Kelley Hunt brings Kansas City blues to The Original Cafe Eleven

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By KARA POUND
American blues pianist, singer and songwriter Kelley Hunt will make her way to The Original Cafe Eleven tonight for her first-ever performance in St. Augustine.

Born and raised in Kansas City, Hunt’s music has been influenced by female musicians like Ann Peebles, Wanda Jackson and Mary Lou Williams. With a career spanning more than 25 years, Hunt has made a name for herself as a formidable female blues singer.

Compass caught up with Hunt to chat about family, critics and her creative process. Here’s part of that conversation.

Compass: You’re based in Lawrenceville, Kansas and you travel a lot to perform. Why don’t you live in a bigger music city?

Kelley Hunt: Well, my family is here and my parents live about 75 miles from where I live. And a lot has to do with that, but honestly because I travel so much, it’s really nice for me to come back to my home area. It’s easy for me to relax here and to write here because I write quite a bit. And you know, any time I want to be somewhere else, it doesn’t take long to get there. It’s a good home base for me.

Compass: Speaking of your family, I read that you were initially inspired by your mother’s jazz- and blues- styled singing. Could you tell me a bit about that?

K.H.: It was a huge influence. When she was younger, she was semi-professional. She sang out in public and even sang on a little radio show in Kansas City before she was married. But once she got married and she and my dad started having children, she did it when she could. She performed in church some and she sang for various events, but I think the thing that influenced me most about her singing — besides the fact that she had an incredible voice — was the way she sang. She was 100 percent present when she sang. Everybody else in the room just disappeared and she went for it. She just has that soul quality.

Compass: Have you been working on new material since your last release?

K.H.: I am writing for the next project and I write on a fairly ongoing basis. I feel like that’s the primary thing I do. I’m a songwriter and, in fact, on the upcoming show on Friday, I’m going to be doing some of the new stuff. I mean I’ve been touring in support of the record, “The Beautiful Bones,” for about a year and a half and that’s been fun because it’s been really well received. I’ll be doing a lot of material from that and a handful of songs from the previous CDs. But I’m definitely in process a good chunk of the time. It kind of comes in cycles. I can’t write all of the time because I tour and your psyche kind of needs to rest from it.

Compass: “The Beautiful Bones” received a rave review from American Blues Scene. How much do you pay attention to the critics or what others are saying about you and your music?

K.H.: Well, I can’t be attached to it, that’s for sure. As an independent artist — and I’ve been an independent artist most of my career, meaning I own my own publishing company, started my own label — when the reviews come out, no matter who you are, it can help expand your audience. So it’s great for someone like me to have American Blues review or different publications like Vintage Guitar come out and say, “Hey, this is worth listening to.”

Compass: Will this be your first time playing St. Augustine?

K.H.: It will be my first time. I’ve played in other places in Florida and music festivals and stuff, but it will be absolutely my first time. I know that there’s so much history and I’m really looking forward to being there. And the place where we’re playing, Café Eleven, looks like they have such a cool, diverse line-up. It looks like a real music room, you know? That’s fun for me being a songwriter and a performer. I’m a big fan of that kind of approach.

Kelley Hunt will perform with special guest Amy Hendrickson at 8:30 p.m. Friday at The Original Café Eleven. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.