboard player Da’Ryll Searles.
The show is part of an ongoing Local Showcase series organized by John Durham of the Upstate group the LOZ Band. Over the past year or so, a group centered around the LOZ Band, Kelly Jo and Wilcox has coalesced into a musical collective called Local Green, and the various musicians often perform shows together.
“The family unit is definitely strong, and we’re glad that it’s become evident to people,” Ramirez says. “Especially people that followed us in from our solo careers. We get to cross-pollinate fans, and it’s been a really encouraging atmosphere to be in.”
Local Showcase with Kelly Jo, The Bad Popes, Stereo Reform
Saturday, Jan. 23, 9 p.m.
Gottrocks, 200 Eisenhower Drive, Greenville
$7 in advance, $10 day of show