Though she’s only just turned 24, Kelly Sweet already boasts two decades’ worth of performing experience, having made her live debut at the Cape Cod Conservatory at the tender age of four. A decade later she was opening for Kenny Loggins in Las Vegas and performing the national anthem at Lakers games, and at age 16 was co-writing and recording her debut album, We Are One, with producer Mark Portmann (Josh Groban, Celine Dion). Released three weeks before her 19th birthday, the album led to a tour with Dave Koz and numerous gigs in Japan.
But by the time the album cycle ended Kelly was 20 and having second thoughts about her musical direction. “I allowed my ears and my heart to show me what music I loved,” Kelly remembers, “and where my imagination wanted to go to create my vision for my new music. I think there is a big difference in between 16 and early 20s in knowing who you are and what you want for yourself. Also, I had heard the songs from my first record in elevators a few times--and the last thing I wanted to be was elevator music at 20!”
Over the next two years Kelly became a bit of a globe-trotter, working with writers in London, New York, Nashville and Los Angeles, including Robert Marvin (Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert), Guy Chambers (Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue) and Keith Varon. Marvin and Varon serve as co-producers of the resulting effort, Ashes Of My Paradise, the musical mission statement of a young woman discovering her true voice. “I initially started writing and developing my vision for this record in early 2008,” Kelly recalls. “I heard beautiful ambient electronic synths and pads, combined with big beats to fill in the low end. I wanted it to feel warm, and like the music surrounded you. I wanted it to have an angelic element like my first record, but to also have an element of depth and heaviness, because I have grown so much as a person and as an artist. I have seen more of life than I had then and I have much more to say.”
However, just as she was getting ready to unleash her new sound, tragedy struck--not once, but twice, as both her parents entered the final months of their battles with cancer. Putting her musical career on hold for the next year, she did what she could to help them in their final months. “I am an only child, so the responsibility truly fell upon me to take care of them--and I do not regret one minute of it,” Kelly shares. “I was blessed to say goodbye and be with them in their last months of this life. And now, the record is finally being released in Japan and I am ecstatic to share it with my fans there!”
Ashes Of My Paradise will be released in Japan by JVC/Victor on August 22. While the title reflects the loss of her parents and the album has a few poignant ballads composed during those difficult months, it also features upbeat electro-pop confections like “Walking on Mars” (featuring the defiant chorus, “I’m just a little bit crazy…I like it, I like it that way!”), “Mad Sick Crazy,” “Sirens” and “Love at the Speed of Sound.” The album closes with the gorgeous ballad “Pictures and Numbers,” of which Kelly says, “‘Pictures and Numbers’ is an homage to my mother and father, the unique people they were. When we pass on all that is physically left of us on this earth is pictures taken and numbers assigned to us. My parents strived to be so much more than that; they were both artists and sought to leave an emotional imprint upon others--and I aspire to do the same.”