Ruston Kelly writes and performs the kinds of songs that inspire novels and movies.
You could call him a bastard disciple of Kurt Cobain and Townes Van Zandt, and he’d be totally cool with that. He’s just as comfortable wearing a cowboy hat as he is in a Slayer t-shirt. His story so far twists and turns through heartbreak and triumph, an overdose and rehab, empty dive bars and packed venues, living everywhere from South Carolina to Brussels, and as he puts it, "finally getting my shit together and proposing to the love of my life.”
It’s this unbelievable experience that informs Ruston’s singular style—a gravelly patchwork of folk lyricism, grunge attitude, country heart, Americana spirit, and rock energy. Not only has he penned songs for Tim McGraw ("Nashville Without You”), Josh Abbott Band ("Front Row Seat”), and more, but his independent solo debut EP Halloween earned acclaim from KCRW, Consequence of Sound, RELIX, Apple Music, and more. He logged countless miles on the road sharing the stage with the likes of The Lumineers and Robert Earl Keen in addition to performing at Bonnaroo and Wakarusa.
It’s no coincidence that he took to music as an infant.
"The first sound I remember hearing was a steel guitar,” he says. "My dad was in some East Texas folk bands back in the day, and he would play steel guitar every night before I went to bed. When he wanted to sneak cigarettes, he’d take me on midnight drives around the neighborhood and play Jackson Browne records. I was fascinated. It seemed like a magical thing to recreate a song you’d heard before.”
Signing to Washington Square Music / Razor & Tie and gearing up to record his full-length debut in 2017, Ruston holds nothing back.
"When people hear my songs, I want them to be affected in the way music affected me before I started doing it for a living,” he concludes. "I want them to think, ‘Damn, that made me feel something important I didn’t know I needed to feel.’ I fucking love playing music; it brings me so much joy. If I’m still doing this years from now, that’s more luck than I deserve.”