The Writer’s Share sits down with singer and songwriter Kelly Archer, who talks about her beginnings in the industry, co-writing, and the her current projects.
The Writers Share: Growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, how did you become interested in country music? Was it always your ambition to be a singer/songwriter?
Kelly Archer: When I was a kid my Dad owned a country cabaret in Vancouver called Diamond Lil’s and he played in a cover band as well. There was always a lot of music in my house from Kenny Rogers to [Creedence Clearwater Revival] to Frank Sinatra and a wide variety more. Kenny Rogers was my favorite when I was little and then in my teens I went through a big R&B/pop/hip hop phase and found my way back to country after high school.
I used to do musical theater in high school and thought I would move to New York and try my luck there. I had no idea I’d be any good at writing until I re-wrote a Reba song for a Father’s Day service at my church. Someone complimented my lyrics and the next thing you know I was making plans to drive to Nashville and just see how writing worked. I completely lucked out and found a career.
TWS: What’s the song you’re most proud of writing, and how did it come about?
KA: [laughs] This would be like choosing your favorite child. I could say it was the first cut, or the first single but it would be too hard. The most personal one has a special place, though – it’s a song called I Remember You that Trisha Yearwood cut on her last record. Besides the fact that she’s a legend, my co-writers and I wrote it about people we had lost and for me it was for my Auntie Gwynn who had passed recently. Trisha had lost her mother and it resonated with her.
TWS: What was your most memorable songwriting experience?
KA: There are too many to narrow down, but one that stands out recently was getting the chance to write with Brett James and Rita Wilson. I’ve always loved her movie roles and she showed up like a breathe of fresh air. Rita was sweet and fun and wore her heart on her sleeve. She said “I have something we could shoot for if you want. My friend Gayle…” My brain instantly thought – like Oprah’s best friend Gayle? She explained that Oprah was doing a campaign about spreading kindness by just saying hello to anyone you passed on the street or came across. We wrote a little ditty which I got to produce and next thing you know it was on the [Oprah Winfrey Network]! Who could’ve guessed that would ever happen?
TWS: You’ve done a lot of collaborative writing – how does that process usually work? What is the best way you’ve found to spark song ideas?
KA: After writing for over 15 years this has many answers – sometimes it’s a title, sometimes a track but my favorite is when an idea comes out of a conversation. Especially with artist, it’s nice to lock into something from their point of view.
TWS: Does the final cut of a song you’ve written usually sound differently than you initially imagined it when it’s cut to an album?
KA: Sometimes, depending on whether we only did a work tape or a full-blown demo. Some songs I’ve had I’ve lived with the the song and loved it and the album cut doesn’t hit me as hard and sometimes it just blows our demo out of the water. The artist matters too, it’s hard to hear someone like Reba sing your song and not feel like “that’s how it’s done folks!”
TWS: What was your favorite genre of music growing up?
KA: When I was really young I was obsessed with Kenny Roger’s Gambler record. I would duet Islands in the Stream with my dad at parties and family functions. As I grew up you name it, I loved Frank Sinatra and Harry Connick Jr., John Cougar Mellencamp, Whitney Houston, all 90’s R&B. I went through an Abba and Euro pop phase as well as a few summers of Bob Marley. One of my favorite was Desree. 90’s women of country like Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks will always be epic.
TWS: Is there a song that hasn’t made it out to an album that you wished would?
KA: As a songwriter deep down I think many should have been cut but… [laughs]The song that Trisha cut was originally on hold for George Strait which is a major bucket list artist for me and when he dropped it last minute I was super bummed, but that was on a Monday and by Friday Trisha had cut it and it all made sense.
TWS: Can you tell us a little about the current projects you’re working on?
KA: I’ve been going hard since Christmas writing for people cutting in spring and most of that is wrapping up. I have single out on Big Machine Artist Brett Young and the song Sleep Without You is rocking so far. I have a single coming to radio June 6th on Big Machine artist “Cassadee Pope” called Summer. I can’t wait for people to hear it. I’ve got two songs on the new Chris Lane EP, two songs that Justin Moore has just cut and have been working with Jo Don Rooney from Rascal Flatts writing for their next record. It’s been busy and fun and I’m hoping to take a few small breaks while everyone is on tour this summer. I also plan to start working on my first record – I’ve been told it’s about time!
TWS: That sounds like a lot – looking forward to the show!