Native son to play fair with Erik Bledsoe

Published 12:51 am Tuesday, October 13, 2015

When the contemporary Christian artist Erik Bledsoe takes the stage in the Covington Center Arena Wednesday night as part of the Kiwanis Covington County Fair, there will be a very familiar face on stage.

Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley

Andalusia native Michael Kelley plays guitar for Bledsoe.

Kelley is pursuing a degree in religion and the arts at Belmont University in Nashville, a degree he chose with the thought of becoming a youth minister. His classes are focused on the Bible and Christian theology, and the art portion is classical piano. In the middle, he said, are classes about faith and pop culture, and faith and the arts.

“The things I study are really my favorite things to think about and talk about,” Kelley said, “Theology, and the way in which Christians engage in popular culture.

“I chose the major, thinking I would work in the church one day; probably as youth minister,” he said. “But it has opened my eyes to realize I can glorify God in my talent in any way.”

At present, that means touring with Bledsoe, working with a Christian rock group, Brave Town, and leading youth worship services at his church in Nashville.

“I’ve known Erik for probably seven years now,” Kelley said. “I met him at a camp I went to in high school. He became a mentor for me.

“When I moved to Nashville, we started having lunch meetings, and I would go see him and his family.

“He’s been touring for 10-plus years,” Kelley said. “He had a guitar player leave this summer, and he called me up. I was like ‘Heck, yea. I’d love to.’ ”

Kelley said his professors have been very understanding about the time he needs to spend on the road.

“My teachers have been pretty awesome,” he said. “It is my job, basically. I am doing a Christian thing through music and art. They totally understand and support me.”

His other group, Brave Town, is comprised of friends he met at Belmont.

“We have been playing three years, and we’ve recorded several EP (extended plays). We’ve put out a new CD, and are looking for tour dates.”

Those who attend Wednesday night’s performance can expect to hear some of Bledsoe’s original work, as well as popular worship songs.

While Kelley’s major and original instrument is piano, he finds more demand for guitar these days.

“Piano has done so much for me,” he said. “I started (lessons) with Martha Givhan in Andalusia in the sixth grade. It has really provided a basis for all of my musical study and given me a really strong foundation for everything else.”

In his free time, he enjoys hiking.

“Tennessee has some of the most beautiful landscape, both hills and waterfalls,” he said. “But music’s a big one. It’s my hobby, my job, my subject of study.”

Kelley is the son of Keith and Donna Nichols Kelley, and the great-grandson of Lena Bell Morgan, all of Andalusia.

The group will perform at 7 Wednesday night.

Admission to the fair covers entry to the concert, which is sponsored by Covington Electric Cooperative.