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Kelly Willard

Kelly Willard
Maybe you cant recall having heard the name, {{Kelly Willard}}, but if you have been a fan of contemporary Christian music for any length of time, its almost guaranteed that you have heard her sing. And if you havent heard her sing, you have undoubtedly heard a song that she has written.

You see, {{Kelly Willard}} is one of those rare artists that has the ability that allows her to not only write, play and sing her own music, but write, sing and play for others on their projects. Excluding her own albums Kelly has written, played and/or sung for artists including but not limited to Dion DiMucci, Brown Bannister, {{Ron Kenoly}}, Ricky Skaggs, Karen Lafferty, Lenny LeBlanc, Susi Luchsinger, {{Twila Paris}}, {{Bob Bennett}}, {{Steve Green}}, {{Bruce Carroll}} and {{Amy Grant}}.

Kelly started out where all famous artists begin. At the beginning. Her career began at the tender age of five when she eschewed piano lessons in favor of learning the old fashioned way, by ear. In the early 70s, at 16, Kelly moved to Nashville and began doing recording sessions and soon became the piano player for the southern gospel group, The Jake Hess Sound. After six months, through an acquaintance with Tony Brown, now President of MCA Records in Nashville, then playing for The Oak Ridge Boys, Kelly auditioned for and was invited to join The Archers. This was when Nancy Short was still with the Archers, before their sister Janice joined the group, Willard points out. It was a real fun time. We were footloose and fancy free on the road.

After six months with The Archers, Willard left the group. That was back when the turnover in groups was much quicker. I dont know if people were more dissatisfied back then or what, Willard reflects. Quickly after the Archers experience, Willard became the keyboardist for a young group of musicians who called themselves Seth. Oklahoma City was home base for Seth. The group was led by a young musician named Jonathan David Brown who later when on to fame as a producer ({{Petra}}, {{Twila Paris}}, {{Steve Taylor}}). Willard moved to OKC to join the band. It was there she met and married her husband after a whirlwind three-month romance.

It was after leaving Seth, Willard joined a group called Harlan Rogers & Friends, where she gained the confidence to begin singing solos. This group lasted for two years. Along with Harlan, who played for Andrae (Crouch), Hadley Hockensmith (Koininia) played guitar and Keith Edwards played drums (Pam Tillis, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stewart), Willard remembers. During that time, band leader Rogers pushed Willard to showcase her wonderful voice. Before Harlan Rogers & Friends I just didnt have the courage to put myself into the lead vocal role, Willard confesses.

After disintegration of Harlan Rogers & Friends, Willard finally struck out on her own, moving to California with her husband Dan. From 1978 - 1986 {{Kelly Willard}} released four albums on the Maranatha! Label. The first being Blame It On The One I Love, followed by Willing Heart, Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, and finally Message From a King. In 1990, Kelly released another solo project on Asaph record entitled Garden. I played live a lot during those years, remembers Willard. Just me and a Fender Rhodes, suitcase style.

In 1991, Willard and family moved back to Nashville. This move came just before the recording and release of Homesick for Heaven, which is presently available only in Europe on Coyote Records. She has also released {{Lookin' Back}} on her original label, Maranatha Records.

Along the way, Willard has sung on numerous projects including two childrens albums for Integrity. Both albums are lullaby projects and are known as ==Bless My Little Girl==, and ==My First Christmas==.

Willard stopped maintaining a regular performance schedule in 1991, although she allows herself the freedom to take the occasional performance that she feels appropriate. Willard and her family currently still live outside Nashville, which allows Willard the freedom to be a mom to her two children, a wife to her husband Dan, as well as take care of her own mother who lives with the family. It also allows the flexibility for her to make her way to the studio and sing background as often as possible.

I hope that I can continue to record albums and release them, although I feel somewhat on the fringe of the ccm world, says Willard. But that suits her just fine.

Looking back over her career so far, Willard waxes philosophical. I guess I have learned and am learning to take things one day at a time. I am still writing what is coming out of my heart to the Lord.