Austin based R&B soul singer and songwriter Kelly Hafner is due to drop her debut studio album If it’s Love on February 22nd, 2019. Her show-stopping voice and unmistakably improvisational style keep listeners hooked from start to finish. Echoing the traditions of her soul forebears like Etta James, Lauryn Hill, Marvin Gaye, and Amy Winehouse, If it’s Love tests the boundaries of neo-soul in a refreshing way while lyrically navigating the human experience through a young woman’s eyes in the 21st century.
Kelly Hafner is a Berklee College of Music graduate, and grew up in northern California. Upon graduation, she returned to the Bay Area and began writing and recording music in her bedroom. She honed her live performance with a San Francisco-based live band, Fire, before moving to Austin. It is there she began her career as a solo artist and working on her new album. She met Sam Diaz, guitarist on the upcoming album, at the local Jazz club the Elephant Room where he was bartending. They immediately hit it off, Hafner recalls, “Sam was one of the first people who I could openly write and make words up on the spot with, after a week of hanging out we had written about five songs. We continue to write new songs together now, 2 years later.”
For Kelly Hafner, the forthcoming album explores themes focusing on human emotion and connections to oneself, life, God, and lovers. Hafner explains, “Lots of these songs came out of a time when I was feeling blue or experiencing the euphoria and/or heartache that comes with falling in and out of love. All of the songs were cathartic, helping me to move through life and release anything stuck in my mind.”
If It’s Love was recorded with a mix of Hafner’s Austin based band, Sam Diaz (Guitar) and Daniela Pennycook (Violin); and a bevy of talented studio musicians including the winner of Guitar Center’s nationwide DrumOff in 2010 – Isaias Gil, John Shelton (Lead and Rhythm Guitars), Mark Riddell (Bass), Derek Hames (Drums, Bass, Mellotron, Percussion, Background Vocals), Jimmy Moreland (Hammond Organ, Wurlitzer), Preston Smith (Trumpet, Flugelhorn), Andre Hayward (Trombone), and Andrae Grant (Saxophone). They recorded at Edgewater Studios in Houston, produced by studio co-owner Derek Hames (The Drugstore Gypsies, National Park Radio, The Buffalo Ruckus), and engineered by studio co-owner John Shelton.
The new album takes a deep dive into a soulful journey that highlights the depth of Hafner’s voice. The 10 track deep album keeps you listening for more as Hafner’s voice takes you on a journey deep into Kelly Hafner’s heart with songs like the deep vintage vocal-driven title track and lead single “If it’s Love.” She comments, “It’s about having faith in trusting your gut, your intuition when it comes to the person you’re meant to be with, and the path to take in life. It’s half about falling in love and about going through life authentically and without doubt. No matter how hard it is to honestly reflect on where we’re at in the moment.” Hafner’s lyrics “Birds fly high, time moves slow, somehow they always know where to go” highlight this sentiment. The lead single is due to drop in January 2019.
Another highlight is “Things are changing,” a funky soul head-bobber that includes an eight-piece ensemble to accompany Hafner powerhouse vocals. For Kelly Hafner, “This song is about empowerment. It’s about accepting myself for who I am, a singer, and making lemonade out of lemons per say. It’s about a strong woman who has been through experiences that have brought her down, and taking inspiration from them to make something awesome rather than sitting around and crying about them.”
“Give Light” is a reggae tinged song that features the memorable sounds of the Mellotron and gives it the warm and fuzzy feelings of falling in love. Hafner says, “It’s about being accepted for who you are, and loving who you’re with unconditionally. It’s about helping the person you love instead of hurting them, because once you’re that close to someone they almost feel like they’re a part of you.” A few more standouts include, “Dreams” an inspirational ditty about going for what you want in life, “No time” is about being unsure if your love will be returned, “Keep On Hanging On” is about hard times, when you start to seek spiritual guidance in God, and knowing a good friend will always be there for you, and “Angel” came about during a dark time in Hafner’s life when she turned to meditation to find light through the darkness.
In the end, Hafner’s view of her own music is what gives it true soul. She explains, “This release is for anyone who finds peace or happiness from listening to the songs, to express truth rather than perfection, to be an understanding force for people who need it, when they need it. There’s something special about communicating with people through sound, before even meeting them. That I think is magic.”
Kelly Hafner is poised to release If It’s Love on February 22nd, 2019 via her imprint Smokey Jazz Records with distribution through The Orchard. She will be touring in support of the new release next year. To catch all of her tour dates, follow her here or here: https://www.bandsintown.com/a/12973490
Track Listing: If It’s Love
“If It’s Love”
“Keep On Hanging On”
“Things Are Changin’”
“On My Mind”