Shape & Destroy Ruston Kelly

Album info



Label: Rounder

Genre: Songwriter

Subgenre: New Acoustic

Artist: Ruston Kelly

Album including Album cover

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  • 1In The Blue02:33
  • 2Radio Cloud03:32
  • 3Alive02:44
  • 4Changes04:39
  • 5Mid-Morning Lament05:13
  • 6Brave03:13
  • 7Clean03:17
  • 8Rubber03:18
  • 9Jubilee03:38
  • 10Closest Thing02:10
  • 11Pressure02:31
  • 12Under The Sun03:22
  • 13Hallelujah Anyway01:32
  • Total Runtime41:42

Info for Shape & Destroy

Acclaimed singer, songwriter and musician Ruston Kelly will release his highly anticipated new album, Shape & Destroy.

Alongside the album announcement, Kelly is featured in an exclusive, in-depth profile today at Entertainment Weekly. Read the full article here. Of the album, Entertainment Weekly praises, “There are little reminders woven all across the songs of Shape & Destroy…Reminders to have grace, to be forgiving to yourself and others, and to stay sober when your brain is screaming for reprieve. Profound reminders that life itself can be beautiful, even when the walls around us are caving in” and continues describing Kelly as, “one of the sharpest, most empathetic songwriters working today.”

Co-produced by Kelly and longtime collaborator Jarrad K (Kate Nash, Weezer) and recorded at Dreamland Recording Studios in upstate New York, Shape & Destroy documents Kelly’s journey through maintaining his sobriety and facing his past. He addresses these experiences and setbacks with unvarnished honesty, grace and conviction across thirteen new songs including “Brave,” which premiered earlier this year to critical acclaim—Men’s Health proclaimed, “Be prepared: this song is a sledgehammer straight to your heart,” while Rolling Stone declared, “poignant.”

Reflecting on the album, Kelly shares, “Making this record definitely taught me that I don’t want to be selfish: I want to channel something larger than myself and give myself to the process as fully as possible, because these songs also become the story of whoever hears them. Whatever someone might get out of listening to this record and hearing me express myself in this way, it’s completely theirs.”

In addition to Kelly (vocals, acoustic guitar, high-strung acoustic, electric guitar, piano, percussion, sandpaper, mandolin) and Jarrad K (electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, piano, Rhodes, Hammond M3, percussion, student bells, background vocals), the album also features Kelly’s father Tim “TK” Kelly (steel guitar, background vocals), Eli Beaird (bass, background vocals) and Eric Slick (drums, percussion, background vocals) as well as special guests Gena Johnson, Abby Kelly and Kacey Musgraves on background vocals.

Shape & Destroy marks yet another breakthrough moment for the Nashville-based artist, who released his full-length debut album, Dying Star, in 2018. Also co-produced by Kelly and Jarrad K, Dying Star debuted to widespread critical acclaim and landed on several “Best of 2018” lists including Rolling Stone, Paste, UPROXX, American Songwriter and NPR Music, which declared, “Kelly digs down deep on Dying Star to fearlessly put forth a set of songs steeped in emotional twists, turns and complications…This here is powerful stuff.” Additionally, Rolling Stone proclaimed, “one of the most magnetic releases of the year,” and The Fader praised, “a uniquely emotional and raw collection about our ability to build a new life from the ashes.” Kelly also released Dirt Emo Vol. 1 this past fall—a project consisting of eight new covers of his favorite emo songs including Dashboard Confessional’s “Screaming Infidelities” featuring the band’s lead singer Chris Carrabba, Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag,” The Carter Family’s “Weeping Willow” and Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well,” which earned praise from Swift herself.

Ruston Kelly, vocals, acoustic guitar, high-strung acoustic, electric guitar, piano, percussion
Jarrad K, electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, piano, Rhodes, Hammond M3, percussion, background vocals
Tim “TK” Kelly, steel guitar, background vocals
Eli Beaird, bass, background vocals
Eric Slick, drums, percussion, background vocals
Special guests:
Gena Johnson, background vocals
Abby Kelly, background vocals
Kacey Musgraves, background vocals

Ruston Kelly
Kelly’s debut for Rounder Records, Dying Star follows his acclaimed EP Halloween—a 2017 release produced by Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, First Aid Kit, Jenny Lewis) and praised by Rolling Stone (who described Kelly as a “scruffier-voiced Ryan Adams obsessed with both Merle and the Misfits”). Kelly co-produced Dying Star with Jarrad K (a songwriter/producer who’s previously worked with Kate Nash and Weezer), enlisting local musicians like singer/songwriter Natalie Hemby and Joy Williams of the Civil Wars to bring the album’s gracefully melodic, guitar-driven arrangements to life. And while Dying Star has its share of sonic flourishes—the elegant electronic effects, the all-female background vocals provided by singers like Kelly’s sister, Abby Sevigny, and his wife, singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves—each track centers on Kelly’s soul-baring lyrics.

“When stars die, it’s one of the most galactically powerful things that can happen in the universe, it’s one of the most beautiful things you could ever witness, and it also gives life to new stars—so basically that death is essential. To me that all connects back to how I knew I needed to change, and I needed to see that change as a promising thing.” (Ruston Kelly)

Born in South Carolina, Kelly started playing guitar under the guidance of his dad, Tim “TK” Kelly, a pedal-steel guitarist who now performs in his band. “When I was a kid my dad would play steel guitar to help me to get to sleep, so that’s the first instrument I’ve got any recollection of,” he says. Since his father worked for a paper mill and frequently changed job locations, Kelly grew up moving nearly every two years, living everywhere from Alabama to Belgium. But it was during a stint on his own in Michigan—where he went to train with an Olympic coaching team in hopes of furthering his figure-skating career—that he made his first attempt at songwriting. “The family I was living with were contractually obligated to provide me with food, rides to school and the rink, money for miscellaneous things I needed—but they didn’t do any of that,” says Kelly, who was then 14. To soothe his homesickness, Kelly holed up in his room with the Jackson Browne album and guitar his dad had passed off to him before he’d left for Michigan. “I didn’t know this then, but when I was little my dad would sneak cigarettes by taking me out for a drive,” he says. “He’d just smoke and play an entire Jackson Browne album while we drove all around the neighborhood, so when I put on For Everyman in Michigan, I felt like I was home.”

Although Kelly first dabbled in songwriting in Michigan, it wasn’t until his family moved to Brussels his senior year of high school that he began to find his voice as an artist. “Moving to Belgium completely destroyed my sense of cultural placement,” he says. “It’s populated by so many different types of people, and it gave me this new understanding of all the possibilities there are in terms of what you can do with your life.” While in Belgium, Kelly also discovered the music of the Carter Family, which turned out to be another milestone in his growth as a songwriter. “Before then I didn’t know much about Johnny Cash, other than that he was a fucking thug,” he says. “I ended up going all the way back to the Carter Family, and becoming so mesmerized by the way Mother Maybelle played guitar. Being enchanted by that music ended up changing my life.”

At 17, Kelly left Belgium and took off for Nashville to live with his sister, but had no firm intentions of launching a music career. “I had no idea what I was going to do in Nashville, but I knew it was going to be different from how everyone else had done it,” he says. “Everything kind of started out of necessity—like, ‘I need to pay rent, how am I gonna do that? Well, I’m pretty good at writing songs, so I guess I should get a publishing deal.’” That deal arrived several years later, in 2013, when Kelly signed with BMG Nashville. Along with penning songs for artists like Tim McGraw and Josh Abbott Band, he continued working on his own material, releasing Halloween in April 2017.

This album contains no booklet.

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