Finding yourself with music

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Greg Kelly opens up about his love for bluegrass. (Photo by Flickr)

By Jessica Mangan

Local musician and current Fitchburg State University student Greg Kelly opens up about his passion for the art of music and the effect it has had on his life. Kelly, a junior at Fitchburg State, looks back on his musical journey and when asked to describe the experience in three words, he described the whole thing as “absolutely f-ing euphoric.”

Right in the middle of five children, Kelly didn’t exactly ‘blend in.’ While the other kids in his family were trying out for sports teams and playing football in the backyard, Kelly found himself lost in the music. “I knew that I was different but I just learned to accept it” says Kelly.

Among all the genres of music that exist, Greg is dedicated to one in particular: Bluegrass music. This is American roots music with a sub-genre of Country music. The one thing that sets Bluegrass apart from other genres of music is that Bluegrass music has one or more instruments that take turns playing the melody and improvising with it. Kelly says he “fell in love with the music.”

Of course, with Bluegrass comes the banjo. Kelly started playing banjo thirteen years ago at the youthful age of eight. From there on he fell in love with the instrument. Playing banjo came naturally to him and he continued playing over the years. Kelly claims his biggest influence on playing was his banjo instructor: Bob Daniels. In addition to his banjo instructor, the father of one of his closest childhood friends, who would later pass away, was also an influence. These two men helped to build a foundation for Kelly’s love of the banjo.

In high school, Kelly took his gift of music to the next level. It started out as casual jam sessions with a friend after school every Thursday. They found a way to always draw people into the recording studio to hear them play a tune.  Eventually, Kelly and his musical partner decided to make something of their extreme talent and love for the music. In 2012, they formed a band in which they named “Symbolic Significance.’  They would play at local joints as well as for their friends and family.

Due to the band’s lead guitarist going off to pursue college down in Florida, the band recently decided to go on hiatus but plans to reunite soon to continue their success. This however did not stop Kelly from doing what he loves. Kelly continues to play solo shows, and cherishes every moment he gets to express himself through his music.

In total, Kelly has written at least 70 songs, his favorite one called “Ballad Of Homeless Joe.” He wrote this song for his brother and mentioned that the song is mainly based on the vocals. He also goes onto say that “most of my songs are carried on by the lyrics.”

Jennifer Pappas, a longtime friend of Greg since high school, also talks about Kelly’s true love for music. She described Kelly’s music as “very distinctive.”

“His music is very raw. He doesn’t try to hide anything in his music,” she says, “when you hear it, you can tell he puts his soul into his music.”

As Kelly’s favorite band Gaslight Anthem once said, “No retreat, no regret,” and it is quite clear that Kelly has been living by this quote throughout his musical journey.

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