Kelly Lee Owens on “Inner Song” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Kelly Lee Owens on “Inner Song”

The Power of Sound

Jan 27, 2021 Photography by Kim Hiorthøy Issue #67 - Phoebe Bridgers and Moses Sumney
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Kelly Lee Owens was ready.

After a tumultuous three years of touring and personal growth, Owens was ready to release her sophomore album, Inner Song. But now, like most musicians who planned to release new music and tour in 2020, Owens is on hold, with the release of her album pushed back almost four months from early May to late August. No matter, the young Welsh musician knows how to navigate obstacles and turn them into opportunities. It’s exactly how Inner Song came to be. “I would call it forced growth because certain periods I felt like a shell of myself,” Owens says. “I’m willing to be open and vulnerable about that because we all go through these dark times, but you can transmute that energy into something beautiful if you want to.”

Judging from the songs, sounds, and words on Inner Song, Owens successfully transmuted that energy into a finely tuned record that displays her growth as an artist.

Owens opens the record boldly with a cover of Radiohead’s “Arpeggi.” It was an audacious decision motivated by more than her “desert-island-disc” affection for Radiohead’s In Rainbows. “‘Arpeggi’ sounds like it’s bubbling up from a deep well and coming back up again for air,” Owens says. “That’s how I wanted to start this journey; that’s how it felt for me.”

Musically and lyrically, Inner Song includes tracks that tackle climate change (“Melt!”), personal relationships (“L.I.N.E”), and includes the emotionally charged techno bangers she’s known for (“On,” “Night,” “Jeanette”). The album even features John Cale reciting poetic, poignant lines in Welsh on “Corner of My Sky.”

Despite disparate song subjects, the album is pieced together seamlessly as a whole.

“I like that Inner Song refers to just one song, and it is interconnected,” Owens says. “I knew that I needed to be very honest and very direct because it’s an unending story.”

The music for the album was written in a short span of about 35 days, but Owens devoted more time to lyrics and vocal melodies for her sophomore record. She dipped into her notebooks for lyrics and pushed her vocals higher in the mix so the words could come through, words that focus on “emerging more centered and ultimately more content.” At the center, however, is the sound, the physical vibrations that push and pull our bodies and brains into action. “I was also diving into the power of sound and the energy that words carry,” Owens says. “The power of sound travels far, and it keeps rippling.”

While Owens believes in healing and “positive escapism” through music, she’s also hopeful for bigger, more lasting changes in the music industry. Change such as accountability for festival and concert waste, more clean energy usage, and equality for people of color in the industry. She’s always hopeful, even as she admits she doesn’t have all the answers.

“I’m doing things in small ways, personally,” she says. “And we need, as artists, to hold each other accountable. For example, there is no excuse to not have a plastic-free rider [on tour]. No excuse.” Music and action don’t have to be in opposition either: “We can dance and become more socially conscious,” Owens laughs.

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 67 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

Read our 2017 interview with Kelly Lee Owens.

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January 28th 2021

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