Music Interview | posted 03.09.2020
Kelly Lee Owens
»We store emotions in our body«
The Welsh musician released her second album »Inner Song« which wipes tears from cried-out eyes with one hand after the closing set while opening the window into everyday life with the other. A conversation with Owens about rave memories, trauma sessions and her challenge with Four Tet.
Text Christoph Benkeser , Photos Kim Hiorthoy © Smalltown Supersound , Translation Sebastian Hinz
3._kelly_lee_owens_-_credit_kim_hiorth%c3%b8y-min

Kelly Lee Owens has been tweaking the right knobs again after her stunning debut album in 2017. With »Inner Song« the London based musician and singer doesn’t stop at airy pop with techno moments, but dramatizes the dance floor with the strength of her own body—and for the first time grinds her techno voice with pop appeal. For Kelly Lee Owens, who brought heaven to earth for Jon Hopkins in 2019 producing an electronic hit with “Luminous Space”, the direction is right. »Inner Song« takes off, dives in, blossoms. In any order. After the album hits record stores more than three months late (hey, macorona!), you don’t want to waste your time snipping unpretentious Spotify playlists. You get to the point. For joy, for life. For the record store.


You can find the Vinyl Records by Kelly Lee Owens in the HHV Records webshop.


You just released your sophomore album after being pushed back for over four months due to the pandemic. How has the original meaning about the record changed?
Kelly Lee Owens: It was supposed to come out May 1st, but it felt right to push it back for different reasons, really. Record shops had to close and couldn’t fully operate because of the pandemic. Things were just uncertain. Having worked in record stores for over ten years, I really wanted to be able to support them as well as have them be open and a place of discovery which is what they are. When the album comes out, people can walk in. Maybe they’re playing the album, some might ask what it is or they see the cover. There’s something about that which is timeless.

You worked in four different record stores. What impact did the experience behind the counter have on you?
You can’t help but be influenced by the things you hear. That’s why sound is so important and powerful. You can literally absorb the vibration of what you hear. It becomes part of you. In every record shop I have worked, I discovered something different. Just because people played different music and brought their own influence in which means that you got to learn new music all the time. At the same time I came across stuff from the past which is equally as good and has its own energies. Those times definitely infiltrated into my psyche.

Like materializing the influence.
It all adds to something while at the same time it’s all coming from somewhere. I grew up in Wales, a country that is known as the land of song. Everyone is in a quire. Songs become a way of expressing oneself that is very much encouraged. The same goes with poetry. We have a festival of Literature every year called Eisteddfod where it’s a celebration of Welsh culture, heritage and history. You know, Wales has been oppressed as a country by England—as of many other places. There were times where we couldn’t speak or sing in our own language. It’s only now that road signs are being converted into Welsh as well as English. Even the trains that I used to get home mispronounced the name of my place. It took years to get that changed and have the place name pronounced correctly. That is absolute insanity. So, I think it’s important to understand where you come from. I have taken all of the melodic and melancholic stuff that is encouraged in my community, then playing in indie bands which is about melody, really—and the urban surroundings can’t help but influenced me. That’s where the Techno comes in.

»Fabric was my first memories of being in a club, understanding how big a space can be with different floors, moments and music. It’s a visceral experience.« (Kelly Lee Owens)

You discovered dance music in your late twenties, right? Do you have any memories you want to share about your first time going to a rave?
I don’t know if this is boring or this is cool, but the first one was actually Fabric. I was introduced to dance music by Daniel Avery. We worked in a record shop and he invited me to record parts of his debut album »Drone Logic« together. Daniel also used to DJ at Fabric. He would get extra tickets. So, I jumped in at the deep end. Fabric was my first memories of being in a club, understanding how big a space can be with different floors, moments and music. It’s a visceral experience.

This experience is certainly hearable on »Jeanette«, »Melt« and »Flow«—straight club tracks without any vocals. When do you decide to sing on a track?
There are too many people who think that in order to produce a club track, they have to follow a certain formula. But they only do it for the money. I don’t prescribe to that. It’s not what I am trying to do. Once I made the music, it informs me of what I need to do. With »Jeanette«, it was so uplifting and free-flowing and it kept getting brighter and brighter. I feel like lyrics would have weighed down the energy. By leaving enough space, I’m honoring the sound. I’m not the kind of artist that needs to fill up the space for the sake of it. I’m not afraid of space. »Night« is one of the songs where it gets banging, but there is singing and speaking on it as well. I don’t abide to any rules. Whatever works and feels intuitively right is what I try to honor.

Listening to »Inner Song« it appears to me that your voice is much more prominent compared to your debut album. You recently said that this had something to do with Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet. What’s the story about?
I was playing a festival called Big Ears in Knoxville, Tennessee. Kieran was headlining as Four Tet. Since we share the same booking agent, Kieran requested that I play before him because he doesn’t really have support acts. If you go see him, not often will he have someone open for him. This was a good way of doing it—having a festival that was in a venue and me supporting him before his concert. He watched my show and after his concert he came to me and said like »God, those vocals! Why have you been hiding them?« It called me out a little bit. On my first record, I was not confident enough to place my voice as a genuine singing voice. It was fun to use my voice as another instrument in terms of putting lots of space echo and delay on it. With »Inner Song«, I needed to be more clear. I was more centered, but I also had more to say. I’ve been through so much since my debut album. I would not have wanted to use those lyrics if I had buried them underneath the music.

»I can’t write about something imaginary. It’s always connected to me.« (Kelly Lee Owens)

The production allowed for the vocals to take pride of place.
The music already carries the emotion. I’m just writing on top of that. I have to find the pieces of the puzzle—but it’s always personal. I can’t write about something imaginary. It’s always connected to me. The more honest and raw and real I can be, the deeper it will connect with people. I always have notebooks with me in which I write down my thoughts and feelings. When it comes to the album, I get a new giant pad and pull together all the themes and ideas—and I find the words and energy that match the song.

In the press release to »Inner Song«, it was said that you had a hard time finding »your sound« for this album. How did you find it eventually?
Oh, I didn’t have a hard time finding my sound. It was more about my confidence in recording another album. I had doubts whether I could create again because I’ve been through something traumatic. I was exhausted and didn’t have the energy to be able to create things in way that I did before. When your energy is drained, your creative life force isn’t available to you so much. As soon as I decided to approach the album, it went quite fast. I wrote the music in 35 days.

Kelly Lee Owens - Inner SongsFind it at hhv.de: White Vinyl LP | Black Vinyl LP You undertook a body release trauma session before you finished the album. I don’t want to get too personal here, but do you mind sharing how this session worked out for you?
I had written the basics of the music when I had this session. It was just before the week that I was planning to be at home and write all the lyrics and vocal melodies. You know, I have my little studio here in London because I love trying out harmonies in a personal space. After I did the session, I felt quite low. Part of a body release trauma session is about allowing you to release sadness and grief that you’ve been holding in your body. You are supposed to feel—and it allowed me to be honest about what I’ve been through. It resonated with me because I believe that it’s all somatic. We store emotions in our body.


You can find the Vinyl Records by Kelly Lee Owens in the HHV Records webshop.

Your Comment
Related Articles
Music Review | posted 10.03.2014
Neneh Cherry
Blank Project
For Neneh Cherry, »Blank Project« is much more than a simple comeback. It’s about soul, and she deserves our credit for it.
Music Review | posted 03.04.2012
Mouse On Mars
Parastrophics
»Parastrophics« is an acid-soaked ride to hell and back through the world of electronic music.
Music Review | posted 27.04.2012
Clark
Iradelphic
This change from electronic to acoustic must have been intimidating as well as challenging for Clark.
Music Review | posted 17.09.2012
Seams
Tourist/Sleeper
The two EPs, which Seams combined for the label Full Time Hobby, disclose a clear musical development.
Music Review | posted 22.08.2012
Submerse
Tears EP
British producer Submerse creates a positively exotic atmosphere with his two-dimensional and playful »Tears EP«.
Music Review | posted 12.10.2012
Daphni
Jiaolong
With a new project called Daphni, Daniel Snaith a.k.a. Caribou adopts the freedoms of a DJ as his own.
Music Review | posted 21.05.2013
Mount Kimbie
Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
Mount Kimbie have topped their debut album by quite some length – it’s not even post-dubstep anymore, but what in the world is it then?
Music Review | posted 28.06.2013
Gold Panda
Half Of Where We Live
Gold Panda’s first record in three years would have been real good, if only he had made an EP out of it.
Music Review | posted 19.09.2013
Daedelus
Drown Out
Even melancholy gets Daedelus completely absorbed, manically yet meticulously. That’s probably why the record is so damn good at its best moments.
Music Review | posted 20.02.2014
Valentin Stip
Sigh
I shouldn’t even try. Shouldn’t even try to squeeze this record into a text.
Music Review | posted 15.09.2014
Daisuke Tanabe
Floating Underwater
Daisuke Tanabe’s »Floating Underwater« is a peculiar little creature: strange, fascinating and friendly.
Music Review | posted 02.10.2014
Caribou
Our Love
Caribou is spreading the love amongst his fans. His seventh record, »Our Love«, doesn’t try to go for great gestures – and still, it doesn’t add up.
Music Review | posted 17.11.2014
Erik Honoré
Heliographs
At the age of 48, the Norwegian sound designer and writer Erik Honoré has finished his debut. »Heliographs« is a happening.
Music Review | posted 18.09.2015
Synkro
Changes
Synkro has shone with real urgency too often in order for »Changes‘« broad fuzziness to be becoming.
Music Review | posted 18.03.2011
Nicolas Jaar
Space Is Only Noise
The fascinating world of a laptop-songwriter with an enormous potential: Nicolas Jaar’s debut album.
Music Review | posted 23.03.2016
The Range
Potential
»Potential« is The Range’s first record for Domino. For this debut, he has explored various hobby musicians’ potentials on youtube.
Music Review | posted 21.04.2016
Andy Stott
Too Many Voices
Stonemason or ballet dancer? Andy Stott is himself still unsure. One can hear that on the album. It however only harms its vigour.
Music Review | posted 12.05.2016
Ash Koosha
I AKA I
On Ash Koosha’s »I AKA I«, ambient meets glitch, musique concrete meets beat-tape and your head meets an adventure. Is this IDM 2.0?
Music Review | posted 13.05.2016
Jessy Lanza
Oh No
For Jessy Lanza it means all or nothing, but in the meantime everything meets nothing on »Oh No«. Her second album is a radical record.
Music Review | posted 06.03.2017
Lusine
Sensorimotor
Likable? Yeah, so what! Lusine’s »Sensorimotor« was created in such an elaborate and affectionate way that it’s OK if everyone likes it.
Music Review | posted 14.04.2021
Mori-Ra
Japanese Breeze
»Japanese Breeze« condenses 12 tracks from Mori-Ra’s mix series of the same name.
Music Review | posted 20.04.2021
Andy Stott
Never The Right Time
Zack. Without much notice, the Mancurian Andy Stott has released his new album »Never The Right Time«.
Music Review | posted 13.12.2013
Heatsick
Re-Engineering
This music is blissfully insane. It still grooves like crazy, knows lots about electronic music and wants to be heard.
Music Review | posted 17.06.2014
Strategy
Pressure Wassure EP
On the »Pressure Wassure EP«, Strategy has adopted the semantics of individual eras of electronic music in the most compelling manner.
Music Review | posted 12.09.2014
Lee Gamble
KOCH
It’s more than a worthy successor – on his latest record, »KOCH«, Lee Gamble has combined the various strengths from his 2012 break-through albums.
Music Column
Records Revisited
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (1971)
With »Maggot Brain« Funkadelic 1971 goes to the dark side of funk. The triumphant pleasure principle is interspersed with dystopian eschatology, and juxtaposes the celebration of life with an oppressive doomsday mood.
Music Portrait
Hōzan Yamamoto
Meditation out of improvisation
For over five decades he pushed Japanese jazz towards spiritual spheres, without kitsch or esoteric – and just a little pathos. Above all, he garnered reputation for it back home. Even today Hōzan Yamamotos work is internationally considered an insider tip.
Music Portrait
Hoshina Anniversary
The Techno and jazz meltdown
Hoshina Anniversary makes techno. But he would rather see himself as a successor to jazz and traditional Japanese music. And the Tokyo native is not alone in this. In this sense, jazz is less what you play than how you play it.
Music Essay
Jazz kissas
Where the music plays in Japan
They offer classy retreat from a world where everyone listens all the time. And they celebrate listening to music: Jazz Kissas, Japan’s unofficial cultural heritage. Journalist Katsumasa Kusunose is now documenting it.
Music Portrait
Hiroshi Suzuki
The unknown with the trombone
In 1976, Japanese trombonist Hiroshi Suzuki recorded an album. “Cat,” which is characterized less by perfection than by a fine groove, was somewhat overlooked at one time. Now you can rediscover it.
Music Essay
Small In Japan
Japan, a Vinyl Nation? Not really.
Elaborate packaging, audiophile listening bars and the highest number of record shops in the world: Japan, a vinyl paradise? No. For decades, the medium has only played only a minor role there. A cultural history of Japan’s music industry.
Music List
Evidence
10 All Time Favs
Evidence is a producer, cratedigger and rapper, and one who in 15 years of career has never lost the desire to discover. Now his album »Unlearning Vol.1« is released. We asked about 10 vinyl records that have shaped, improved and educated him.
Music List
Record Store Day 2021 – 2nd Drop
12 releases to look out for
On July 17, 2021, the second Record Store Days this year will now take place. Again, several dozen exclusive releases have been announced. We have again picked twelve records that we want to recommend to you.
Music Column
Records Revisited
The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1986)
Released in 1986, »The Queen Is Dead« is the culmination of the British band The Smiths’ career, which lasted only five years and four studio albums. It still sounds refreshingly idiosyncratic even after so long.
Music Column
Records Revisited
Porter Ricks – Biokinetics (1996)
When Porter Ricks released the album »Biokinetics« in 1996, it was more than just a collection of their first 12inches flanked by two bonus tracks. It was a utopian attempt to expand upon the dub techno formulas.
Music Portrait
BBE Records
The influencer's influencer
Peter Adarkwah is the reason why some lives have been changed by J Dilla, why Roy Ayers experienced a second spring and why Japanese jazz albums are reviewed by Pitchfork. In other words: BBE Music turns 25 years this year.
Music List
Record Store Day 2021 – 1st Drop
12 vinyl records to look out for
On June 12, 2021, the first of two Record Store Days will take place this year. For this alone, several dozen exclusive releases have been announced. We have picked out twelve records that we would like to recommend to you.
Music Portrait
Portico Quartet
Guest Mix
»Terrain« is the name of the new album of the British band Portico Quartet, which was released these days on Gondwana Records. For us, Portico Quartet’s Jack Wyllie has put together 60 minutes of music in an exclusive DJ mix.
Music Portrait
SSIEGE
Looking for the Infinite Loop
Densely packed with details, the sound of SSIEGE strolls along the transitions of the seasons and during the process blurs ultra-saturated pictures with cravings yet unfulfilled. With them, the Italian producer manages to tell dream tales that recur endlessly.
Music Column
Records Revisited
Marvin Gaye – What's Going On (1971)
Is it even necessary to reminisce about this album? Not really. But you can listen to it again and again. And it has remained relevant to this day, for better or worse. Marvin Gaye’s »What’s Going On« is 50 years old.
Music Portrait
Seefeel
Music in vacuum
Seefeel are a convergence of improbabilities. For almost 30 years they have been playing between styles, unfettered by contemporary references. Their sound remains a singularity.
Music Portrait
Arsivplak
The Past, Re-presented
Volga Çoban’s Arsivplak label and Arşivplak edit project are two sides of the same coin: his approach to Turkish funk, disco, pop, rock and jazz is archival on the one hand and strives to shed a new light on old sounds on the other.
Music Column
Records Revisited
Grace Jones – Nightclubbing, 1981
Nightlife for androids: On »Nightclubbing«, along with one of the world’s leading rhythm sections, Grace Jones made sure that reggae and new wave would develop a new life of its own in 80’s pop.
Music List
Crumb
10 All Time Favs
Since their debut »Jinx« in 2019, Crumb have been considered the next big thing in music . Now their new album »Ice Melt« is out. The perfect opportunity to ask them about 10 records that have shaped, improved and educated them.
Music Interview
Adrian Younge
Sonic history lesson
»The American Negro« marks the beginning of a new chapter in Adrian Younge’s work. It is more frontal, more politically charged, and more self-assured. He wants to teach. We had the opportunity for an in-depth interview.
Music List
Leon Vynehall
10 All Time Favs
With his new album »Rare, Forever«, British producer Leon Vynehall continues the path he started with »Nothing Is Still« 3 years ago. Today he tells us 10 vinyl records that have shaped, improved and educated him.
Music Column
Records Revisited
Gil Scott-Heron – Pieces Of A Man (1971)
He was called the “Godfather of Hip Hop” because he wrote about drugs, racism and the Divided States of America. Gil Scott-Heron’s most successful album is now 50 years old – and more timely than ever.
Music List
Jenn Wasner (Flock Of Dimes)
10 All Time Favs
With her solo project Flock of Dimes, Jenn Wasner has just released her most personal and at the same time most substantially far-reaching album. We asked the musician to name 10 Vinyl records that have shaped, improved, and educated her.
Music Portrait
Gondwana Records
Soul And Character
As a DJ and musician, Matthew Halsall became a label operator. Starting with a local focus on Manchester’s contemporary jazz scene, the trumpeter, composer and bandleader has since given his imprint Gondwana Records a fairly international focus.
Music Column
Records Revisited
Yellow Magic Orchestra – BGM (1981)
Cues for the future: on their fourth album, »BGM«, the synth wizards of Yellow Magic Orchestra drafted background music for generations to come.
Music Portrait
Important Records
Deep Listening Forever!
Whehter it’s Pauline Oliveros, Éliane Radigue, Alina Kalancea or Caterina Barbieri: For 20 years now, Important Records has been like a well-stocked record shop for exciting sounds and music that needs to be heard intensely.
Art Portrait
Vincent de Boer
Like Jazz With Brushes
Dutch artist Vincent de Boer has become a regular band member of the British jazz band Ill Considered. He draws record covers based on the grooves he hears. For »The Stroke«, the process has now been reversed.
Music Portrait
Far Out Recordings
At the epicenter of the Brazil craze
Joe Davis is the train driver whose bandwagon a whole generation of Brazil-affine producers jumped on in the mid-nineties. With his Far Out Recordings label, he became the worldwide representative of Brazilian music culture.
Music List
Aaron Frazer
10 All Time Favs
»Introducing« is the name of Aaron Frazer’s first solo album. As the drummer of Durand Jones & The Indications, however, he is by no means an unknown name. So musically it’s off to the sixties. He tells us what actually influenced him musically.
Music Portrait
On The Corner
Bangers for the backroom
With his label On the Corner Records, Pete Buckenham serves a heady stew of afro-futuristic jazz concepts and contemporary street grooves beyond the genre ascriptions, and is opening the gates to the sound universe of tomorrow.
Music Portrait
Tidal Waves
Riding the Wave
A powerful wave has already washed many treasures ashore. Seen in this way, the name fits, because the Belgian reissue label Tidal Waves searches for, discovers and publishes pearls of music history believed to be lost.
Music Portrait
Mort Garson
Music for plants and people
He was involved in over 900 songs and reached number 1 on the Billboard charts, but Mort Garson’s current fame is based on an encounter with Bob Moog, whom he persuaded to give him one of his synthesizers. A rediscovery.
Music Portrait
Dark Entries
Between Disco, Goth and Porno Soundtracks
Since 2009, Josh Cheon has been running his label for underground music from the 1980s and those who want to be the next big underground hit. Next year he will have released over 300 records. We introduce you to the label from San Francisco.
Music Interview
Makaya McCraven
»I'm excavating sounds«
Makaya McCraven is one of the most leading jazz musicians of these days. Not only his hometown Chicago, but the whole world seems to be inspired by the free approach to the jazz heritage in his music. We had the chance for an interview.
Music List
Record Store Day 2020 – 3rd Drop
12 releases you should look out for
On October 24, 2020 the third of three Record Store Days will take place this year. More than 120 exclusive releases have been announced. We have picked out twelve records that we would like to recommend to you.
Music Essay
A Journey Into Turkish Music
Gastarbeiter*innen Musik
Simultaneously with the genesis of Anadolu Pop, a viral infrastructure is developing in West Germany. This »guest worker music« has always only touched the public consciousness. The economic exchange could have also been a cultural one.
Music Essay
A Journey Into Turkish Music
Anadolu Pop
Altın Gün, Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek or Gaye Su Akyol: more and more bands are again referring to the sound of Anadolu Pop, which was formed in Turkey in the 1960s. But is it a revival? We clarify.
Music List
Record Store Day 2020 – 2nd Drop
Another 12 releases you should look out for
On September 26, 2020 the second of three Record Store Days this year will take place. More than 150 exclusive releases have been announced. We have picked out twelve vinyl records that we would like to recommend to you.
Music Portrait
Melody As Truth
On the threshold of sound and silence
With his label Melody As Truth, Jonny Nash moves between balearic and ambient. The journey leads from new age to a new art of world chamber music.
Music Interview
Kelly Lee Owens
»We store emotions in our body«
The Welsh musician released her second album »Inner Song« which wipes tears from cried-out eyes with one hand after the closing set while opening the window into everyday life with the other. A conversation with Owens about rave memories, trauma sessions and her challenge with Four Tet.
Music List
Harmonious Thelonious
10 All Time Favs
With »Plong« Stefan Schwander shakes the foundations of club music. His new solo album as Harmonious Thelonious lets everyday noises develop an eerie life of their own. He told us which 10 records have have shaped, improved and formed him.