When you think of Roc Nation, a few people come to mind — Jay Z, Beyonce, Rihanna — and, hopefully, Bridget Kelly. At least that’s what the latter, and one of the newer members of the label, is working toward. The slender brunette first caught everyone’s eye in 2009 when she began filling in for Alicia Keys on “Empire State of Mind” alongside Jay Z. At the time, everyone wanted to know, in the words of Eve, “who’s that girl?” But since that time, Bridget’s come to be known not only for her vintage mezzo-soprano R&B sound, but also her raven locks — sometimes with just a hint of blonde — red lip, and killer fashion sense. Since Bridget inspires so many through her music and her style, we had to have a chat with the 27-year-old to see what inspires her musically and what’s on the horizon for her career and upcoming album, “Something Different.” Check out our Q&A from inside the Opia Lounge and Bar at Renaissance New York Hotel 57, a boutique hotel in Manhattan.
When did you know you wanted to be a singer? “There was always music in my house. My parents were really big on The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder—my dad was really big on Motown and my mother was really folky — and I was always encouraged to have my own voice from the beginning. So when I was a kid, I could get people’s attention and relate to them somehow by using my voice. And when I was 12, my dad put me in the church choir and then I went on to a performing arts school which was really the nail in the coffin for me. It was a time when I was figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be and to have the creative freedom to be who I was and express myself in front of my peers was really great for me.”
At what point did you realize you made it? “Singing ‘Empire State of Mind’ was the moment I realized I’m here; I’ve arrived, so to speak. That was really the beginning for me. I had been signed for a year at that point and we really didn’t know what we wanted to do, and at that point I was going through a really bad breakup when I went on tour with Jay [Z] and I experienced really early on the heartbreak people describe when your professional life starts to skyrocket and your personal life goes to s**t. At the time I wanted to make an angry music album. I said just give me a rock guitar and I’m going to set everything on fire and all the girls are going to love me. But as I was gradually writing and recording more, I felt so much more soulful and I realized I couldn’t just be the angry girl who hurts people. I had to talk about being hurt, and so in the songwriting and recording process I did a lot of soul-searching and some of it was not pretty or stuff I wanted to talk about on this album, but I would’ve had to front if I did something different. So I just stuck to my guns and put it all out there.”