MUSIC RISING STAR: Abuse No Longer An Option for Christian Rocker Sarah Kelly
By Stephanie DuBois
Grammy-nominated Christian Rocker Sarah Kelly happily declares abuse is no longer an option for her because of the catharsis she went through writing her latest album "When the Past Meets Today."
"This album was my ticket to freedom," says the critically-acclaimed singer/songwriter, whose vocalizing is often compared to the late Janis Joplin's.
"Abuse was my addiction. I was 14-15 when it started and it just became what I expected of men.
"It's so funny," she notes in retrospect. "When you don't think the world of yourself you look for people who treat you like you feel you deserve to be treated. Abuse was my drug of choice, or self-hate, or whatever you want to call it. Actually," she adds, "one out of four women are abused but I thought I was the only one going through it and that's a really tough, awful place to be."
Kelly, who's in her late twenties, says she experienced her biggest epiphany while writing the single, "Out of Reach," that features former Guns 'N Roses guitarist, Slash, on the new album.
"It was a real spiritual moment," she recalls. "I wrote that song at my living room piano and tears were just streaming down my face. I decided I want a better life for myself, I know I want to be treated good and I know I'm worth it. I feel like I finally moved on from a very dark mentality."
She's had three abusive relationships and admits she had second thoughts about delving so deeply into the bones buried in her own closet.
"There were definitely times I wondered if it'd be better off for everyone around me (not to disclose her past). It's a weird place to be, to tell the truth. You have to air so much dirty laundry, but I found the strength inside and in my faith to want tomorrow. I want a good life for myself and that's not a selfish thing. If I'm going to be an example for some girl and they were staying in an abusive relationship because I did I would never forgive myself."
Kelly believes because women are "nurturers, we want (our abusers) to change. You want to believe they want to change and over and over in my life this was the case."
She candidly reveals that "a lot of my grief happened from within the church. It wasn't some weird guy. It was some guy I thought I could trust, so I know what that's like. But you've got to find a way to take the bull by the horns and recognize reality and be honest with yourself."
Kelly describes her Grammy-nominated "Where the Past Meets Today" CD as "a concept album about honesty. I decided to be completely 110 percent honest on this and through that I've experienced a lot of freedom. It's wonderful and if it does for other people half of what it did for me, we'll be on a good track.
"I'm on a better track in life because I'm trying to be honest with myself," she adds. "Unfortunately a lot of people put that off . They fill their time with busy-ness. I really took the time to reflect and saw the things that needed to be changed and really addressed the problems."
Kelly credits songwriting with literally saving her life.
"I say a song is a place to go in the highest highs and the lowest lows. Through all the dust years of junior high and high school, songwriting was my place to go. It was my only friend, my only place to be honest. My gosh, if I wouldn't have had that place through a lot of what I was going through in my youth and early 20s, I don't know if I'd still be talking to you today."
She adds, "I can't stop myself from writing now. Anything I go through during the day, at the end of the night I have to write about it. That's my way of dealing with things. And that's why I love to go to colleges and share that knowledge as much as possible. I really believe that everyone can write music and it's a beautiful outlet. And you don't have to be a prodigy to tap into that.
"I like to take the mystery out of it for people," she continues. "I feel like I can really become an asset in their daily lives when I teach them to write a song.
"If I can give some 14 year old girl who feels ugly a way to express herself, that makes me feel great. Then, I really made a difference. I'm not trying to just be a singer and just be on the cover of magazines. That's all about me... This is all about them."
Despite the fact that her 2005 debut album, "Take Me Away" garnered a Grammy nomination and her current album earned the Grammy nod with little to no promotion, Kelly's keeping her feet on firmly planted ground.
"I'm not enamored with all that," she says. "I'm an English teacher and that's what my degree is in. I still shop at Walmart. I'm just a normal, average Joe who writes music and wants to share that knowledge with people. And I want to make the best frikkin' music ever. I want to stir things up with my music and do some real good."
Kelly says she's aware that moving on and forgiving her past abusers is a crucial part of creating that future.
"I'm not bitter," she makes clear. "You have to get to a point where the past meets today. You use yesterday to make a stronger tomorrow."