Kelly Moonstone is a singer and all around talent based out of Queens, New York. You may recognize her voice or name from features she’s done with Navy Blue, NOLAN fka and others, but now she has brought the world her debut project under her new name (she was formerly known as The Afr0dite) last week called I Digress…. On her website, she cites her early influences as Amy Winehouse, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and Phonte, among many, which is apparent on her newest project that has her drawing her sound from the raw and poetic energy of hip-hop and the soulful melodies of R&B. Kelly Moonstone’s music is introspective and bold, and her sound is sharper than ever. I got a chance to talk to her about her new name, the New York music scene, I Digress…, and more.
Tell me about ‘Kelly Moonstone.’ Where did this moniker come from?
Well, I’ve gone by other names in the past. Preceding Kelly Moonstone, I was going by ‘The Afr0dite’ for about 7ish years. When I first decided to use that moniker I had just left a verbally abusive relationship that really wrecked me mentally. I had also just cut off my permed hair and started the natural journey, and was in the process of finding myself. I think.. I just outgrew the name. As I got older it started to become a pain to have to spell out. People were pronouncing it wrong. Getting it wrong on flyers and songs. Also, I’ve learned from experience that having an Afrocentric name tends to have people putting you in a box. I always introduce myself as my own name (Kelly) anyway, so I wanted to be more true to self and authentic. Moonstone is one of my birthstones. I read somewhere it represents new beginnings, and success in love and business endeavors. I want that energy surrounding me. Plus it sounds really cool lol.
When and how did music creation start for you?
My earliest core memory of making music is in 3rd grade. I wrote a poem for some show & tell thing we were doing and when I got up there to present it I just impulsively decided to sing it instead of read it. So I did. When I was finished I noticed the room was quiet and everyone was staring, even the teacher. They were like, in awe lol. Everyone was like “Wow, you can really sing!” I guess it all really started there.
I know you’ve done a few performances around New York, can you tell me a little bit about the local music scene there?
The current NYC music scene is really a bunch of young enterprising people coming up together right now. I’ve done a few shows out here within different social circles and it’s been fun getting to know everybody! First people I remember meeting and connecting with out there were Amani Fela, Malik Abdul-Rahmaan & P.U.D.G.E. Eventually through them, I met more folks like Pink Siifu, Quelle Chris, AKAI SOLO, Diani, KeiyaA, and so many others. Before I knew it 6 or so years had passed. We were all like, kids. Just running around picking up a mic at every opportunity. We’ve all grown so much and I’m so proud. It’s really a sight to behold. I’m not gonna say we’re a monolith, but I think everyone has their own path, on their own time, and that makes it even more beautiful.
You released a single the year before, “Just Another Day,” with Mavi and production by Ovrkast. What’s the story behind that single?
So, that song actually happened kinda randomly. I went to Manhattan Beach Recording that night to visit Mavi and Zay (his manager). I had just dropped in to say what’s up, spend some time. No real expectations. There were a bunch of folks there, they were probably over capacity for the studio rules at the time lol. I think Ovrkast was there just playing some beats and at some point, one of the loops resonated with me. I had this hook I had written for another song a couple years back but never ended up putting out. So I was singing along to it. Mavi fucked with it what I had, so I got in the booth and tried to record it right then & there, but the engineer wasn’t in the room. We were attempting to use the DAW with limited knowledge of the studio set up and it took a while to figure out. Eventually I think the computer crashed. So we set up another day to meet, and we recorded it at our friend Quinton Brock’s crib. His roommate, Corey, who’s also 1/2 of this dope band called Bathe, mixed the record for us and it just became what it was. Pink Siifu was with us that day. I remember drinking soju and playing Mario Kart. It was really fun!
How did the process for I Digress… begin?
I Digress… began in my bedroom, on my bed while I was sick as a dog with strep throat. Lmao. There were no specific influences in mind. I was at a really low place. I was tired, overworked, underpaid, sick from a bunch of things, and mostly just really sad. I was trying to figure out how to get this money by tomorrow (ha!) but nothing seemed to be feasible for me. So, I did what I always do when I’m trying to sort through my feelings: I wrote a song. “Digress” was the first song ever written for the whole project, before I knew it would even be a project. I was just mad. At everything. I wrote about every single thing that was bothering me, just so I could get over it. I even sang it with half healed vocal chords because it was something I NEEDED to expel from my body. I decided to release it in January, just because I wanted to put something out. I hadn’t released any music since the year prior. I had no idea people would respond to it the way they did. Eventually I caught some inspiration and got some help along the way from some amazing producers, and the rest is history.
Can you tell me a little about those producers who made up the project and how you chose these beats?
These beats were acquired over the span of 4-5 months. The first couple I got was from Da-P, who produced Sinner & Take U Home. During this time I also was meeting up with Sage and doing some sessions here and there, working on new music post-WTTS. He had made the beat for ‘Warm’ while we were in the studio, and I recorded a short reference with what little time we had left. I ended up re-recording ‘Warm’ at my own home studio. The beat from Budgie came as a surprise. My manager is cool with him, and they had spoken about him sending me some stuff for I Digress…. When Marvel told me I was so hype! It was definitely a bucket list moment. ‘Got 2 Shine’ is one of my favorites off the project, and Budgie is a fucking legend. I’m so grateful! ‘Burn Your House Down’ was sent over by Tee-Watt, who collabed with DILIP on that beat. It was the last song I wrote for the project. Definitely an 11th hour type thing. So glad it made the cut! Feels like it was there all along, wouldn’t have it any other way. Tee-Watt held it down for sure. ‘Baby Hairs’ is the oldest song, at least 3-4 years old. I had created it when I was still going by Afr0dite. Marvel loves it, so he suggested we re-release it. DEC is an online friend from Australia I made some years back. He sent me a bunch of really dope beats at one point. Baby Hairs is just one of the products of our earlier collaboration. I’m so glad I was able to include him on this, because he’s so talented. I want more people to know who he is!
What feeling do you want your listeners to be left with after listening to I Digress…?
I want my listeners to know that everything is temporary. Almost everything we feel and experience is so fleeting. Whether it be how we feel about a romantic relationship, what we want out of life, our ideals, our current problems/issues/roadblocks. Life can change in an instant! If you told me I’d be doing any of what I’m doing right now 6 months ago I would’ve laughed. It didn’t even seem remotely possible to me back then. It hasn’t even been a full year and I’ve been blessed beyond measure so many times. My heart is so full, and I think it’s because I made the choice to move on from my previous mindset. I Digress… represents pushing past whatever’s holding you back. Divesting from the bullshit and embracing what’s next.
You’re about to go on tour with Navy Blue and Zeroh. Have you been on tour before? Are you looking forward to touring?
This is actually my first time touring. Also will be my first time overseas. I’ve only ever been to my parents’ home country (Jamaica) so I’m sooooooooooooo frickin’ excited!!!! Sage inviting me on this journey is such a dream. We’ve grown so close since Ways of Knowing. He’s like a brother to me now. Such a sweet, genuine, kind person. Zeroh and I haven’t met in person yet, but we’ve spoken before and he seems like a really great guy. Love his sound. I think the shows are gonna be such a unique and intimate experience. Traveling together, learning about each other and sharing experiences. Making new fans, meeting longtime friends from the interwebs. I’m pumped. I’ll also be turning 28 in London, in the hours following the biggest show on the whole tour. I’m still processing it all. I feel like I’m gonna be on a different kind of mental high lol. I can barely put it into words. I just feel so blessed.
Any final comments? Quick words for listeners of your music or like maybe an album recommendation or something you’ve been listening to recently?
Stream Ways of Knowing by Navy Blue. Stream I Digress…. Listen to some Brazilian funk. Eat your veggies. Do your best even when it’s hard. Love ya! xo
Kelly Moonstone is currently on tour with Navy Blue and Zeroh through June 27. You can purchase tickets here.