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Blues/roots/Americana singer-songwriter Kelley Hunt to perform as part of Pitt State's 2023 WritersFest

Earl Richardson 2021

WritersFest kicks off tonight at 6 (03/27) with an open mic for local poets at TJ Lelands in downtown Pittsburg. Readers will include Laura Lee Washburn, Lori Martin, Chris Anderson, and Olive Sullivan. Hunt performs Tuesday night at 7 at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts at PSU.

A great week of activities kicks off today at Pittsburg State. High school students, the public, and university students will have the opportunity to learn from the masters atWritersFest, a literary festival planned by Pittsburg State University's Creative Writing Program, with workshops and readings by noted authors.

WritersFest includes a performance by critically acclaimed blues/roots/Americana singer-songwriter, keyboardist, guitarist, and international touring recording artist, Kelley HuntTuesday night at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. Hunt, who resides in Lawrence, Kansas, is very familiar with Pitt State and the Bicknell Center.

"Our son went to Pitt State; we love the campus, love the school, and while he was a student there, I actually did a concert that was a benefit for the music program. Beautiful space. Can't wait to get back there, and ya, it's going to feel like home."

Kelley's visit is a collaboration with two long-time friends. Kansas Poet Laureate Emeritus, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. And Kathryn Lorenzen a creativity coach, songwriter, and poet whose work has been featured in TV shows and films.

Kelley Hunt
Kelley Hunt

WritersFest also celebrates Mirriam-Goldberg's donation of her literary archives to Axe Library at Pitt State.

"It's really a celebration of my friend, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, and the Kansas Literary Arts. It's commemorating the launch of her collection at the library at Pitt State and their special collections.

And Caryn and I, we'll we've not only been friends, but we've been co-writers for several years, and on gosh, several of my albums that have been released over the years that have had songs that she and I have actually co-written."

At her Tuesday night performance at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, Kelley will play new, unreleased songs that she and Caryn have co-written.

Kelley is thankful for the deep, thoughtful friendships she's developed with Caryn and Kathryn over the past 20 to 25 years.

"Well, I met Caryn, I believe, back in 2003 when she and I were asked to collaborate and co-write a song for a performance at the Lawrence Art Center. We may have met before then, but we never collaborated before then.

Somehow, even though our different modes of creativity are different from each other, we have a parallel creative process. That was the beginning of a wonderful collaboration and also a wonderful friendship.

And I met Kathryn Lorenzen actually a few years before that here in Lawrence; she is a well-known musician here.

And we have become friends over the years, and when she and Caryn started working together with the transformative language arts network, it was just a perfect match."

Last November, Kelley released her first Christmas album titled Winter Soulstice. The album includes ten tracks with well-known holiday songs such as, 'Go Tell It On The Mountain', 'Auld Lang Syne', and 'Silent Night' but in the signature Kelley Hunt style.

Kelley's most recent album released in Nov. 2022

"The songs that are on the Winter Soulstice album, three of them I've written, but the rest are near and dear to my heart. So a song like Go Tell It On The Mountain, I had heard since I was a child.

But I think when I choose to record a song that's something I haven't written, I really like to not only know it inside and out but to feel it in my own way.

Cause I'm an arranger, producer, piano player, and a signer. And I just try to extrapolate what is at the core of that song that I can express in a way that might be more authentic to who I am. In my creative process.

And 'Go Tell It On The Mountain', it just felt right to do it at the tempo, and we had a horn section. And you're right, the piano really plays a big part in everything that I do, but especially on that album, it's front and center."

A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor was one of the most popular public radio shows for decades. So much so that before the show's cancellation in 2017, KRPS aired the two-hour program twice every weekend. Kelley was a frequent contributor on a Prairie Home, appearing six times.

"We actually did one at theKansas State Fair in Hutchinson, in front of 10,000 people, outside on the big stage, yeah. And I have to tell you, you have to really to be on your toes to do that show.

Sometimes during the show, he will change the order of things, or he'll kind of throw you a little curveball, and you need to be ready to jump in, to action, which I did, and I loved, and I'm grateful for that experience."

2023 will be somewhat of a post-pandemic revival for Kelley with six performances in Kansas and Missourischeduled throughout April and May. She'll also perform as part of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise early next year.

Kelley jamming

She'll release her 8th studio album later this year.

"Currently, I'm still writing for that project. And we're kind of culling through material that I've written in the last couple of years, including during the pandemic.

So, we are mindfully going through and seeing what we want to record, and we'll be making plans to decide the location that will be recorded in soon. We're hoping that will be out into the world sometime in 2023."

Kelley is also approaching a milestone; 2025 will mark the 30 anniversary of her self-titled debut album.

She reflects on her music career, how much the industry has changed since her first release, and the advice she would give her young self first starting out.

"I would tell her it's all going to be worth it. I would also tell her that the music business is going to change dramatically from that time to the present. And that to be willing to be flexible and open-minded.

And I would also tell her that it is extremely important to who you surround yourself with in the business. And how you take good care of yourself while you're touring and recording and feeling some of those positive pressures. But to really take good care of yourself."

(Outro music is Deal With It from Kelley's 2009 release, New Shade of Blue)

Since 2017 Fred Fletcher-Fierro has driven up Highway 171 through thunderstorms, downpours, snow, and ice storms to host KRPS’s Morning Edition. He’s also a daily reporter for the station, covering city government, elections, public safety, arts, entertainment, culture, sports and more. Fred has also spearheaded and overseen a sea change in programming for KRPS from a legacy classical station to one that airs a balance of classical, news, jazz, and cultural programming that better reflects the diverse audience of the Four States. For over two months in the fall of 2022 he worked remotely with NPR staff to relaunch to an NPR style news and information website.

In the fall of 2023 Fred was promoted to Interim General Manager and was appointed GM in Feburary of 2024.