[folk tale]
Authentic Talent
Making original music is Kelly Davis’ passion
by Kelly Knufken
photo by Fred Greaves

With three original folk CDs already under her belt, Kelly Davis ‘99 wanted to get out of her comfort zone for her next project. While her earlier CDs were just Kelly and the guitar featuring original music, her latest venture is a marked departure. After all, what could be farther from folk than techno?

She describes her new sound as “Club Kelly,” with fewer personal lyrics than she’s written for past efforts. In fact, this time out, her collaborator gave her strict instructions: “He said, ‘You can’t write about God and society, or racism or politics,’” she recalls. “It was the most challenging project to write, because I couldn’t write about my typical things. These lyrics are about love and heartache. It’s dance music.”

A business major at USD, after graduation Davis began working as a buyer. But her outsized personality has always gravitated toward more creative projects. It didn’t take long for her to decide she needed to find a way she could work with children and stretch her artistic wings. She found that outlet by becoming a junior high school teacher.

“I don’t think anyone I went to school with at USD would be surprised that I’m an English and drama teacher,” says Davis, whose teen years were spent singing and acting in musical theater all over San Diego and Europe.

Davis says that she started writing her own music while an undergraduate and that she once performed at the on-campus Aromas coffeehouse. Since graduating, she’s played her music at various venues around San Diego. She’s found those to be the sort of gigs she enjoys the most.

“I had played Dorothy numerous times in the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ I was Sandy in a production of ‘Grease’” she says.

“I didn’t want to be a pretend person anymore.”

The techno CD — which isn’t yet finished but may be made commercially available when it is — is certainly a departure from theater and her other songs, which explore themes such as how she feels about racism or what it means to her to pray. Davis is philosophical about the ways her musical endeavors have evolved thus far.

“Now I’m trying to communicate something about myself,” she says. “Being Dorothy is about entertaining people. Being Kelly is about enlightenment and honesty and reality.