In conversation: Kell Chambers, singer-songwriter and open mic host

24th October 2019

Melancholic. Ethereal. Brooding. Kell Chambers bares all when he picks up his guitar and leaves you in no doubt you’re witnessing something, and someone, special. One of life’s good guys, the York-based singer-songwriter has been at the helm at Kennedy’s open mic night for most of 2019, taking it from initial idea to the big hit it is today. We chat to Kell about his aspirations for the night, along with his own music, and why he thinks it’s important to be a cheerleader for fellow up-and-coming artists.

York has arguably been spoilt for choice for open mic nights over the last 10 years. Where does Kennedys fit in?

York’s a great City for Open Mics! The very best I’ve seen on my travels, and the open mics here all welcomed me as a musician, allowing me to pursue my career in doing what I love!

Kennedy’s is an amazing place too that caters for the community - supporting and encouraging local people no end. The staff are a credit to the building and the owners are the friendliest. Who wouldn’t want to get involved?!

I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of it all. I really strive to create a sense of community at my open mic.

Is it an open invitation to come down and play?

If you’re an aspiring musician or just enjoy playing, this place will welcome you with open arms. The regulars that come down create this amazing warm feeling every week and they’re all great at what they do!

If you just fancy coming to watch, as many do, then there is a great amount of space for socialising by the bar.

Kennedy’s runs every Thursday 21:00 until late. The best thing to do is get in touch with me and book a time slot for the night, although we’re very flexible and can fit in walk-ins too.

What’s your favourite thing about seeing a performer get up from the crowd and sing?

My favourite thing about seeing someone take the leap is the progress they make. Throughout the nine months since I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen some astonishing development. The performers who have been coming regularly and putting themselves out there are seriously improving and, more importantly, enjoying their music, and for me that is so rewarding!

You play a few tunes on the night too. Can you tell us about your own background in music?

I play whenever there’s space!

I’ve been playing music for the last four years. I started off when I was at University; my housemate taught me the basics on guitar. Since then it’s been two years of exploring the great number of open mics that York has to offer, and the next two now gigging and running events.

I’m also in the process of starting a new band and will be announcing it very shortly. So keep your eyes peeled!

Who are your influences? And what song makes you cry?

My main influences in music are Ben Howard and Bon Iver. I’m a sucker for poetry and their lyrics are so beautifully written and thought provoking, they inspire me to write every day.

Will Varley is one of my favourite artists and his song “From Halcyon” really hits me and has me blubbing nostalgic tears.

Your previous songs have gained a lot of airtime. What have you got in the pipeline?

Yeah! Jericho Key’s over at BBC Introducing York is really great and supportive. It’s really great to have such a friendly face over at the local radio station.

Next in the pipeline is the new band! But you’ll see us announcing soon enough if you follow me on my socials.

You can often be found busking on York’s streets too. How do you find playing for passers-by versus gig goers?

Busking is great! Finding the time to do so has been tough recently but it’s such a great way to spend the day. It’s such a good feeling having people stop and watch and taking time out of their busy day to share a smile or a conversation. Gigs are great for that too as York really does support music. But I’d say what’s great about Kennedy’s is the different musicians that are also happy to jam along with performers. Jack Radish is an incredible pianist and is a part of the furniture here now and always happy to play along.

And finally, where can people find out more about your music?

If you want to check out my music then you can find me on Instagram, Facebook and Spotify.

If you’d like to take to the stage at Kennedy’s open mic night or just want to find out more, then please do get in touch with Kell via one of his pages above.

Photo courtesy of Maddison Paige