Mary J. Blige opener Bridget Kelly no longer in the background
01:00 PM, Jun 21, 2013
If You Go
Who: Mary J. Blige with Anthony Hamilton and special guests Bridget Kelly & Jay Lamont
When: Sunday, at Blue Cross Arena at the Community War Memorial, 1 War Memorial Dr.
Tickets: $62.75 $117.75, available at tickemaster.com, Blue Cross Arena box office.
For more info: bluecrossarena.com
You may not have heard much about Bridget Kelly, but chances are you’ve heard her voice.
Throughout 2010, Kelly provided the background vocals on Jay-Z’s hit “Empire State of Mind” when Alicia Keys wasn’t available in fact, that’s how she launched her career, singing the tune on tour in Europe, Japan and on Saturday Night Live.
“When Jay-Z asked me to do ‘Empire State of Mind’ in front of 30,000 people, it was my first time on stage as an artist,” says the 27-year-old New York City native. “I was beside myself until Jay came during warm-ups and was like, ‘you sound pretty good, you’re gonna be fine, you’re from New York, singing about your city.’ Then I was like, ‘OK. If Jay-Z says I’m good, I’m good.’ “
Since her days on the road with Jay-Z, Kelly has developed her own sound and honed her personal goals. She’s currently opening for Mary J. Blige and Anthony Hamilton on The Liberation Tour, which stops at the Blue Cross Arena on Sunday.
“It’s pretty incredible to me that my first tour ever was with Jay-Z and the first tour for my own music is with Mary J. Blige,” says Kelly. “I think it’s divine. I watch Mary’s show every night and I’m taking mental notes. I’m able to learn so much being on the road with her. It’s like having a big sister which is so cool because when you’re a female artist there’s not a lot of other female artists willing to take you under their wing.”
Kelly has struggled with her style, in part, because singing professionally wasn’t always her goal.
“I wanted to be a marine biologist, I was a dork,” she says, lauging. “Music was always in the background, and I enjoyed it. My dad used to sing Stevie Wonder songs to me all the time, and I’d just roll my eyes and tell him to stop being a romantic.”
Her attitude toward a career in music changed when she was 11 years old and watched the Spice Girls on TV.
“I was like I can totally do that, that’s me,” says Kelly. “It was like, yo, if you love it, that’s enough. I joined the church choir, went to a performing arts high school and that fueled the fire.”
In 2008, Kelly graduated from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan. She was signed to Roc Nation in 2009, one of their very first acts, and until she landed the gig with Jay-Z, Kelly spent a lot of time writing songs and networking with industry producers.
“I was always writing for myself but never thought about writing for others until I got signed,” she says. “I thought of it as being a part of my artistry and not something that could transcend.”
The songwriting paid off: Kelly wrote the song “Einstein” on Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger album, which won Best Pop Vocal Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards.
Now, she’s focusing on an album of her own, set to release in September 2013. Nearly two years in the making, Kelly says the album has a “a soulful, sexy very grown-up feel but it’s still fun.”
“Initially, I thought it would take four to six months and I would finish it, go on tour, be done, start again,” she says. “But it was a lot of emotional times I went though a really bad breakup, so this album showcases that.”