The birth of the soul music revival—galvanized by Lee Fields and the late Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley since the early 2000s—offered a potent dose of authenticity to an industry watered down by fabricated pop stars. These artists, orchestrated behind the scenes by vinyl collectors turned label heads at Truth & Soul and Daptone, poured their hearts out on stage and on records, and audiences responded in kind. But what the movement has been missing thus far is an auteur, a visionary that writes, records, performs and produces his own material. Enter Kelly Finnigan.
The 37yearold, Bay Areabased singer, songwriter, engineer, and producer will release his first solo album, The Tales People Tell (Colemine Records), in the Winter of 2019.* The tensong collection is raw and gritty, tender and emotive, lush and symphonic. With Finnigan guiding these songs from their conception all the way to the record pressing plant, the new release provides the singular voice missing from soul music.
In just under forty minutes Finnigan channels a multitude of influences that reflect a lifetime immersed in the music and culture of soul, R&B, and hiphop. The Tales People Tell is the story of an outsider that followed an unorthodox route, always guided by his own creative north star.
Born in Los Angeles in 1981, Finnigan grew up in a musical household. His father, prominent sideman Mike Finnigan (Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Etta James), would start some days by sitting at the piano, sending songs like Ray Charles’ “Hard Times” cascading throughout their ranch style home. Despite having a father so deeply entrenched in the music industry, Finnigan resisted any formal musical education: “I only took three or four piano lessons before quitting, although I would bang around on a cheap blue Remo drum kit stashed in the corner of my room.”
Finnigan’s watershed musical moment came as a 14 year old when he witnessed a DJ captivate a crowd of his friends at a party. He immediately dove into the world of hiphop, beats, and sampling, an unusual choice for a kid raised around rock royalty. “It woke me up to the possibility that this is what I wanted to do. Creating music was like magic, and the most fulfilling thing I’d ever done,” Finnigan recalls. In no time he was DJing junior high dances all over LA, but also digging deeper into the source material comprising his favorite beats.
The luster of beat making on his Gemini DS8 sampler and Ensoniq MR61 sequencer wore off for Finnigan by the time he hit his twenties. He wanted to recreate the classic, organic sounds of electric piano, Clavinet, and Hammond organ that anchored his favorite A Tribe Called Quest and Pete Rock records. A midnight run to Las Vegas and $300 later, Finnigan owned a Fender Rhodes Suitcase 73 and set up shop in a small studio space in North Hollywood. He would spend hours dissecting old soul records and teaching himself how to play keys.
In 2003 Finnigan and some friends founded hiphop production crew Destruments. Combined with the engineering knowhow gleaned from jobs at two legendary LA studios (Village Recording and Cello Studios), Finnigan and Destruments started releasing instrumental albums