Singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly to open Paramount Feb. 21

February 21, 2019
Ruston Kelly opens up for Brothers Osborne Thursday, Feb. 22, at the Paramount Arts Center.

What has always been cool about the Brothers Osborne is their determination to keep things real amidst the corporate pressure of the country music machine. They make their music within a band unit, with everyone playing their instruments and working together for the greater good.

As a result, the Brothers Osborne has been nominated for a Grammy Award and has won various CMA Awards and ACM Awards in recent years.

Hailing from a small Atlantic Coast fishing town in Maryland, the Brothers Osborne have climbed the charts and collaborated with many country music stars along the way. But, as high profile as they are now, they manage to hold on to their unique sound and are willing to encourage others to do the same.

On this latest headlining tour, for instance, the Brothers Osborne could have easily brought along couple of opening acts featuring cookie cutter bands and singers who are next in line for the country music machine. Instead, their opening act Thursday, Feb. 22, at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland will be Ruston Kelly, a singer and songwriter who has been around the block and not afraid to make music about real life situations.

Thursday night’s show by the Brothers Osborne and Ruston Kelly at the Paramount Arts Center begins at

7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $28 to $43. More information can be found at paramountartscenter.com and 606-324-0007.

Ruston Kelly’s face was just front and center before the whole world during the recent Grammy Award television broadcast. His wife Kacey Musgraves had just unexpectedly won the Grammy for Album of the Year Award after winning three more Grammy Awards previously that evening. Musgraves thanked her husband profusely from the podium, and rightly so — as they both have chosen to make music that is brave and not a part of the stereotypical, conformist vibe that country radio presents on a daily basis.

Kelly, however, has a story of his own to tell. He moved around a lot as a kid, living in places that ranged from Alabama to Cincinnati to Belgium due to his father’s work. He trained to be a figure skater at one point. While living with a family in Michigan that was supposed to be a part of his ice skating process, but things didn’t go as they promised. It was there that Kelly turned to music and the guitar to find solace.

While in Belgium, Kelly met people from all walks of life, discovered the music of the Carter Family. Then, he moved to Nashville to try and write songs for a living. Along the way, substance abuse got a hold of him and that became the new fight of his life.

Kelly speaks of his past battles with drugs openly in his music, which is why he is known as an artist who is willing to bare his soul. This all happens on his acclaimed new album Dying Star, released on the Rounder Records label.

Songs from the recording like “Faceplant,” “Blackout,” “Son of a Highway Daughter” and more showcase the many sides of a non-perfect life.

Ultimately, Kelly’s world view is positive. It’s just that some of us have to face the darkness and go through it before the light can shine again.

While moving from town to town as a kid wasn’t ideal, it did give Kelly insight into the human condition, especially while in Belgium.

“It taught me how to appreciate the outsider, and what that feels like,” said Kelly. “It taught me how to be an observer and see how people treat other people when they don’t know anything about them. Strangely enough, it kind of made me look at the compassionate side of myself. Once you try to step away from society or a group of people as a whole, you can see a little bit clearer. Everyone is just trying to belong or fit in somewhere. Belgium was different because there were so many different people in the same place. There is a lot more tolerance there for different kinds of people and different belief structures and different ways of living. I feel like here in the United States, we have to fight for that, and we’re still fighting for that now. Over there, it seemed like it was about, ‘Well, as long as you are a decent human being, we don’t care what you do.’”

The impetus for Kelly’s new Dying Star album came out of the fog that was his drug abuse, specifically an overdose that almost killed him. After that event, there were times when surreal things would happen to him and he would wonder if he had actually died that fateful day, with everything that happened since then being a dream.

“I went through all of that (after the overdose), including thoughts about, ‘What was that, what is my life, what is life?’” said Kelly. “It forces you either to try and come to an understanding of life or to just completely abandon it. So, I tried to come to an understanding about it. You try to dissect existence and consciousness and all of that heavy stuff quickly. I just walked away from it thinking, ‘Ok. Would you rather be alive or would you rather be dead?’ It’s a simple answer. I heard the sound of this record the day after I overdosed. I knew what I wanted it to sound like. I couldn’t describe it, but I felt it. My co-producer on this album Jarrad K was also highly instrumental in keeping me clean. We had known each other for a while and he moved to Nashville. He was like, ‘Hey man, I know you don’t want to go to rehab, so why don’t we just go to work?’”

Both Kelly and his wife Kasey Musgraves encourage each other to be bold in their art and to be willing to take the heat, or to appreciate the good feelings that come from their choices in music affecting people in a positive way.

“I think that both of us care about our craft in a way that is special and it means something more to us than just radio play or notoriety,” said Kelly. “To be able to share that mutual respect between two people, as in I appreciate her art as much as she does mine on the same level, I feel like that is a really rare thing to find. It is a cause for great admiration between the two of us. So, I think having love exist between those feelings, it is only going to be like, ‘Alright. Let’s get married.’”