Josh Kelley has been pursuing his own creative path since his childhood. Growing up Augusta, Georgia, in a close-knit family that encouraged his early interests in music, painting and drawing, he absorbed the influence of the R&B and soul that his mom loved, as well as inheriting his dad's love of vintage country, and his older brother's affinity for classic rock. During their early teens, Josh and his younger brother Charles (now one-third of Lady Antebellum) formed a band, Inside Blue, whose self-released indie CD gained airplay on local radio and caught the attention of soul legend James Brown, who expressed interest in signing them.
While studying art at the University of Mississippi, Josh recorded his indie solo debut Changing Faces, building an impressive amount of online buzz. His D.I.Y. ingenuity helped him to win a deal with Hollywood Records, which released his 2003 mainstream debut For the Ride Home, which spawned a Top Five single in the anthemic "Amazing." Kelley's sophomore effort, Almost Honest, including the Top Ten single "Only You," followed in 2005.
Despite those early successes, the artist chose to take a more hands-on approach to his career, releasing four independent albums — Just Say the Word, Special Company, the digital release Backwoods and the limited edition To Remember — between 2006 and 2008. Meanwhile, Kelley became a familiar media presence, thanks to high-profile appearances on Ellen, Good Morning America, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Regis & Kelly and Last Call with Carson Daly. Meanwhile, his songs were featured in episodes of such shows as Smallville, Scrubs, Brothers and Sistersand MTV's The Hills.
Kelley then embraced his deep country roots, signing with MCA Nashville and releasing the steeped-in-tradition album Georgia Clay in 2011. That album's title track became a substantial country hit, helping to expand his extraordinarily loyal, open-minded fan base, which has continued to embrace his music, even during his recent recording hiatus.
"I just did this acoustic tour, and I was so nervous about what attendance was gonna be like, because I hadn't been out in so long," he explains. "But we sold out 80 per cent of the shows. And when I got on stage, it would always be a surprise to me, like, 'Whoa, these people still care!' My fans are pretty awesome, and I definitely don't take that stuff for granted.
"It took me a long time to get to the point where I could really appreciate how fortunate I am," Kelley reflects. "I was very, very green when I got into the business, and I was scared of success. So I sort of crawled into a hole up in the Hollywood Hills for a while, and smoked a bunch of weed and made music and didn't tour much. I wish I had handled it differently, but that's life, and I know better now."
Kelley's renewed enthusiasm is apparent throughout New Lane Road — not only in the artist's transcendent songs and performances, but in the album's packaging, which features several of his paintings, which vividly illustrate his songs' emotional contents.
"I've been painting and drawing since I was a kid, but I've never really showed that side of me to the world until now," says Kelley. "I've been recording music since I was 11, and I should have been using all of these things to my advantage. But I never let anybody know, and I never let anybody know that I played all these instruments. My wife pushed me to show that side of myself to the world, and to let people know about my artwork and my paintings. She was like, 'The world thinks you're just some glossy singer-songwriter dude.' So I guess that on some level, people haven't ever known who I really am, and now they're about to find out.
"I feel like I actually know what I'm doing now, which was not always the case in the past," Kelley concludes. "I'm a better player and performer than I've ever been, and I've found the sweet spot in my voice. I write, record and create every single day, and because of that, I think I've gotten better at everything. I'm a better husband, a better dad, and I'm better at my craft. I think of all of the stuff I did before as my apprenticeship for what I'm doing now."