Artist Interview: “Brother” by Leo Kelly-Gee

Q: Your lyrical style in “Brother” is absolutely amazing — you show us what having a brother is like through the imagery in your lyrics, from playing in the mud and physically attacking each other to ignoring the other in front of friends. Does a lot of that imagery stem from your childhood?

KELLY-GEE: I think my brother and I had a pretty run-of-the-mill childhood in terms of boys growing up; we were lucky enough to have a garden and so spent a lot of time building things like dens and catapults from bits of wood our dad used to have lying around (he worked as a handyman) and parachutes for lego men. We were also lucky enough to go on holiday quite a bit to Ibiza, where our nan used to live. Ibiza is famous for geckos, as well as being on the mediterranean sea, which is where the line “lizard tails and lazy tides” came from. So yes, I think a lot of the imagery came from my childhood.

Q: “Brother” was written after you left home for the first time, which makes me wonder if this was either your “goodbye letter” to your brother or something to help you and your brother cope with being apart from each other.

KELLY-GEE: Not really, no. I moved away, but I only went to London (we’re from Kent originally), and so I was only an hour or so away on the train. The song was written more as a fond look back at a childhood spent together, although I was going to come home for breaks and holidays etc. it was never really going to be the same as neither of us was going to be living permanently at our childhood home again at the same time (by the time I finished university, he had gone off to university himself). So it was more of a realization of an end of an era than a way of coping with us being apart.


Q: What was the songwriting process like for this song, mentally and emotionally?

KELLY-GEE: Almost all of my songs are guitar-based, to begin with. I came up with the main riff you hear in the song while I was still living at home on my gap year, but I never really found any lyrics that seemed to suit the theme of the song. It was only until after I left home that the line ‘I’ll take your sticks and your stones and build a house in a tree’ came to me, and the rest of the song just sort of took off from there.


Q: How have your family and friends reacted to the song? Specifically your brother. 

KELLY-GEE: Different people have reacted to the song in different ways. I think you can tell by the reaction to the song whether someone has a little brother or not. There’s a way that a younger brother can just push your buttons in a way that no one else can that people who have younger siblings can resonate with. My family really like the line ‘refuse to lose ‘till to the point where it’s pointless to win’ as they think this sums my brother up really well (he was EXTREMELY stubborn growing up). Most importantly, however, my brother likes it (which is saying something as he’s not a huge fan of singer-songwriter music), which is the main thing! 


Q: Not only are you a musician, but you’re also a music teacher. What inspired you to become a music teacher?

KELLY-GEE: Becoming a guitar teacher was something that came about largely due to COVID. I’ve always loved teaching. I worked as a swimming teacher and coach from the age of 14-19, and I worked as a tutor while I was at university as well. I’ve also been teaching guitar on and off since I became president of the Guitar Society at UCL in 2015, but I had never tried to make a living from it.

My main job before the pandemic hit was working as a function musician (which is picking back up again now that restrictions are lifting), but as soon as we went into quarantine, live music and the entire entertainment industry really had the rug pulled out from under it.

So it was really a case of if you work, you eat, and if you don’t work, you don’t. I still wanted my job to be something related to music, and so after a couple of months of trying some other work (manual laboring, gardening, cold-calling, etc.) I took some advice from my own guitar teacher, set up a profile on ‘bark.com’ and started offering my services to people who were looking to either learn guitar or improve on what they’d already learned. It was a little slow at first, but from a standing start in September 2020, I managed to get 30 students by February 2021, and I’ve kept it going ever since.


Q: Thank you so much for your time. We’re looking forward to hearing more of your music in the future. Is there anything you want to say to your listeners out there?

KELLY-GEE: Thanks so much for taking the time to listen to my music! There will be much more where this came from, I promise!

Interviewed by Taylor Berry

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