Bio written by: Chas Justus and Roger Kash
Photography: Olivia Perillo
Music has been a central part of Kelli Jones' life since birth: her father, highly respected roots musician and songwriter Carl Jones, fondly remembers spotting tiny Kelli asleep in the soft lining of a guitar case while he performed onstage. Although they lived in Durham, North Carolina, much of Kelli's formative years were spent on the road. She followed her dad to concerts, dances, and music festivals, and before long she was joining in with him on fiddle, vocals, and guitar. Some children have band practice or piano lessons, but as a small child, Kelli Jones was making music and gaining practical experience, not only with her father but with many musicians in the extended family of the roots music community.
Kelli also became an accomplished percussive dancer, and at age 14 was discovered by leader and choreographer Sharon Leahy of the highly-regarded dance company, Rhythm in Shoes. Rhythm in Shoes’ choreography drew from an extensive palette of dance traditions ranging from mountain Flatfooting to Tap, and was always performed to music played by a versatile live band fluent in a number of genres. While touring with the ensemble, Kelli would not only see the world, but also gain invaluable experience as a performer and professional entertainer.
One of the places and cultures that Kelli would be exposed to and inspired by in her youth would be that of Southwest Louisiana - and when she graduated from high school in Durham, she enrolled in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where she would earn a degree in dance. While in college Kelli became immersed in Cajun culture and helped support herself by playing fiddle and singing for local Cajun dances, all the while continuing to perform her own original material at local venues.
After graduating from college, Kelli, along with accordionist/vocalist Drew Simon and vocalist/guitarist Megan Brown, formed the group T`Monde. T’Monde quickly gained a following by combining a traditional Cajun sound with sophisticated arrangements and vocal harmonies. Each of their three albums, including the most recent release, “Lights in the Harbor,” continue to change people’s perception of what a Cajun trio is capable of.
In 2013 Kelli was asked to join the immensely talented young Cajun band Feufollet, a group renowned for leading the vanguard of new Louisiana music. The members of Feufollet, still in their early to mid-twenties, were already seasoned veterans of the music scene, having formed when founding member Chris Stafford was just ten years old. Also a young seasoned veteran, Kelli would prove to be the perfect fit for this group that has earned a reputation for continuously pushing the boundaries of Louisiana music. This is strikingly evident on their first album to feature Kelli as a member - the critically acclaimed “Two Universes,” for which Kelli contributed the lion's share of original material, in both French and English. Her compositions, along with her compelling vocals and confident fiddling, have helped assure Feufollet's place as one of the most creative, dynamic exports of the rich South Louisiana music scene.
Since her arrival in Louisiana in 2006, Kelli has also worked extensively with Grammy Award winning producer and master musician Joel Savoy. Over the years, Kelli and Joel have worked on countless recording projects. Many of these have been released on Joel’s own record label, Valcour Records - including their 2018 duo EP “Toi, Tu Joues à l’amour.” Their latest collaborative effort to date finds Joel producing and engineering Kelli’s much anticipated debut solo project.
As Kelli continues to maintain a busy touring and recording schedule with numerous projects, she is currently focused on bringing her uniquely original songs and voice to the forefront with her long-awaited solo album debut, set for release in the spring of 2020. Considering her artistic trajectory thus far – it surely has been a long time coming.