Bridget Kelly is a go-getter. She has a clear vision of where she wants to take her brand. After being signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation for six years, she decided it was best to embark on a new journey. In 2014, she announced her departure from the label.
“It’s like going through a breakup or a divorce,” says Kelly on the emotional impact of leaving Roc Nation. “I think when you devote six years of your life to something and to other people, it’s terrifying to leave that situation behind and try to and rebuild something from the ground up again.”
She continues, “It took a toll on me for a couple of months. I really didn’t what the next step was going to be but I definitely decided that my heart is still in music and I had to be true to myself.”
While it’s only been a year since Kelly left Roc Nation, she hasn’t wasted any time. She recently dropped her new EP, Summer of 17, and is hard at work on her debut studio album.
Rated R&B caught up with Kelly ahead of her tour stop in Washington, D.C. to get the scoop on her Roc Nation departure, her life as an independent artist, her concept behind Summer of 17, the biggest misconception about her and more.
RATED R&B: What did you learn most from leaving that situation?
BRIDGET KELLY: It’s really important to do your research and trust yourself with whatever decision you’re going to make. I relied on a lot of other people to do everything for me. I didn’t do a lot of the research for myself. My team and I at the time didn’t really know how to move or what relationships to really build off of. I was trying to adhere to somebody else’s standards.
RATED R&B: So, how has life been for you as an indie artist?
BRIDGET KELLY: It’s had its ups and downs for sure. [Since] I have a firm grasp of who I am as an artist and who I am as a person, there’s been a weight lifted off my shoulders. Now when I approach some situations, I have some free creative control. I can do whatever I want. I can say whatever I want. The music can sound however I feel it’s supposed to sound. There’s also a lot of pressure that comes with that, though. So if the ship sinks, then it’s on me. I can’t point the finger and blame anybody else. So there’s definitely a lot of pressure that I put on myself to make sure I am making good music and continuing to build my brand consistently. It’s a lot of fun because we’re doing what we love and we’re doing it our way but of course it’s difficult to not have that co-sign behind you.
RATED R&B: Speaking of branding, what’s the biggest misconception about Bridget Kelly?
BRIDGET KELLY: The biggest misconception is that I am this love-scorned, endlessly heartbroken singer [laughs]. I love writing about love and singing songs about it, but I do think I am a lot more happy-go-lucky as a person. I try not to take things too seriously. There’s other aspects of my personality that haven’t been showcased enough in my music. I am a tomboy. I like to watch football on Sunday’s and drink beer and have fun. I like to go bowling and watch movies. I’m a weirdo. I love watching Animal Planet on the weekends. All of that stuff gets lost in the shuffle where music is concerned but I am excited about the next phase of my career. I’ll be able to showcase a lot more of that.
RATED R&B: Before we move forward, I’ve got to know who’s your favorite football team?
BRIDGET KELLY: The New York Giants without any doubt.
RATED R&B: So tell us about your new EP Summer of 17. What’s the meaning behind the title?
Summer of 17 is nostalgic for me because when I was 17 everybody was frantically preparing to be an adult and making decisions about college and stepping out on their own for the first time. I was just not interested. I was just like, “Listen the world is not going to end if we don’t all go away to college and make something of ourselves in the next 18 months.”
Now, I’m 29 and all the girls I grew up with are either married or are engaged. They’re planning their lives and building their homes and families. I’m still out here at Happy Hour on a Wednesday [laughs]. I just have a different perspective of what I want my life to be. I think my purpose is different. Lately, of course, I’ve been going against the grain. I’m independent. I’m doing music that sounds different than before, and I’m doing things a little less predictably. I think that’s kind of what’s Summer of 17 is all about. It’s about finding yourself. It’s about finding new love and being excited. It’s about having fun and not taking your life too seriously.
RATED R&B: When you decided to step outside of your box, did you feel any type of nervousness?
BRIDGET KELLY: Absolutely! But I’ll be honest, I don’t think I had ever fit in that box. I can’t say really say the feeling was different for me. Because I’m a New York girl, because I’m mixed raced, because I look a certain way — I’m curvy — I was automatically expected to fit into the traditional R&B box, which is the K. Michelle’s and the Mary J. Blige’s. I feel like that’s not the essence of who I am as an artist. As a woman, of course, I love their music. I’m a huge fan but I think as an artist, that wasn’t necessarily what I was trying to reach.
I think now it’s still scary because you don’t know who is going to accept you or who’s going to vibe. Even reading fans’ comments on Twitter, they were kind of like “Damn, we were hoping for something like the project you put out before,” which was very R&B — which is okay. I don’t think Cut to…Bridget Kelly was any less of who I am but I definitely think there’s multiple facets that have yet to be revealed. Summer of 17 was the first experiment. It was my first independent project I put out. I think it was a testament to I’m not you’re everyday R&B artist. I think I still am an R&B artist. I’m just taking on a different sound. I’m creating my own lane.
RATED R&B: Where are you with your debut album? What sound are you going for?
BRIDGET KELLY: I’m halfway done. I started it last year. It’s a mixture of things. It’s got a soulful/pop sound. I’ve always said if I could combine two artists to say “this is what my music sounds like,” it would be Pink and Alicia Keys. That’s really the vibe that I’ve always tried to go for. I think that’s what my album is going to embody. There’s going to be some rock/guitar songs on there. There’s going to be some heavy bass songs. There’s going to be sexy, emo R&B vibes. Overall, I think that people are going to love it. It’s called All or Nothing. It’s going to be about situations where it was all of me and I was invested. I was in love and I was happy. There’s going to be moments where I felt like I had nothing and I’m having to rebuild myself — dark moments. This album is going to be my best work yet.
Download Summer of 17 on iTunes now! Also, follow Bridget Kelly on Instagram (@iambridgetkelly) & Twitter (@iambridgetkelly).