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Ruston Kelly with Abrielle Scharff
Presented by the River House Restaurant
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With his sophomore album Shape & Destroy, Nashville-based artist Ruston Kelly now documents his experience in maintaining sobriety, and finally facing the demons that led him to drug abuse in the first place. But while Kelly recounts that journey with an unvarnished honesty, his grace and conviction as an artist ultimately turn Shape & Destroy into a work of unlikely transcendence.
Kelly headed into the studio, co-producing Shape & Destroy with his longtime producer Jarrad K (Kate Nash, Weezer, Elohim). Working at Dreamland Recording Studios in Upstate New York (a space converted from a 19th century church), Kelly enlisted musicians like Dr. Dog drummer Eric Slick, bassist Eli Beaird (who also performed on Dying Star), and a number of his own family members: his father Tim “TK” Kelly played steel guitar, while both his sister Abby Kelly and his wife Kacey Musgraves contributed background vocals. And in shaping the album’s nuanced yet potent sound, the band deliberately channeled the raw vitality Kelly continually brings to his live show.
“This was the first time I ever recorded completely sober, and I wanted to take the intensity of whatever it took to get me here and leave that splattered all over the wall,” says Kelly. “Rather than telling the band how or what to play, I translated that intention to them to get us all on the same page, and the songs came together exactly the way I needed them to.”
Though Kelly booked nine days at Dreamland, the sessions were so kinetic that the band tore through almost the entire album in the first 48 hours. Describing Shape & Destroy as a “mental-health record,” Kelly reveals all the false starts and setbacks in getting sober with a specificity that’s unflinching but never heavy-handed. As the album unfolds, his lyrics drift from forthright to poetic to sometimes even storybook-like (an element manifested in its recurring images of wishing wells and stars, flowers and wild storms).
In bringing Shape & Destroy to life, Kelly again tapped into many of his longtime inspirations—Jackson Browne, Dashboard Confessional, the brutal and visceral energy of Kurt Cobain’s live performance—but also looked to such unexpected sources as transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. “A huge turning point in my spiritual life was reading his essay ‘The Poet,’ which talks about how artists love wine and narcotics, but the true artist doesn’t ingest anything but water from a wooden bowl,” he says. “As soon as I read that I thought, ‘Damn, you’ve got my number there.’” And through the process of creating Shape & Destroy with total clarity, Kelly emerged with a greater understanding of how to fulfill his purpose as an artist.
“The more I’m doing this thing of touring and gathering a fanbase of people who seem to appreciate these songs and make them their own, the more it fuels the fire to keep doing it—and to do it with even more honesty, now that I’m clear-headed and clear-eyed,” says Kelly. “Making this record definitely taught me that I don’t want to be selfish: I want to channel something larger than myself, and give myself to the process as fully as possible, because these songs also become the story of whoever hears them. Whatever someone might get out of listening to this record and hearing me express myself in this way, it’s completely theirs.”
Joined by Abrielle Scharff
Abrielle Scharff is a young twenty-something who would love to stop hearing women being placed in a fake genre known as “female singer-songwriter.” Unless we’re going to start calling John Mayer a “male singer-songwriter.” Then, it’s okay.
The charming powerhouse grew up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. While her friends were listening to Disney lullabies from their carseats, she was cutting her teeth on The Beatles and Buddy Holly. Music is the lifeblood of many in her family. Every year around Christmastime, she’d hear her great-grandmother, Carol Richards singing “Silver Bells” with Bing Crosby on a loop in Macy’s. The Scharff Brothers, Abrielle’s father and uncle, also made music inevitably infectious. Her uncle taught her three chords on the guitar and she wrote her first song that day. Once she made a name for herself on the seacoast, Abrielle paved her way onto bigger stomping grounds- and baby steps are not in her vocabulary.
Abrielle has since played venues such as The Bedford (London), 3S Artspace (Portsmouth), Club Passim (Boston), Hard Rock Cafe (Boston), Pianos, The West End Lounge, Rockwood Music Hall, Arlene’s Grocery and Mercury Lounge (New York City). Abrielle has opened for bigger artists including Julie Byrne, Nadia Reid, and Victoria Canal. She’s studied with major names like former VP of creative at Warner Chappell, Judy Stakee and Susan Gibson (“Wide Open Spaces” by The Chicks). She placed in the top ten of the Brandi Carlile Cover Stories competition and has performed at major events such as the New York and London Coffee Festival.
The pop/indie artist’s voice lifts you with incredible ease, as she drops you with emotional devastation and truth. Her smooth vocal timbre is that of butterscotch and Norah Jones, her genuine lyrics alike to her diary and Brandi Carlile, and her stage presence comparable to a stand-up comic and also Stevie Nicks.
In the last few years, Abrielle has released a handful of singles along with her debut full length studio album. Her song, “New York Makes Me Cry,” was referred to by Popdust as a “sensitive treatment of well crafted songwriting.” Abrielle just released her newest project, “Koko,” which is available with all her other music on all streaming platforms. Not unlike the rest of her music, this collection of songs is a culmination of the maturing relationship between herself and the world around her. Abrielle’s content is synonymous with honesty; some songs written with her head but in many, her heart narrates. Each track makes even her most personal stories relatable.
Abrielle has just returned from her first tour in London after winning the Coffee Music Project’s international songwriting competition for her song, “The Women That Made Me.”
Table and blanket reservations are non-refundable, but can be transferred to another date in the 2022 season.
Please Note: General Admission Donations do not include reserved seating. This is a way to make your gate donation in advance.
Table reservations seat four.
Blanket reservations are placed in the blankets-only area of lawn and do not allow for chair placement.