Meet Bridget Kelly--the gorgeous and feisty New York native known for killing the live performance of “Empire State of Mind” with Jay-Z .
Now six years after being one of the first signees on Roc Nation in 2008, Bridget has left the label, and let's just say that being an independent artist sure looks good on her.
Doing the infamous "big chop” after her label breakup, Kelly went from being a long-haired brunette to a pixie cut blonde, and her music is also reflecting her newly found confidence. She recently released her new EP, Summer of 17--an ode to a simpler, more carefree time in her life.
Kelly tells xoNecole that she’s the happiest and most at peace that she’s ever been. As she approaches 30, she’s still the life of the party and is the voice of reason for women to know it’s okay to still enjoy life without the pressures of marriage or kids.
Whether you’re an aspiring artist or you’re just trying to figure out what comes next, get your tissues ready because Kelly’s story is a real tear jerker! As she prepares to take Summer of 17 on tour in the UK as well as the east coast, learn how leaving Roc Nation was liberating professionally as well as the chance for her to be in control of creating the life she’s always envisioned for herself as an artist.
What do you now know about yourself that you didn’t know when you were seventeen?
The biggest mistake that I’ve consistently made throughout my adolescence and early 20s is I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t trust my intuition, and I let too many people sway me in different directions; I was really malleable. I gave a lot of people the benefit of the doubt of knowing what was best for me. I now trust myself and I know that it’s okay to go through a trial and error process, but at least I have the peace of mind and the confidence to make a choice that I know at some point whether now, or later is going to be beneficial for me.
In an interview with The Breakfast Club, you said, “At 29, I rather be poppin' bottles instead of poppin' out babies.” Most women feel pressured to be married and have kids by age 30. How have you taken that pressure off of yourself?
I would be lying if I said that at some point I don’t want to have a family. The pressure is definitely there, but I’ve found that I’ve always been a late bloomer within my circle of friends. I can take pride in the fact that I’ve made decisions that have worked for me. I recently went on a bachelorette trip and three out of the five girls were engaged or married. I like being the single fun girl. I wouldn’t say I’m the life of the party all the time, but a lot of times I am and I think that’s okay. People can be themselves and have a good time around me and I rather eternalize that than focus on the assumption that I’m “lacking” something.
[Tweet "Not having a man or a husband doesn’t mean you “lack” anything. "]
I think that’s the unfortunate stigma about being in your 30s as well as your 40s. A lot of women seek validation from a relationship. If I’m not validated by any of the amazing things that I’ve accomplished or all of the things that I’m doing for myself, a boyfriend or a husband isn’t going to validate me. So I’m not actively pursuing it.
Your new single “Act Like That” with Mack Wilds will be every woman’s new anthem. How does your thoughts on men and love translate to your music?
I love being in love. However, if something doesn’t work out or happen for me in the timeframe that I want it to, I’ve learned to just let it go. I now take a less intense approach to relationships because I want it to feel natural; I want it to be a normal progression.
I’m a control freak by nature so typically I would drive the relationship, but I’m at a point in my life where it needs to be on cruise control. Summer of Seventeen was really special for me because conceptually I felt like I was back to being a teenager again. I want to be able to flirt and feel the butterflies and the romance of a new relationship. “Act Like That” with Mack Wilds is the battle of the sexes. As a woman, there’s nothing wrong with knowing what you want and being able to navigate your way through it.
You’ve mentioned that you left Roc Nation after six years because you felt your career had reached a plateau. When you’re a new artist how do you find a balance of speaking up for yourself and what you want for your career as opposed to falling back and doing whatever the label and the executives think is best?
New artists should understand and accept that most people aren’t out for your best interest because at the end of the day, this is a business. You can lose sight of that when you get caught up in the industry and in the process of trying to make an album. People still have this delusion that when they get signed they’re about to make a million dollars and life a certain kind of unrealistic lifestyle and it doesn’t work like that.
New artists should know, no one is against you but most people are out for self, they want to make sure they’re going to win. So you have to be very clear and concise with your team and make sure everyone is on the same page with your execution. What’s missing in the process now with labels and artists is development. They want to sign a total package. They don’t want to sign you then have to help you figure it out. Labels expect you to come to the table already prepared and that’s really difficult when you’re young and you may not know who you are as a person.
But if you know yourself, you know what you want to say and you know the power of your voice then any scenario you’re placed in, people will either take what you have or they won’t. The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was from Lady Gaga. She said.
[Tweet "'Stop asking questions and start making statements!'"]
When you make statements, people have no choice but to embrace and absorb what you’re bringing to the table or they can walk away from it but ultimately what you’ve created, people have to respond to and that’s the power of being an artist.
You’ve said you’ve gained more confidence in the past 10 months as an independent artist than you had in six years at Roc Nation. How did you know it was time for you to leave?
I finally began to trust myself. I felt like it was time for me to go maybe a year or two prior to me actually making the move, but I was scared. As an artist, when you’re attached to something for so long, it’s kind of like being in a relationship in the public eye, when you want to part ways and be your own entity, there’s a lot of fear associated with that. I wondered if people were going to accept me, are they going to care? Are they going to judge me and think I’m crazy for walking away from Roc Nation? I was paralyzed by that fear for about a year. With the execution of my last EP, Cut to Bridget Kelly, it wasn’t at all how I wanted things to go and I realized it was no longer my dream or my vision that I was living; I was just going through the motions. I remember Jay-Z saying to me, 'When you stop having fun, it’s time to quit.’ And I definitely wasn’t having fun. I felt like I was begging to release music, begging to get in the studio or get on tour and nothing was going how I wanted it to go.
Granted, initially I wasn’t being as proactive because I was expecting other people to do it for me, which led to me being unhappy. So when the time came for me to leave and have that conversation, everyone was on the same page. It took a lot of pressure off me because everyone was really supportive of me. It was probably the most amicable breakup I’ve ever had!
But don’t get it twisted after I left, I absolutely hit rock bottom. I went through months where I didn’t know what I wanted to do next.
I didn’t know how I wanted to sound or who was going to want to work with me. I really went into a slump and the relationship that I was in for four years came to an end, which was partially my fault because when I was really unhappy, I pushed him away. I also parted ways with the management team I started with nine years ago. So at that point, I had no label, I had no man and no management. I remember thinking if one room is on fire, I’m just going to burn the whole house down! That was the moment when most people would have been like, ‘Enough. I’m going to quit. It didn’t work out for me. I can walk away from everything and start my life over.’ Within that time I got called to headline a show in London and it sold out, the line was around the corner.
Removing myself from my environment here and being able to go to a different country where no one knew what I was going through personally--I was falling apart--but to have people connect to me and my performance reaffirmed where I was supposed to be. I hired a new team, started working my album and I starting writing again, which I hadn’t done in a year. I started working out again and eating better. I began seeking things that made me feel good as opposed to trying to fill voids.
The filing of voids is what got me in trouble in the first place, I was just doing everything that came across my path but nothing felt like me anymore so I got back to doing things that were really fulfilling.
While you were going through your transition, how did you maintain your mental health and positive self-image?
Working out and being fit is more for my mental health than anything else. I have stretch marks and cellulite, but I don't care!
Going to the gym, sweating and being able to push myself to be better than I was the day before is powerful. I’m continually recognizing my power day by day, because it’s still a struggle. I'm an independent artist.
[Tweet "I know a lot of people have counted me out but I wake up everyday and I fight."]
Things aren’t perfect, but I think I’m the happiest and the most at peace that I’ve ever been.
I’m more confident than ever because I know that everything that’s happening around me is what I’m building. I’m not reactionary anymore, I’m proactive. Everything that’s going on in my life, either I made a decision to put myself here or I’m reacting differently. I now know who I am. If someone had asked me five years ago where I thought I would be today, I would have never guess here but there’s a lot of beauty in every aspect of the journey.
You recently switched up your style from being a long haired brunette to being a blonde with a pixie cut! For your new fans, who is Bridget Kelly and what’s the message behind your music?
Be free and happy!
The stigma that gets attached to you when you do soulful R&B music, is that you’re this love scorned, bitter, broken hearted woman all the time and you’re just struggling to be loved and I’m not that girl.
I’ve had those moments but that’s not what I embody. That’s not the essence of who I am. Sonically, my music is soulful; it’s coming from a place of pain and it’s also coming from a place of victory and I’m proud of that.
When you were seventeen, how did you go about getting your record deal? With such an influx of social media, it can be overwhelming for an aspiring artist to figure out what platform they want to use to get notice, what would you advise them to do?
At 17, I was performing at any open mic that would have me. I brought a speaker and a microphone and I went down to the L train station in NYC where I would sing, pass out CDs and ‘I heart B.K.’ t-shirts. Ultimately, because I went to a performing arts high school, those connections helped me get my foot in the door. One of my classmates was interning at Def Jam, she met someone who was looking for an artist. I recorded a demo and within two years, we had a direct contact to someone at Roc Nation. The label had just started and it was me, J.Cole and Rita Ora.
For new artists, you can post your music on every social media outlet but most importantly, you still have to be able to perform live. If you can put on a good show, people will gravitate towards that. There’s a saying that people will never forget how you made them feel. Good performances are influential; once you can capture someone’s attention in that way, you’re on the right track.