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Art & Life with Kelly Reed

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Reed.

Kelly, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born and raised in the western suburbs of Chicago and began playing music pretty early on, starting with violin (age 5) and then piano (age 6). I played music throughout high school and college (go U NU!). When I graduated, I began creating original songs out of my parents’ basement (as you do when you graduate and move back in with your parents).

My life changed after I saw Sufjan Stevens perform “Age Of Adz” in 2010. It was the first time I’d ever been moved to tears by a musical performance. I was amazed by the entire production and album – it was full of color, sound, pageantry, depth… I knew I wanted to write music that was challenging and beautiful like that. Shortly after, I started recording a demo album (based on Dostoyevsky’s “Notes From The Underground”), picked up the guitar and, in 2013, joined Shy Technology, a band out of the western suburbs. I parted ways with Shy Tech in 2015, after successfully beginning my foray as a solo artist (I.E. Kokoro).

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
It’s important to me that music (and art) stands for something. I’ve never been the kind of person who can just write for the sake of writing; it has to be inspired by something. It has to be created from conflict and feeling. So, my music is a vehicle to process through ideas and questions that I keep me up at night.

My first album (No Silence) is me trying to come to terms with the role that technology plays in mitigating our reality. It’s an experiment in creating textures and ambiance that reflected the “noise” all around us. My second album (EPHEMERA) is more straightforward and semi-biographical, exploring what it means to have “place” and what it means to be “belong.” Each song is based on a location or space that has held significance for me. This most recent album, Decalogue, is essentially me trying to process through the entire fiasco that is our country’s historic religiosity and our current political climate.

I want people to feel challenged (sonically, lyrically) by my music. I want people to sit with it and experience something different.

Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
The proliferation of digital consumption has really created an interesting environment for artists. It’s become simultaneously easier AND harder to “make it” because the means are there (I.E., producing music via your bedroom, distributing via YouTube, etc.), but the market is saturated. Just because you put your stuff up on Spotify doesn’t mean you’ll get any streams. It’s a constant hustle to get people to listen. Musicians have to wear not only the creative hat but also have to be adept at marketing themselves. This kind of responsibility takes a toll – especially if your passion for creating art, not hustling.

Musicians need people to come around them and support/believe in them. If you know a musician, offer to host a house show, purchase their music, spread the word to other people you know. Even something as simple as following their social accounts can make a difference. There’s no “patronage” for artists anymore; no one is paying us to produce. We live and die by you streaming our music on Spotify or buying our music on Bandcamp or getting your friends to come to our shows. The biggest blessing I have is the people I love who go out of their way to support my music… this support always feels undeserved, but I truly couldn’t keep going without them.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Visit and follow I.E. Kokoro on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). Also, download music or stream it on any of the major platforms like Spotify, etc.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Irv Vaz (Irv22), Bob Davidson

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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