Motto: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman
Name: Kelly McCartney
Enneagram: The Helper
Ice Cream: Vanilla
Area Code: 615
Having won prestigious literary competitions in both grade school and junior high, I attended college with a Scripps Howard Foundation scholarship, earned a BA in Journalism, and interned at Entertainment Tonight. After graduation, I worked as a personal assistant in Celebrityville for Susanna Hoffs, Isabelle Adjani, Sally Hershberger, Adam Horowitz, and others. I also had a couple of screenplays “in development,” but stumbled into a writer’s block. My professional pursuit thusly got sidetracked by an extracurricular interest in music which somehow turned into an incredibly varied career working in almost every area of the music industry over the course of 25 years (and counting).
In the very early ’90s, I co-represented a cool band (Sun 60) and teamed up with Donovan Leitch to host hipster musicians at Bar One and Roxbury (Beastie Boys, Mazzy Star, Dada, et al). In the fall of 1992, I switched gears, became a vegan, and spent a year at Virgin Records coordinating contracts for newbie artists who later became quite popular (Ben Harper, the Wallflowers, David Gray). In 1994, desperately missing the trenches of live music, I started booking Genghis Cohen, a small acoustic venue where I supported the burgeoning careers of Vonda Shepard, Shawn Mullins, Jill Sobule, Evan & Jaron, Dar Williams, Kristen Hall, and other soon-to-be notables. Joni Mitchell, the Murmurs, and the Bangles even came by sometimes, and that era of the club was immortalized in both Shawn’s hit “Lullaby” and Vonda’s “Maryland.”
My time at Genghis led to a few years managing Vonda’s career, including coordinating her first-ever solo tours and making the record (It’s Good, Eve) that landed her the Ally McBeal gig. I then supervised the music for two independent films (both showcased at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival), shopped label deals for Shawn Mullins and Sally Dworsky, and booked and traveled with Melissa Ferrick for several national tours. I also helped out for a spell at Engel Entertainment, supporting Danny Elfman, Boingo, Katey Sagal, and other artists.
Needing a break from all the glitz and glamour, I took time (twice) to live, study, and work at a meditation ashram in the Catskills. While there, I worked in the music, audio, and communications departments coordinating teams for both in-house events and global satellite broadcasts.
Somewhere around the turn of the millennium, I spent a year processing copyrights and mechanical licenses at Warner/Chappell Music Publishing. On the side, I got back to my roots, combined my loves of music and writing, and became a freelance “expert” for AllMusic.com penning album reviews and artist bios for Sheryl Crow, Dixie Chicks, Sarah McLachlan, Indigo Girls, Shawn Colvin, David Gray, and many more. Shortly after, I joined the Velvetpark magazine upstarts and authored interviews with the likes of Joan Osborne, Patty Griffin, and others, in addition to contributing a regular Aural Fixation column. Despite claiming a hiatus from artist representation, I found a beloved pet project in Natalia Zukerman and offered my services to her beginning in late 2003.
After several years of business development, I formally founded Circle Back Music in 2007 to keep my music ties knotted as a project manager for independent artists. Vonda Shepard, Steven Delopoulos, JD Souther, the Coal Men, Korby Lenker, Joan Jones, April McLean, Will Harrison, and Jason Feller filled the roster. I also staged an ACL Fest showcase featuring Tracy Bonham, supported by Lenker, Feller, and Harrison, and produced three test episodes of Flipside Highway featuring Steven Delopoulos with Katie Herzig, Julie Lee with Ron Block, and k.s. Rhoads with Butterfly Boucher.
For extra karma points, I served as a marketing consultant to several non-profits, producing a benefit concert with Ziggy Marley and Michael Franti & Spearhead for Worth Our Weight along with a series of themed compilation albums for Honor the Earth, Ella Baker Center, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, and Help Hope Live. Tracy Bonham served as my co-producer for the latter’s Songs for a Broken Heart project.
Upon the slimming down of Vp after over five years in print, I donned my writer’s cap and started blogging and copy editing for Showtime’s The L Word spin-off, OurChart.com, covering environmentalism, music, and politics/current events — three of my main passions. There, my Chatting It Up interviews included Amy Ray, Patty Larkin, Catie Curtis, Garrison Starr, Katie Herzig, and a slew of others, while my Kelly Picks a Fight series often found me tossing hot political potatoes. When OC lost its groove in late 2008, we revved the Vp engines back up and I was on board as Senior Editor.
During a short stint of refuge in Santa Fe in early 2009, I teamed up with KBAC-FM’s Honey Harris for a weekly Kelly Does Her Best interview spotlight, bringing in David Poe, Matthew Perryman Jones, Butterfly Boucher, et al. Then, my environmental activism got the better of me and I decided to do more than write about terra firma. So, I undertook a six-month, hands-on adventure to learn more about organic farming — sustainable agriculture and socially conscious living having become something of a life’s calling for me.
Later that year, I began doing regular SEO writing for Oak Web Works’ various sites and contributing occasionally to Gather. In 2011, I bolstered my freelance repertoire with editing and writing for Shareable and contributing the Five Questions series to NoiseTrade by interrogating Brandi Carlile, Josh Garrels, Brooke Waggoner, Josh Rouse, and Matthew Sweet, among others. The following year, I herded a bunch of artists toward my old pal Evan Lowenstein’s new venture, Stageit. Circle Back was also revived and revamped to support Susanna Hoffs‘ various solo and duo (with Matthew Sweet) musical releases.
From 2013 through 2015, I continued writing for Shareable, Velvetpark, and NoiseTrade, expanding my freelancer portfolio to include the VC Reporter, No Depression, PopMatters, Elmore, Curve, Cuepoint, Folk Alley, NPR Music, and the Bluegrass Situation, becoming editorial director of the BGS as of 2016. About half-way through 2016, I started a weekly Facebook Live show called Hangin’ & Sangin’ which is now available as a podcast on iTunes and a radio show on WMOT, KOTO, and other non-commercial stations. On it, I’ve interviewed some of the best artists making roots music today, legends and upstarts, alike, from Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers to Lee Ann Womack, Keb’ Mo’, John Paul White, Johnnyswim, Yola Carter, Courtney Marie Andrews, Will Hoge, Indigo Girls, Chely Wright, Colin Hay, Mary Gauthier, the Lone Bellow, and many more.
My heroes and inspirations include Lao Tzu, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Howard Zinn, Maya Angelou, Michael Pollan, Huston Smith, Bill Moyers, Kahlil Gibran, Jallaludin Rumi, Amy Ray, Paul Watson, J.D. Salinger, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Black Elk, Alice Waters, Rachel Maddow, Dolly Parton, Wendell Berry, Amy Goodman, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ellen DeGeneres, Alice Walker, Jimmy Carter, Rosa Parks, Michael Stipe, Noam Chomsky, Che Guevara, k.d. lang, Naomi Klein, Raymond Carver, Rainer Maria Rilke, Shankara, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Nelson Mandela, and A.A. Milne, among others and in no particular order.