Judah finally finds his voice by returning to country roots
THERE was never any doubt in Judah Kelly's mind that his next album after The Voice would be a country album.
Straight after winning the reality singing show's title last year, Kelly released his winner's album which peaked at No.3 on the ARIA Albums Chart.
But the 21-year-old considers his upcoming album Real Good Time, out next Friday, October 5, to be his true debut release.
"The first album was The Voice winner dude doing The Voice winner's album, but this one is more me making my first album," he says.
"We had a lot more time as well.
"The first album from beginning to end took 10 days, whereas this time I started in November (last year) looking for songs and we recorded through May.
"We just took our time and obviously that gave the songs a chance to breathe a bit more."
Kelly and producer Matt Fell, who also produced Count On Me, put the call out to country songwriters all over the world.
"I'm not really fussed on where the songs come from or if I write them or not. I just want good songs," he says.
"I just sat and waited until something hit me.
"Everything I got on an emotional level. It wasn't just 'This sounds good and it will sell a lot'.
"It was all songs that had some sort of meaning behind them.
"(The title track) Real Good Time is definitely one of my favourites.
"To me. it's not about going out and partying all the time but what we want to do.
"The goal is to have a real good time playing music and going out and meeting people."
The album blends country ballads with touches of rock, blues and soul.
"I call it a country album," Kelly says.
"Country music is where I want to be.
"I'm definitely a country singer but growing up, I listened to a lot of Motown and Stevie Wonder and that kind of stuff influences the way I sing and play music, too."
Kelly is the most successful Voice artist since inaugural winner Karise Eden.
But life as a solo artist after the reality show has been tricky to navigate.
"You're on people's TVs every week and then you take that away and the attention drops," he says.
"The majority of people don't go out of their way to find out what you're doing, so most of them assume - because it's not right in front of them - that you're doing nothing.
"That's been hard, trying to get through that."
He sums up those feelings in the song Nothing Makes Sense, which he co-write on the album with Peter James Harding, who penned his Voice winner's song Count On Me.
"There was a big shift after winning The Voice," Kelly says.
"All I'd ever done was play guitar for other people and scrape a few dollars together to pay for the fuel.
"All of a sudden, I was the winner of The Voice and and I was able to afford decent things.
"But along with that came a lot of pressure. People said 'Other Voice winners haven't done so well, what are you going to do?'
"I didn't know what I was going to do, but I knew that music made sense."
When Kelly hits the road in October, his live shows will trace his evolution from back-up singer and guitar player to headliner.
"We're covering The Voice period, after The Voice and then the new album," he says.
"People are going to get me. I'm finally able to just breathe a bit and play the music that I want to play.
"We've got a three-piece band, which is going to be great because the tour I did last year was acoustic."
He'll also support country music stalwarts The McClymonts and Adam Harvey in November.
"I've known The McClymonts for quite a while," he says.
"It's cool that they keep in touch and have always been interested in how things are going.
"Then with Adam, I get the chance to not only open and do support for him, but I'm playing guitar for him as well which is something I miss.
"Doing a bit of both is really cool and he's an awesome guy."
Real Good Time is out next Friday, October 5 through Universal Music.
Judah Kelly plays the Racehorse Hotel in Ipswich on October 6, The Shed Sunshine Coast (with The McClymonts) on November 3 and the City Golf Club in Toowoomba (with Adam Harvey) on November 9.