Kelley Anderson & the Crystal Shrine Play Shangri-La's 30th Anniversary


It's fitting that this Thursday's celebration of Shangri-La Records' 30th Anniversary, at the Levitt Shell, will feature an artist whose first glimpse of Memphis was in the store itself. Kelley Anderson was a key player in the Nashville folk/country/punk group Those Darlins, starting about a decade ago, and, having first played here on Shangri-La's porch, felt such a strong affinity for Memphis that she ended up moving here permanently. In recent years, she's been known for the country/western/rock/pop sounds of her group, the Crystal Shrine. I asked her a bit about the evolution of the group, and where they're headed musically.

Memphis Flyer: It seems you'll have a bigger version of the band than ever at Thursday's show, with Jana Misener and Krista Wroten Combest on cello and violin, Jesse Davis on guitar, Seth Moody on keyboards, Andrew Geraci on bass, and drummer Matthew Berry. Is this a new lineup for the Crystal Shrine?

Kelley Anderson - JAMIE HARMON
  • Jamie Harmon
  • Kelley Anderson

Kelley Anderson: It's not really a new lineup. The rock band that plays with me, I've played with them quite a bit, as well as with Jana and Krista. But this show is the first opportunity to finally put the whole band together: to have the rock band with strings added, and to have a little bit wider instrumentation. Because I have a really good rapport and history playing with Seth and Jesse. Those are my bros. And the same with Krista and Jana. We did the Harbor Town Amphitheater fund-raiser for the Montessori School last March, and we did that as a trio, and we've performed a couple other times as a trio. And then more recently, I've added Andrew Geraci and Matthew Berry as my consistent bass and drums.

This Levitt Shell show has been really instrumental in helping pull together some of those loose ends and really inspire me to get all of it together. I've been really focused on writing, and really focused on the music, and making art music, and not as much on delivery, or marketing, or publicity. You know, all of that business. It's so cool that Shangri-La asked me to play for their 30th anniversary, because one of the first shows that I ever played in Memphis was on the porch there. It may have been the first show Those Darlins played in Memphis, on the porch at Shangri-La. And that was 10 years ago. So I'm super proud of them for keeping everything running. I firmly believe in the importance of having a local record store in your community, and the ways the store supports the community and the way the community supports the store. It's an integral part of the music community in Memphis. I'm super proud of all the work that Jared McStay and John Miller and crew are doing over there.
Crystal Shrine as a trio, with (l-r) Jana Misener, Kelley Anderson, & Krista Wroten Combest. - JAMIE HARMON
  • Jamie Harmon
  • Crystal Shrine as a trio, with (l-r) Jana Misener, Kelley Anderson, & Krista Wroten Combest.

You've been working with the Crystal Shrine for some time now. Has the sound evolved in new directions with all these players?

I'm exploring a lot of similar themes, such as redemption and guilt, oppression and liberation, salvation, grace, forgiveness. I've been recording some music over at High Low, so I've got some new stuff in the works. But no rush to get a ton of it out there. I just got two of the mixes mastered, and I've got the new track "Benny" uploaded to my Bandcamp site. All proceeds from the track go to Youth Empowerment through Arts & Humanities (YEAH!), an organization I founded in 2006 to amplify the voices of young people. It's the organization that provides the Southern Girls Rock 'n' Roll Camp.

I also do more experimental pieces, like this take on the folk song "Worried Man Blues." I loop the song on a nylon folk guitar and layer harmonies and manipulate the song using a 4-track and pedals. I performed it at Marshall Arts and my friend sent a video he took with his iPhone. Then I manipulated the video to reiterate the time travel aspect and duality of past/present idea I was trying to work out through the audio.

I'm just writing songs, and whatever the song needs is the instrumentation. I'm thinking of it kinda song first. It's got kind of a Southern psychedelic vibe to it. Kind of Spaghetti Western, like Morricone. I'm really interested in film and making music for films, and also using a lot of visual elements with music. In fact, film maker Brian Pera and I have a residency at Crosstown Arts starting next fall. We'll be using some of this material that I'm currently recording, and working on images and video pieces to go with it.

So was it a conscious decision on your part to move away from the sound of Those Darlings?

Not as much the sound of Those Darlins, because I still have all of those same influences. Everything from traditional country music to psychedelic rock 'n' roll to noise music and experimental forms of music. It was more a conscious decision to move away from the industry. Nashville's very much a music industry town, and Memphis is a music town. And I really wanted to explore music as an artist, and not think of it so commercially.

It's been useful for me to disentangle the two, and not think about commercial viability or how it's gonna get marketed, or any of that. Ultimately, I'd love for people to hear it, and use those opportunities in any way I can to support other aspects of the community, or lift up voices that are marginalized. And I think when you're not as focused on it commercially, sometimes that can allow you to do that more.

And Memphis has been really receptive and wonderful. There are lots of weirdos and people doing outsider art and music here. And I appreciate that energy and that undercurrent. And the amount of support that everyone has provided. There's so many opportunities to collaborate with people. More projects than you ever would possibly have time for. 

Those Darlins
  • Those Darlins

Part of that goes back to ten years ago, and Those Darlins playing in Memphis. I mean, Memphis really embraced us, whereas Nashville was just confused by us. So this really felt like a second home, and at times like a first home for us and for our music and for our vibe and energy. I recall always feeling very accepted here, and have been in love with Memphis for a long time. And so, getting to actually reside here and work and collaborate with other people in the Memphis music community has been a real blessing.

It's really special and an honor to collaborate with Krista and Jana. They're exceptional musicians in their own right. But the ultimate goal was always to bring it together under one roof, and have this larger instrumentation. This is the first gig opportunity that has provided the stage and the resources that would accommodate that size of a group. That band lineup doesn't really work at Bar DKDC, you know? And I can't say enough about Shangri-La sponsoring and underwriting the show and making those resources available.

I'm also very grateful to the Memphis music community, and to the Levitt Shell and people who have revitalized that space, and people that support live music there. And Shangri-La is a big part of that community. It's all very connected for me. And I'm very grateful to get to play on the same stage that so many historical, amazing musical acts have performed on. That's a real treat and a real honor.

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