sara jean kelley

Many artists hoping to make a name for themselves in music come to Nashville, Tennessee to be heard, but Sara Jean Kelley was born and raised right in the heart of the Music City, USA. As the daughter of hit singer/songwriter, Irene Kelley, she has music in her blood and has never hesitated to jump in the car and head across the country for the opportunity to perform. 


Right after graduating from Nashville School of the Arts, Sara headed to Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. With a lifetime love of animals and wildlife, she studied environmental biology there for the next 2 years. Though Colorado is still considered her second home, the south called to her once again; so she packed up and moved back to Nashville to pursue a musical career. She spent the rest of her college years at Belmont University; traveling to gigs on the weekends, and finding inspiration for her songs wherever she could.


Sara Jean has both roughed it out on the road, singing for her dinner and a bed to sleep in for the night, and snagged her own private dressing rooms, sharing stages with her icons: Emmylou Harris, Pure Prairie League and Rodney Crowell, to name a few. 


Her slew of original songsoffer the familiarity of traditional country and bluegrass while mixing in a healthy dose of modern Americana. As Jon Kerr from New York Minute Magazine writes "If you have ever wondered what it wouldsound like for Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash to write a song together over a few beers, you have not heard Sara Jean Kelley. Her voice is soulful and smooth, and just rough enough around the edges. She writes lyrics that sing, without all the fuss of trying to be something they are not."


After almost 2 years in the making, Sara has released her new ep, The Waiting Place, in January of this year. says of this project "Finding that elusive sweet spot between mainstream country accessibility and rootsy, non-tractor-and-beer critical credibility is one of the hardest jobs in Nashville." Sara's record "may be one of the rarities to defy the rules, a mix of raw twang and soulful strut." 

The single track on "The Waiting Place", "Trains", was written with Will Kimbrough; former guitarist for Emmylou Harris and respected Americana solo artist. Kimbrough is also producer of the project, along with Dave Coleman of The Coal Men. 


Photographer: Jason Lee Denton