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Showbox Presents
The Weakness Tour

Ruston Kelly

with Richy Mitch and the Coal Miners

Artist Information

Beforesetting to work on his third album,Ruston Kelly moved out of his Nashville home andinto
an oldVictorian bungalow inthesmallTennesseetownof Portland, thenspent monthson end in
deliberate solitude. As he busied himself with remodeling his house andtearing through a stack of
John Steinbeck novels, the South Carolina-born singer/songwriterbeganprocessing a number of
life-altering changes he’denduredover the past year, including a very public divorceas well asmajor
upheavalinhis immediate family.“I felt a real need tounderstandmyselfa littlebetter, and to
rediscoverthe true foundation of who I am,”says Kelly, who candidly detailed his struggle with
drugaddiction onhis 2018full-lengthdebutDying Star.Pushing forward with theintenselyself-
awaretruth-tellinghe’s always brought tohismusic,Kelly soonimmersed himself in the makingof
The Weakness: ablisteringlyhonestbut profoundly hopeful albumthatultimatelyrevealsourvast
potential to createstrengthandbeautyfrom the most painful of experiences.

“With every record I make,I learn so much about myself and who I am as a human and what type
of manI want to be,” says Kelly.“In a way it’s a form of self-help, or like I’m building a fort against
a lesser version of myself.Thenthe goal from there is to just keepongrowing.”

The follow-up toShape & Destroya 2020 releasethat earned acclaim from outlets like NPR, who
alsohailedDying Staras “a brutal thing of beautyThe Weaknessfinds Kelly straying from themore
self-contained approach of his previous outputand working with producer/songwriter/multi-
instrumentalistNate Mercereau(Sharon Van Etten,Leon Bridges,MaggieRogers).“The way I’d
always worked in the past is that the song comes first, and the production helpstoliftitsmeaning
and intent,” Kelly explains. “Butthis timethere wasamuch greaterfocus on creating a sonic
atmospherethat speaks just as loudlyand feels just as emotional as thelyrics and voice.”Recorded
at Mercereau’sStudio Tujunga in Los Angeles,The Weaknesscame to life in a series ofclose-knit
sessions with Kelly mainly handlingacoustic and electric guitar andMercereauplayingover a dozen
instruments (includingMellotron, flute, French horn,autoharp,fretless bass, violin,harmonium,
mandolin, and more).“I knew from the beginning that I wanted a large sound for thisrecordI
remember telling Nate at one point that I wanted itto sound like a storm brewing ina big empty
field,” says Kelly, who namesDaniel Lanois’s work with Bob Dylan as a touchstone forThe
Weakness.Abolddeparture from theelegantsimplicityof his first two albums, the result is a
kaleidoscopicsonic backdropbeautifully suited toThe Weaknessimmensescope of feeling.

OpeningThe Weaknesson apotentburstofenergy, the album’s title trackemerged fromamoment
ofcatharticself-reflectiontypical of Kelly’swritingprocess. “I startedworking onthat song and the
refrain just kept coming to me: ‘We don’t give in to the weakness,’” he recalls.“Theoverallnarrative
of the record is that there’s a variety of weaknessesthatI need to deal with, anda variety of
strengthsthatI need to bolster. I trulydobelieve that acknowledging your weaknesses anddigging
deeperto understand yourselfgoes hand-in-handwithbecoming a greater human being.”Driven by
Kelly’srawyetgracefulvocal work, “The Weakness”unfoldswith agloriouslybrooding intensity
thatperfectly echoesits spirit ofgrittyperseverance.“I’ve always wanted to do abig rocksong that
feels like it would completely destroy an arena, and I’m really proudthatwe were able to assimilate
that into all the different sounds we were exploring on this record,”Kellynotes.

The first track that Kelly completed forThe Weakness, “Mending Song”helped to spark thefree-
flowingcreativitythatultimatelyfueledall hissongwriting for the album. Although he penned most
ofthe LP at home in Portland, “Mending Song” took shape during a solo trip to Joshua Tree. “I
rented this little cabin out on 22 acres, just me and the coyotes, and ended up checking outashop
nearby andbuying a baritone ukulele,” he says. “I remember thinking, ‘This is sostupidI’m trying
 
to be that guy, going out to some cabin and writing my opus. Why don’t I just have some fun?’”
Once he’d loosened up, Kelly came up with ajanglyukulele riff and opening lyric thatsoongave
way to theautobiographicalstorytelling of “Mending Song” (from the first verse: “Something grew
up twisted in me/Ripping all the seams/But I was mended by the love of my momma/To fight the
devils down in me”).Threaded withsweetlyetherealtonessculpted throughMercereau’suse of
guitar-based synth,Mending Song”was built from avoice-note demo recordedin Kelly’s L.A.
hotel room, amplifying itsunfetteredemotionto sublime effect.“You can hear thedryer running in
thebackground, butthere’s something really special about the feel of that recording,”saysKelly.

Anotherbreakthrough for Kelly, “Let Only Love Remain” marks the first song writtenabout the
dissolution of his marriage.“For methe pain of divorce wassimilar to quitting drugs but somehow
way more intense,” he says. “Even though druguse is tragic and takes many lives and dulls many
spirits,I somehow always had the hope that Iwould healfrom that. But with this experience,there
was no rhyme or reasonI couldn’t make sense of it, andfor a long timeI felt physically incapable
of writing about it.”Aquietlyluminous track laced withheavenly French horn, “Let Only Love
Remain”arrives as a heavy-heartedmeditation on love’simmutability(“And we can take all the
days/Filled with pain that we wasted/And rolleminto one/But it still wouldn’t measure/Up to
what’s forever/A love that cannot be undone”).“In the end my divorce taught me more than it
wounded me,” says Kelly. “I didn’t want to make a divorce record, butit was important to me tosay
what I needed to say while also making sure to protect her heart.”

Initsendlessexcavationofhistroublesand demons,The Weaknessalsooffers upsongs like
“Breakdown,”an incandescentpiece of alt-popgraced with crystalline beats andKelly’sachingly
delicatevocalwork.“I wrote that at a time when there was a lot going on with my family and Iwas
tryingto be there for them,but I felt stretchedsothin,” he says. “The song came from me admitting
I’m not superhuman, and somehowjustsaying that out loudmade me feelmore capable of handling
the pressure.”On “St. Jupiter,”with itsshimmering textures and swooning slide guitar, Kellybrings
a bit of poetry to hisexpression oflonging andregret. “In the second verse there’s a reference to a
daywhenwe were at the garden shop and it was so hot and I was just over it, andthere was an
argument,” he says.“Thatpartin the song is about looking back and recognizing, ‘Maybe I
should’ve just shut my mouth and let you buy those pots you wanted.’”And onthewildlyanthemic
“Michael Keaton,” Kelly spins another real-life incident intothealbum’s mostfantastically offbeat
moment (from the chorus: “It’s 3:35 in the morning/And I thought CBD would not get me
high/But here I am thinking/What if Michael Keaton killed himself inMultiplicity?/Would that be
genocide?”).“That really did happen, but the song’smostly about experimenting with what it means
to be me,” says Kelly. “At the time I was trying to date again and eventuallyrealizedthat I needed to
step back from that, andjustlet myselflivein that space ofthinkingweird stony thoughts at 3 a.m.”

By the timeThe Weaknesscloses out with the hymnlikeresolutionofCold Black Mile,” Kelly has
made his way to aradiant sense of conviction and courage(“And I might die a 1000 times/But I
know I can survive/I’ll just keep on pushing down/The cold black mile”).Avoraciousreader, he
points to apassagefromJ.R.R. Tolkien’sThe Return of the Kingincontemplatingthe album’s
underlyingmessage: “His grief he will not forget; but it will not darken hisheart, it will teach him
wisdom.” “To me that sumsup everything about this record:the idea thatyou caneitherfall under
the pain oryou canstand on top ofit, andthenend upbecominga stronger person,”Kellysays.“I
hopethis music helpspeopletobecomethe hero of their own livesby understanding their own
weaknessesa little better,” he adds. “AndI hope it helps themtosee that tragedy, however it
manifests for you,doesn’tever have to be the period at the end of the sentence.”
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*Service and handling fees are added to the price of each ticket.
  • Sat, May 6, 2023
  • The Showbox
  • 9:00 PM
  • $25.00
  • All Ages to Enter, 21 & Over to Drink
  • Buy Tickets