Singer, songwriter and Madison County’s own Gabriel Kelley (aka Gabe Zorbanos) will release his first professional CD, entitled “Light at the Bottom,” on Friday, Sept. 19, at the Melting Point in downtown Athens.
Kelley grew up on a farm in northern Madison County, a place his parents, Pete and Beth Kelley Zorbanos, still call home.
It was on this farm that he was first exposed to the rustic old-time music his parents loved.
Years of attending various “pickin’ parties,” contra dances and bluegrass jam sessions spurred him to begin to write his own special blend of folk/Americana music, incorporating a variety of traditional and modern styles, all of which showcased his love for the sounds of this rural area at the foothills of the Appalachian mountains.
When he was only 16, Kelley had the opportunity to spend a year at the music conservatory in Gothenburg, Sweden. It was this trip, Kelley said, that made him realize that he wanted to devote his life to writing and performing music.
Once back in the Athens area in 2001, he spent his days working with bands in around the local music scene. He enrolled in the University of Georgia and took a semester of classical guitar, which he says only fueled his desire to make music.
So in 2003, he suspended his studies at UGA in favor of a life on the road, playing his music up and down the east coast of the U.S. for the next year and a half, literally living out of his van.
He regards this time as a “tremendous learning experience,” allowing him the time and freedom to refine his music writing skills.
The only missing piece was a band.
That “missing piece” was filled in in the spring of 2005, when Jason Cheek and Will Harrison, both friends from Athens, began performing with him in venues around the southeast. Eventually, the group garnered the attention of Scott Siman, country music star Tim McGraw’s manager. Siman was impressed with Kelley’s songwriting skills and soon signed him to a publishing deal with Stylesonic, McGraw’s own publishing company.
Siman also contacted his friend and former associate Tim McFadden, who currently manages several high profile alternative and American acts. From there, Kelley was signed with Tim McFadden Management.
Kelley and his bandmates are currently residing in Nashville. Kelley continues to write for Stylesonic, as well as performing as part of Gabriel Kelley and the Reins, which now includes band member Stephen King. They are billed as an Americana/alternative country group.
There are six songs on their EP which cover a wide range of influences, Kelley said, from “roots-rock” to a more organic, “polished approach.”
Doors open at 7 p.m. the night of the release; the show starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 in advance, or $8 at the door.
For more information on Gabriel, his band, or his upcoming CD release, go to www.gabrielkelley.com or www.myspace.com/garbrielkelleymusic