3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19104
Doors 6:30 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
Karl Wallinger was born in Prestatyn, north Wales on 19 October 1957. His musical career has been wide-ranging, interesting and took him to the heights of critical and commercial acclaim in the early 1990s. These days, he's musically self-reliant and recovering from a serious aneurysm.
His formative years were spent listening to the hippy rockers of the 60s such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Love, as well as Motown and Merseybeat, all of which have echoes in the funky but folkily-hippy soul pop songs he went on to make.
Leaving the public school Charterhouse, Wallinger's first foray into the music business was in 1976 as a member of the group Quasimodo, who were much later to mutate into The Alarm.
He moved to London in the late 1970s to work as a clerk for ATV/Northern Songs music publishing company, but soon he became musical director of the Rocky Horror Show in the West End.
1983 found him joining a funk band called The Out and then The Waterboys as a keyboard player. Tensions between him and Mike Scott in the band were severe, coming to a particular head in 1985. Scott refused to lip-sync on Top Of The Pops, costing them a place on what was then the single most important method of publicising a single. Then Scott over-ruled Wallinger over the inclusion of songs written by each of them about Live Aid and its aftermath.
Wallinger left The Waterboys, along with his bandmates Guy Chambers and Chris Witten, in 1986, and worked on what would became World Party's debut album.
Private Revolution was released in 1987, and was a minor hit for Ensign, who'd kept Wallinger on contract after he'd left The Waterboys.
Private Revolution was also a minor critical success. Suffice to say although interest was there, it wasn't a breakthrough. That came with the 1990 album Goodbye Jumbo, released after Wallinger had contributed to Sinead O'Connor's 1988 debut album The Lion And The Cobra.
Goodbye Jumbo was commercially successful, spawning the hits Message In The Box and Way Down Now, and becoming the very first Q magazine Album of the Year.
The follow-up, Bang!, was another big commercial success, reaching number two in the UK album charts and charting with the singles Is It Like Today and All I Gave. In 1994 he was the musical director for the film Reality Bites and also contributed to the soundtrack of 1996's Clueless.
In 1996 Karl wrote She's The One, for the film of the same name. Tom Petty, as musical director for the film, decided to perform the soundtrack himself. The song was eventually given to the soundtrack of the film Match Maker, but it was the start of a strange period in Wallinger's life.
Guy Chambers, who was in the band with Wallinger, begun working with EMI artist Robbie Williams, as they tried to develop him as a major solo artist.
Williams was a fan of World Party's Egyptology LP, which featured the song. He recorded the track with Chambers, and the rest of Wallinger's band, but not to his knowledge. The single went to number one, won a Brit, and its parent album, Escapology, was a massive seller.
While the royalties from the Robbie Williams version would prove useful, the farrago was the last straw for Wallinger, who left EMI. He was able to take back the rights to World Party's back catalogue and jumped to a label called Papillon, run by two former EMI executives.
In 2000 Dumbing Up was released by Papillon, but after a short period of touring, disaster struck when Karl suffered an aneurysm. Effectively taking him out of action for two years, it was largely royalties from She's The One which saw him through.
More legal manoeuvring and recuperations took him to 2005, when he decided to take World Party back on the road and into the public consciousness. Operating with his own label, Seaview, he has set about re-releasing his back catalogue in America.
Early 2006 saw him playing the South By South West festival in Austin, Texas. He told us, "It was very heartwarming when people sang material back to me, not only older material but newer.
"I've been away for so long; it's a crazy planet and I don't care [about the industry] anymore. I just want to go out and sing now."
“The first music I remember,” says the affable Kelley, “is what my folks played at home: Neil Young, John Prine, Cat Stevens, even early Santana and Leon Russell. I soaked all that up. And my folks were members of a community about 20 miles north of Athens, where people played old-time, pre-bluegrass music. I learned to play guitar at these pickings, in a big circle around a fire.” (The man who taught Kelley to play, Pat Shields, wrote the powerful lament “These Old Green Hills” on IT DON’T COME EASY.)
“I literally grew up in a log cabin,” says Kelley, who chopped wood to keep the house warm in winter. “We lived off the land, raised our own food, my folks were vegetarians. Man, I didn’t taste refined sugar till I was like 13 or 14.” He also recalls performing at open-mic nights in Athens, palling around with the Widespread Panic crew and attending a rural school that taught “the poorest white kids and the poorest black kids in Madison County.”
At 16, Kelley got the chance to study in Sweden. “It was straight-up immersion,” he says, in the language and culture of a strange land, which didn’t come easy: “There was a lot of solitude and isolation.” There was also an inspiring music teacher, in whose class Kelley’s future path became clear: “I thought, ‘OK, this is it. Music’s what I’m gonna do with my life.’” Returning to Georgia, Kelley completed his senior year, then did a few months at the University of Georgia before lighting out, once again, on his own.
He bought a Chevy Astro van, built a bed frame in the back and took off across the country, trading his music for a place to stay (“If I had money to get to the next town, I’d put it in the gas tank; if I didn’t, I’d stay in the town until I did”). After two years of vagabonding, he returned to Athens and formed a band. Kelley’s material got around, and before long he was signed as a staff writer for a Nashville country music publishing company.
That opportunity, which might have appeared golden to other young musicians, didn’t suit Kelley’s style. “Nashville was kinda like cowboy hats and belt buckles, and I was more the long-haired granola kid,” he says. “The routine was ‘OK, it’s 10:30: Let’s grab some coffee and go into a room with somebody I’ve never met and write a song.’” The experience, though, pointed directly toward IT DON’T COME EASY.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t sleep at night,” says Kelley. “If I had to write a song called ‘Trick My Tractor’ that’s an R&B/country mash-up because that’s the demographic that’s happening now, I was gonna kill myself. I would come off a session, go home and write another song on my own, just to feel good about myself.” Kelley finally decided to chuck it all. He walked out of the publishing gig and traveled to Guatemala, where he helped raise funds and created a music education program for orphans, before returning to the States. In short order, he traded his suburban digs for a 1977 Dodge Mobile Traveler RV (“It had the orange shag and wood paneling everywhere, man!”) and sat down to write. “Once I left publishing,” he explains, “my life went from comfort in the physical and material to just bare-bones. My food and nourishment became what I was creating in this music. In a way, I’d jumped off a cliff; my overhead for a month was probably 50 bucks, but it bought me freedom.”
Woodshedding, Kelley began, as he says, “digging in”: writing, refining and shaping songs from the considerable experience he’d amassed in his 20-something years. And, miraculously, the musicians who would help him put it all into the grooves came forward, three generations of them. They include engineer/producer Neal Cappellino, whose credits include a Grammy® for engineering on Alison Krauss’ 2011 album Paper Airplane and work with Joan Osborne and Del McCoury; legendary Memphis picker Reggie Young (Elvis, Dusty Springfield); background vocalist Bekka Bramlett (Joe Cocker, Fleetwood Mac); Brad Pemberton (The Cardinals, Brendan Benson); Jon Graboff (The Cardinals, Noel Gallagher); Dave Jacques (John Prine, Emmylou Harris) and fellow recording artist Gabe Dixon (Paul McCartney, Supertramp). Kelley supplies guitar and harmonica.
“We tracked all the songs in about four or five days,” recalls Kelley, “all together in a room. At most, we did five takes of a song, sometimes two.” Over the next several months, he and Cappellino brought in select musicians to add strings and various other instrumentation to augment and support the basic tracks captured live in the studio on such cuts as “How Come,” the stark ballad “When Is Enough,” the genuinely funky “Only Thing to Do” and the slightly Van Morrison-ish “Faith.”
IT DON’T COME EASY has now arrived, and it’s an authentic representation—and the logical culmination—of what Gabriel Kelley set out to do, on his own terms. Its organic feel proceeds directly from the autobiographical nature of the songs that comprise it and from Kelley and Cappellino’s observation that “There’s no point in writing or recording unless you mean what you’re saying.” Kelley’s close-to-the-land Georgia background and affinity for telling it like it is, simply and directly, inform both the music and sentiments throughout, especially on tunes like “See Ya Comin’” and “Goodbye Jesse.” The songs are all Kelley’s, with the sole exception of “These Old Green Hills”: “I was home a couple of years ago,” he says, “and Pat [Shields] played it for me, and I said, ‘I’m gonna put that on the record.’ I never did anyone else’s song before, but I did that as kind of a tribute to Pat, because of his influence on me.”
Like its dramatic cover (by award-winning designer Buddy Jackson), the album reflects hard work and time well spent. “The whole idea of that one guy plowing that big-ass field,” says Kelley, “is about energy and intention and focus. The field is so open, and it’s actually yielding something, and there’s all this sense of possibility…”
Riding the waves of possibility, Kelley completed another successful Kickstarter campaign in fall 2013 to fund the recording of his new album, Lighter Shades of Blue. Over $35,000 were contributed by fans and supporters of Kelley’s honest, earnest songwriting and performance. Once again, Kelley has teamed up with Neal Cappellino to bring Lighter Shades of Blue to life.
Kelley describes Lighter Shades of Blue as “a collection of acoustic tunes I have written, inspired by days travelling from place to place.” This time around, Kelley hopes to “focus on the simple heart of the tunes, and let them speak with gentle, appropriate arrangement and musical support.”
Mezzanine tickets are assessed an additional service fee. For more information, please read the Mezzanine FAQ.
Dining is available at World Cafe Live. Reservations are accepted for Upstairs Live, our full service restaurant; we recommend scheduling a reservation 1½ to 2 hours before show time. Downstairs Live offers a full service bar, and a limited food menu is available for most shows. For more information, please read the Dining FAQ.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE SEATS are located on all seated levels of this theatre. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-222-1400.