Grace Kelly Talks Brookline, Bosch, Berklee, and More
Brookline native, jazz star, and Berklee graduate Grace Kelly is bringing her musical talents back to Massachusetts this month. She’ll return to her home state to perform at the 13th annual Cape Cod Jazz Festival in Chatham on August 17.
Dubbed a saxophonist prodigy at age 12, Kelly has traveled the world, playing more than 600 concerts at venues ranging from the TD Garden to the San Quentin Prison in California. She’s studied under the direction of saxophone legends Lee Konitz and Phil Woods, played for the Boston Pops’ Keith Lockhart, and released her 10th (yes, 10th) album, Trying to Figure It Out, in February. And the 24-year-old has no plans of slowing down anytime soon—Kelly’s tour will make pitstops in more than 20 cities across the U.S., including Rockport on November 4, and Natick on December 3. But if you can’t wait the three months to get your Grace Kelly fix, her Chatham concert boasts a set that won’t disappoint.
Ahead, Kelly talks about her Boston roots, what it’s like to play on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and more:
Do you have any favorite performances or memories from your Berklee days?
We did a really cool ensemble that was sent to Washington, DC, to play the Kennedy Center, and that was definitely a joy. At [Berklee’s] graduation I remember Alison Krauss was one of our guest speakers, and she watched me play at the graduation. She came up to me afterwards and was like, “You are my favorite,” which was so sweet because there were so many people who performed. She was like, “Yeah, me and my whole team were talking, and you were all of our favorites.” That was really special. I love her.
Is there anything you really miss about living in Boston?
I miss in general how beautiful the city is. I mean New York is definitely great too, but Boston is just a beautiful-looking city. It’s so historical. It also feels like a little-New York in the way that it’s such an exciting, bustling city, but not nearly as overwhelming and crowded with people. I grew up in Brookline in Coolidge Corner, and that whole area is so homey to me, and so cute with boutique shops. My mom owned a retail store for like 30 years in Coolidge Corner called the “Wild Goose Chase,” and the name still lives on. She sold it, but yeah I love that area.
What is your favorite Boston-area venue to play?
I usually play regularly at Scullers Jazz Club, which I love. I’ll be at the Center for Arts in Natick and that’s a great venue, and then a really beautiful venue in Rockport called the Shalin Liu Performance Center. It looks out on the beach and it’s glass behind us. It’s a beautiful sounding hall. We love playing that one.
How does playing in a talk show environment like the Late Show differ from a theater or jazz festival?
It’s interesting because I’m hooked in with in-ear monitors [on The Late Show], so I’m hearing a lot of different voices at any given moment. I’m hearing Stephen Colbert’s voice. I’m hearing band leader Jon Batiste’s voice. You have production people waving at us trying to get us to start and go, and there’s a clock counting down time. So it’s a little bit harder to really get into the performance like I would in a live performance, where you just kind of forget about everything and focus on the music.
You performed on the Amazon series Bosch earlier this year. What was that experience like?
It was really exciting. Michael Connelly, who is the creator of the show, the writer of the book, and also a part-writer of the TV show, had asked me back in August if I would make an appearance, which of course I was so excited to hear. It all came together pretty quickly… We reshot [the scene] a few times. We air-played it once, we live-played it. It was really exciting. I had a whole audience of extras all dressed up and drinking their fake martinis. My parents were in the crowd too.
Is there any artist right now who you wish you could collaborate with?
It would be so frickin’ cool to write a song with Paul McCartney just because I grew up listening to the Beatles and his music. I’m a big fan, in today’s pop world, of Ed Sheeran. He’s a really great writer and I think we’d write something way cool. Also, ah shoot, what’s his name, from One Republic? Ryan Tedder! He’s a great, great writer. I would love to write with him.
Since you’ve already accomplished so much and you’re only 24, what’s next?
I think the next step would be to continue doing what I’m doing but at a bigger level, reaching even more people. It’s always been a dream of mine to reach all people with my music, not just jazz fans. I call my music “jazz beyond.” It’s for everybody. I’ve always been a big fan of collaboration with great artists, so I would love to do more collaboration in the future. I’m working on scoring a small indie movie right now, so hopefully I’ll be able to do more in the TV and movie world. One day, I hope to even get into the acting part of it. That would be really fun.