Featured Artist: Five questions with a local street musician

Jonathan Roberts • May 20, 2019 at 12:00 AM

For traveling musician Kelley Calhoun, 18, a Johnson City-based artist, local opportunities like the Open Mic Night’s at the Willow Tree are a fantastic opportunity for him and other local artist to gain some notoriety and hone their craft.

Calhoun describes himself as a traveling musician who enjoys playing music on the street moreso than trying to release albums. He says he always tries to be a good person in life and even though it may not always work out that way, he said, he always has fun.

What got you into music?

I’d always liked music, but it kind of just started out as something to do, then I just picked it up and did it when I was really young. I got my first guitar when I was 6 years old and played that for a years and put it down for a couple too. Off and on I’ve probably been playing for about 12 years. I actually play a lot of instruments, but I’m most fluent with a guitar.

Why’d you choose guitar as your main instrument?

How can you look like I do and not play guitar?

How important is it to have opportunities like Open Mic Night at the Willow Tree to play your music for people?

It really gives local people a really good place to start. It helps people get over stage fright and things like that in a smaller setting and in a more relaxed environment. Not only does it help you figure things out, but it just gets you more comfortable and more consistent when you play in front of crowds.

Who’s your biggest musical inspiration?

It’s actually another local musician, my friend Dustin (Tolley). When I started playing in public, I used to play down at the Acoustic Coffee House with him a lot, then we got to where we started playing in the street together and I’ve picked up a lot from him.

How would you describe your musical style?

Mostly folk-punk and really grungy 2000s emotional emo-rock. And then lots of road kid music too.

While Calhoun travels in and out of Johnson City frequently and doesn’t use social media, you can catch him strumming his guitar, banjo or any other number of instruments at the Willow Tree’s Open Mic Nights or while walking down the streets of Johnson City, Asheville, North Carolina, and anywhere else he may travel to.