David Kelley

Guitarist David Kelley was a street musician for many years before enrolling at Southern Oregon University to study classical guitar performance.

"Busking is something I've done since I was 15 or 16," Kelley says.

Originally from Washington, D.C., the 33-year-old specializes in solo instrumental guitar but also composes and performs original pop fusion songs.

"I really want to create new music that people haven't heard that will appeal to a wide range of people," says Kelley. "I listen to a lot of styles of music — jazz, classical, world, hip-hop, rock — and I like to think of ways to incorporate that."

Moving to Oregon in 2001, Kelley stayed on the West Coast because of his love of nature. From the Rogue Valley, Kelley has easy access to the coast, the redwoods, the Cascades, Mount Shasta and Crater Lake, he says.

Kelley self-recorded a disc of solo instrumental guitar in 2010.

"I have one more coming out soon which is all original compositions, I have about half of it recorded," he says. "I'm playing all the instruments, drums, bass and vocals."

Primarily focused on songwriting, Kelley says David Gilmour, the guitarist for Pink Floyd, was his inspiration for getting into playing guitar. Kelley's other influences are Trey Anastasio of Phish, Pat Metheny, Larry Carlton and Steely Dan.

For the Tidings Cafe, Kelley performed an original song called, 'The Occident Express," which he wrote for his mother, Diane, in Lithia Park.

"I was 25, living in Ashland and driving a taxi when my friends got me turned on to the idea of going to school," he recalls.

It was at this time Kelley decided to turn his passion for music into a career.

"I got away from the busking because it's not all that pleasant being out on the street," he says. "But I still do it sometimes here and there for fun, really."

Kelley has been busy performing at local wineries and restaurants, although he'd like to break into a higher level of performance venue, something that can be tricky in such a saturated art community as Ashland.

"Of the places I've played in town, the wineries are my favorite because people listen and just sip their wine and appreciate it more than just the standard stuff you hear around town, like the reggae, rock, blues stuff," Kelley says.

Kelley sometimes uses a loop pedal and synthesizer guitar, so he can play his original tunes using prerecorded drumming.

"It just looks like a regular guitar, but I can play drums and sax," said Kelley, "I've been mixing the classical with original songs that way. It's something people haven't heard a million times before."

Even though Kelley has a lot going on with his solo work, he's been working on getting a band together as well.

"When I write original songs I envision them with a band; the loop machine thing is not the way I envision the songs," he says. "But as a young musician, you have to make money however you can, and I feel like a lot of these venues are looking for a band."

Eventually Kelley wants to move to a bigger city where he will have a better chance of making a living as a musician.

"The fact that all my family is back East is a big factor, too," he says, adding he may end up splitting time between both coasts.

Kelley has been composing pieces for Grace Lutheran Church's liturgical calendar.

"It's choral music, for a small choir and ensemble," he says. "It has been a very rewarding experience. It's allowed me to use a lot of the skills I learned in school. I kept it traditional, but I snuck in some of my fusion stuff. There's a little jazz in there, some tri-tone chords."

Kelley will perform at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, at Illahe Gallery and Studio, 215 Fourth St.

Reach Mandy Valencia at avalencia@mailtribune.com.

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