By Ryan McPherson
She’s starred in a hit television show, multiple beloved movies, and more recently a recording artist — Jean Louisa Kelly definitely keeps herself busy. Whether acting or singing, it’s clear there isn’t a lack of creativity in Kelly — and seemingly nothing she won’t try in expressing it. With a new EP released recently, we chatted with the “Yes, Dear” and “Uncle Buck” star about signing, recording, and what the future holds.
Readers will perhaps know you best from your acting roles in “Uncle Buck” and “Yes, Dear”. What they might not know is your passion for music. What is it about music that’s been able to push your acting career to the background for now?
Actually, music hasn’t really pushed my acting career into the background — motherhood has! I still act, I did three independent films this year, but the thing about music is that I can do it on my own time. I’ve written and recorded all these songs while my kids were in school.
Is there something creatively you’re able to get out of music you might not from acting?
I love composing because there is no wrong way to do it… although I suppose you could say the same thing about acting – it’s all subjective. But my songs are merely expressions of what I’m thinking and feeling. There is a feeling of autonomy in that process that is gratifying as opposed to having to audition for a part, having to work around the production schedule, trying to fulfill the creator’s vision, etc. With composition it’s MY vision, and I like that.
You recently released your second EP. What can you tell our readers about your inspiration and what they should expect?
My inspiration for the songs on the “Relax, Nothing is Under Control” comes from different places — dreams, a strong feeling, a meditation, and in one case, an actual street.
We read the song most dear to you on the EP is “The House Next Door to Me”. What makes that song in particular so special?
“The House Next Door to Me” came from a dream that I remembered one morning and it came out as a whole song, all in one sitting. I love interpreting my dreams and found it to be a gift from the universe.
As you stated, you’ve still had some acting roles recently, should we expect that trend to continue, or is music the focal point at this juncture?
I will probably continue to write music — I definitely am singing quite a bit, I had three singing gigs this month. But my experience has been that the right role usually comes along at the right time. I’m interested to see what’s next!
Having creative control over your music and being able to do it on your own time is different from the way many artists work . What is your recording process like?
First, I record the song as it comes to me into the voice memo app of my phone. I clean it up later, figuring out the chords and cleaning up and clarifying lyrics. Then I get together with Peter Adams, talented keyboardist and producer, to lay down a click track of piano and scratch vocal. After the basic structure is set, I get together all the amazing musicians: Michael Eisenstein on guitar, Jonathan Ahrens on Bass Guitar, Ryan MacMillan on drums and Peter Adams to record the songs in a studio while I sing along. Later, I go back and basically re-sing everything to clean it up. Then I get together with my engineer and consulting producer, Michael Eisenstein, to comp the vocals. We add in any extra instruments on separate occasions — I had another studio session for Lee Thornburg, the amazing horn player. Then it gets mixed and mastered… it takes a long time!!
You seem to follow whichever artistic endeavor is most rewarding for you. Is there anything left you wish to accomplish? Another talent you’d like to explore?
I don’t know… I’d really like to get good at serenity 🙂 In all seriousness, I’d love to know how to actually do the computer stuff — the Actual recording in the studio. I’d love to be a better pianist so I could accompany myself and I’d love to be better at playing the guitar. There is always more to learn!