Kelley Mickwee

Kelley Mickwee and her voice are one of the most recognizable talents making music in her home state of Texas at the moment -- even if you may not immediately know it.

Kelley Mickwee and her voice are one of the most recognizable talents making music in her home state of Texas at the moment — even if you may not immediately know it. Mickwee has been a mainstay in the Texas-based music scene for years: currently, as part of Kevin Russell’s Shinyribs’ Shiny Soul Sisters, singing harmony and background vocals at his live show; as one-fourth of the acclaimed Americana group The Trishas, with Jamie Lin Wilson, Savannah Welch and Liz Foster; and before then as one-half of a Memphis, TN-based duo Jed and Kelley. But sometimes what gets lost in the shuffle of all the well-deserved acclaim for what she adds to other artist’s projects is the music she makes in her own right. “It’s been way too long since I have released music that is all mine,” she says. “I’m so proud of how these songs turned out, and it just felt like the right time to put new music out and see if people are still interested in what I’m doing on my own.” It’s a comment bathed in humility, and the kind of thing an artist only says if they’re really in it because no other career path would ever really make sense for them. What else is there to do but to keep doing it? Her comments are referring to a new two-song project called Boomtown to Bust, an A-side and B-side single that she’s taking the extra mile and releasing on vinyl. “I love the good old-fashioned singles releases: a taste of what the artist is currently creating, without ingesting an entire album,” she says. Both songs were written with Ben Jones as part of a yet-to-be-released duets album with Dan Dyer, and recorded with Jonathan Tyler at his home studio, Clyde’s VIP Room. “Jonathan Tyler and I have known each other for years and I have always been a big fan of his music, his work ethic and his vibe in general,” Mickwee says. “I was driving and heard his tune ‘Old Friend’ come on the radio and thought, that’s it, I need to make some music with this guy. So, I sent him a demo of these two tunes and asked if he’d help give them life.” “We wanted a ‘Red Headed Stranger’ kind of feel but with a ‘mining’ or ‘gold’ metaphor,” she says about Side A, “Boomtown to Bust.” “Once we got it into the studio with the band, it was just undeniable that it wanted to be a waltz. I love Dan [Dyer]’s harmony vocals on this one. Cody Braun’s fiddle sits perfectly with the mood of the song and Marty Muse glues it all together with his dreamy pedal steel. It’s a reflection on what comes when that love loses its glitter and shine.” Side B, “Let’s Just Pretend (We’re Holding Hands),” is a story of unrequited love, with a little tinge of hope weaved in. “Speaking of love, I love what Jonathan Tyler played on the electric guitar on this one,” Kelley says. “That, and the accordion, really give it that extra little push into that juicy Texas ‘The Mavericks’ kinda sound, which was completely unintentional but welcomed.” Boomtown to Bust is Kelley’s first original release since 2014’s You Used to Live Here, her debut solo record. She wasn’t kidding when she described the album’s release as feeling like “totally starting from scratch again” … and more than a little scary. Although she was already a seasoned artist at that point with a decade’s worth of experience under her belt, up until then all of her performing and recording experience had been as part of a unit: first as half of the Memphis-based duo Jed and Kelley, and then as one-fourth of Texas’ acclaimed all-woman Americana group, the Trishas. When the Trishas, all living in different parts of the state or as far away as Tennessee, collectively decided to slow their roll a few years back, Mickwee realized that in order to keep living the dream of playing music for a living, she was going to have to strike out on her own. Three years later she took a different leap, one that was not so much a matter of “starting over from scratch” so much as just learning how to take her hands off the wheel and have fun as a proud member of one of the hottest acts in Texas: Shinyribs. Launched in 2007 by Gourds co-founder Kevin Russell as a “solo” vehicle, Shinyribs has since evolved into arguably the most explosively entertaining band to spring from Austin in decades. Mickwee joined the family in September 2017, claiming her spot onstage next to Alice Spencer as one of the band’s two harmony and backup-singing “Shiny Soul Sisters.” She had to hit the ground running and learn the ropes fast (knowing that Shinyribs would be taping its debut appearance on TV’s Austin City Limits the following month), but from the start she felt not just right at home, but exactly where she needed to be. The Trishas never did exactly breakup, though, meaning that Mickwee and her other song sisters Jamie Lin Wilson, Liz Foster and Savannah Welch still happily reassemble every once in a blue moon when their schedules line up or a favorite gig comes around — like the annual MusicFest in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where they all played their very first show together as part of a 2009 salute to Savannah’s father, renowned songwriter Kevin Welch. Mickwee is also still an active partner (alongside co-founders Susan Gibson, Walt Wilkins, Drew Kennedy, and Josh Grider) in the Red River Songwriters Festival, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2022. “That’s our little baby, and it’s doing pretty well — the last few years have sold out!” Mickwee says proudly of the event, which is held every year in Red River, New Mexico and preceded by a short “Traveling Red River Songwriters” tour. And then there’s Mickwee’s weekly on-air gig she hosted for five-and-a-half years until she had to step away in 2021, the “River Girl Radio” on Austin’s “Sun Radio” (www.sunradio.com). “The format was pretty much whatever I was feeling,” she says. “I was given a lot of freedom to play whatever moved me within that hour each week. It was so rewarding to get to stretch that creative muscle and learn about a ton of music I wasn’t familiar with in the process.” (Mickwee can still be heard all day, every day as “The Voice” of Sun Radio.) With all of the above currently on her plate, one wouldn’t think Mickwee would have any time at all left over to devote to her own performing songwriter career. Even though scaling back was part of her plan all along, it’s still very much a part of her bigger picture.