Make us your home page

Artist of the day: Kelli Debbs



A couple of months ago, when she released her debut EP, Dreamers and Insomniacs, we spotlighted the music of Kelli Debbs. But we were so entranced by her work that we wanted to get to know her a little better.

Good thing we're doing it now. This summer, the 27-year-old pop singer-songwriter is moving to Los Angeles with her bandmate and boyfriend, Nathan Hassan. She'll continue to play shows in Tampa Bay until then and even afterward. You can check her out at 9 p.m. Friday at New World Brewery in Tampa.

LISTEN - Kelli Debbs, 'Left So Easily'

After the jump, check out the rest of Julie Garisto's interview with Kelli Debbs ...

Her band: Debbs, 27, performs with a revolving cast of players that can include, at any one time, Nathan Hassan and Jose Cochez on drums; Jen Sladky on bass; Henri De La Vega on woodwinds and Chris Dyel on keyboards.

Her style: It’s not easy to pigeonhole, but it’s an accessible mix of country, folk and classic pop. An experienced singer, Debbs knows when to let loose and when to rein it in. Her emotionally expressive vocals hit hard without knocking you upside the head. “Sometimes people think because they can do things, they should,” Debbs said, “but some things can be tasteful and still have that wow factor.”

EP: Dreamers and Insomniacs, 2010.

Theatrical background: Debbs grew up performing in musical theater. She reminisces fondly about getting a superior rating at high school district competition for River Ridge High School in New Port Richey, and later going to state and performing a scene from Godspell in the showcase. She picked up the guitar at 20 and began playing with a band for the first time a year ago.

First tour: She and her band are gigging throughout the state of New York in late May.

With a little help from her friends: “I started going to Yeoman’s 6 or 7 years ago,” she said. “I started going to their open mic night and meeting people who inspire me and helped me grow over the years. I moved to London for a couple years and I kept hearing about this “Chicago Joe” character (musician Joe Montanaro). That’s what they call him. He started running the open mic when Mike Tozier left. I came home in 2008 and started going back to the open mic night. Joe was running it at the time, and he played bass on my album. He introduced me to the right people. My album is kind of a result of that association and that group of people at Yeoman’s. It’s where I met Joe Cosas. He played keyboards on the album and also plays in Swamp Logic and Middle Rhythm Session — too many bands; I can’t even keep them straight! … I’ve been really lucky this whole time because I started out in a place where people were really supportive.”

Big changes: Debbs just moved from Tampa back home to Bradenton with her parents and brother. This summer she’ll be moving to Los Angeles to be with significant other and bandmate, Nathan Hassan, who recently relocated to the City of Angels to attend the Musicians Institute. Debbs says she’ll continue to play shows in Tampa after her big move.

Honestly speaking: “A lot of my songs are about self-discovery and finding inner piece about choices I’ve made and want to make. ... For example I have a song called The Conscience Song, where I break up with my conscience, ’cause I just want to be alone with what my heart tells me to do instead of what my head tells me. And Sanity is also about this, about making choices. That’s part of the honesty in my writing, the honesty with myself.”

Some dynamo: “My favorite thing is the dynamics, the changes.”

Hear Debbs and her band: 9 p.m. Friday at New World Brewery,1313 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. $6.  813.248.4969.

-- Julie Garisto, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:18pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours