Best known for her work with the Austin roots-rock outfit the Trishas, singer/songwriter Kelley Mickwee will be the first member of the band to release a solo album. You Used to Live Here hits the streets in a few days and it's quite a departure from Mickwee's work with the Trishas. Displaying a stronger R&B influence, the album shows a singer breaking free and walking a new and brave path.
From her home in Buda, Texas, and in anticipation of Friday's show opening up for Ray Wylie Hubbard at the Kessler Theater, Mickwee talked with DC9 about the perils of performing solo, the future of her former band and how it's not that easy playing music with your own husband.
DC9 at Night: You've said that taking a break from the Trishas was a matter of necessity. What did you mean by that?
Kelley: I didn't mean that taking a break was a matter of necessity. I meant that making a solo album was a matter of necessity. We all decided to take a little hiatus because some of the moms decided they needed to be moms for a little while. I was left with the what-to-do question. The only thing that I could do at that point was to make a solo record. It was out of necessity so that I could keep playing and touring.
What is the future for the Trishas?
We are unsure. We know that we want to do something together again, but we didn't put a time on it. We told each other that we would check back with each other in a year or so. We will see where everyone is in their lives. We will see if making another record is something we are able to do at that time or not. I realize that is kind of a crappy answer. It's the truth. I think there is a future, but we are all unsure of when that will be.
If your solo album does well, you might have a big decision to make.
That is true. That is very true. We said that when we decided to do this that if something becomes more important, if someone is more successful that doesn't allow them to work with the Trishas, that is just the risk you take when you decide to take a hiatus and do other things. It is a risk. Any of us at any time could get too busy to come back to it. I couldn't wait for the other women to decide if they wanted to come back and do it.
If you weren't making music, what would you be doing?
I have no idea. Probably the answer to that question would have been different right out of college than it is now. I think I would find some way to travel if possible.
Right out of college, what would you have done?
I graduated when I was 21 and got a job with a big brokerage firm with a big office in downtown Memphis. That's where I am from. That's what I did then, but that is definitely not what I would want to do now. Luckily, I figured out a way to sing and play for a living. I haven't thought about what to do if everything went south. I've been playing for so long that the thought of going back to a desk job from 8:00 to 5:00 isn't something I would want to do. That would last for about a week.
Why did you move from Memphis to Texas?
I moved to Texas because, at the time, I just needed a change. I knew a few people and I got a job in Wimberley. I was working for a booking agent. It's hard to make a living playing music. You can play shows every day of the week. I knew that I needed a place where I could play shows and have fans. Not only is that Austin, but that is the entire state of Texas. It's unlike any other state in its support for its musicians. I wanted to be part of that.
Then why go back to Memphis to record your album?
Because the guys that I played with in Memphis, they play unlike anyone around here. They play the way I wanted this record to sound like. I didn't think that I could find guys like that or guys that I am comfortable with in Texas. It felt good to go back there and get with people I've known for a long time. I trusted them and the decisions that they made.
Is the barbeque better in Memphis or Austin?
It's so funny that you ask that, because we and our neighbor had the Texas/Tennessee rib cook off. My husband did pork and my neighbor did beef. I don't eat meat, so I can't really commit. Growing up, I did eat pork and beef and in Tennessee, it's all about the dry rub. We have really good dry rub.
Are you a vegan?
I am just a vegetarian. I'll have meat every once in a while, if I know where it came from, if I know it is good quality. I've been a vegetarian for about a year. I'm not hardcore about it. It just makes me feel better.
How many solo shows have you done?
I started playing solo when I knew we were going to take a break. I had to figure out if I could do two 45-minute sets. I did a few dates in October and November at the airport and other places that were low-key. I had to prove that I could play by myself for two hours with just me and a guitar. I've done a lot of shows since the band decided to take a break. I have some CD release shows coming up in Austin. I have a full band with drums and bass. My husband plays second guitar. It's very exciting.
How nervous were you at those initial solo shows?
I was pretty nervous. I was in charge. I was the only one standing up there calling the shots. It took me a little while to get comfortable with that. I have good players and you can't be too uncomfortable when you trust who you are playing with. At the Dallas show, I will be playing solo as I am opening up for Ray Wylie Hubbard. When I open for him, I try and strip it down.
Is it easy to have your spouse in the band?
No, it's not easy. We don't do it that often. We play together when I have a band. We do some duet stuff here and there. There's no one who plays electric guitar and keyboards as well as he does within a 100-mile radius of Austin. Even if I wanted to play with someone else, I couldn't because there is no one who does what he does. With that being said, in general, we don't tour together. He has his own thing to do.