Magoffin County native Ricky Connelley’s studio album “Calico” will hit the airwaves on Friday and will be available on any music streaming service starting Thursday night at midnight.
Connelley spoke with Mortimer Media Group from Nashville on Monday, discussing his music and his journey to get to his first studio album release.
Connelley picked up a guitar pretty early in life, but then didn’t touch it, again, until quite a few years later. He started out locally, but has been in Nashville, Tennessee, for the past several years.
“I learned to play the guitar from my neighbor, Mike Cole, whenever I was 11 years old and I picked it up super easy,” Connelley remembered. “When I picked up the guitar, I learned it in a night. I could play three or four chords. Before you know it, I could put together songs. Then, I kind of quit playing. I kind of plateaued and I stopped playing. I was probably 29 or 30 and one of my friends – we were just playing around singing Alice in Chains – and he was like, “Dude, you sound really good. You ought to start singing. And, man, that’s all it took.”
Connelley said his friend, Justin Back, was someone he respected a lot, so that opinion was the push he needed to get started it.
“Like I do everything, I took off full force,” Connelley said. “I started playing. I played the Sipp Theater and everywhere around our home that you can play that’s worth playing, I played it in those two years after.”
After a couple years playing locally, he started driving to Nashville.
“I didn’t know a soul and I got in at Douglas Corner Café with Donnie Winters of the Winters Brothers Band and, man, Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire – you name it – they had come through there,” Connelley said. “Everything down here was magical because it’s Nashville! Everyone knows that name. Hank Williams and Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn, Chris Stapleton – we’ve got some big bragging rights back home. People ask me, “So, where are you from?” and I just tell them the truth. Tyler Childers, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Loretta Lynn, the kid that won American Idol – he’s very new – we are talented people. Everything that we do back home, there are people that are great at it, but when it comes to music, it’s like it’s literally in their blood.”
Connelley said he didn’t really come from a musical family.
“My dad doesn’t play or sing, and my mom doesn’t play or sing,” Connelley said. “I have a few uncles that do, but it’s kind of an outcast thing, really. I’m Irish-Indian, so it’s an odd mixture vocally.”
He said he started driving to Nashville at first, with Donnie Winters telling him to travel it, at first, before moving down there.
“I came four of five times, and then I played Douglas [Corner Café],” Connelley said. “Douglas got shut down during COVID and it broke everybody’s heart here in town, but I got to play there and that was a huge dream for me – to get to play Douglas Corner Café. That’s the place where the song “The Dance” was pitched by Tony Arata to Garth Brooks. Right there on that stage, so it’s super historical.”
From there, he played a place called The Local, where “anybody who’s anybody plays there.”
“People love music,” he said. “They love it, and they want to hear it, but when it comes to making it and songwriting stuff, it’s boring. Nobody wants to hear that, but down here, everybody wants to hear that. It’s all they do. It’s all they’re talking about and thinking about is writing the next song.”
He said he got in with great people at The Local – Terry Joe Box, Jeffrey Reed (Jeff owns it) and Terry Joe has written a bunch of hits – and it went from there. “I met some people – Ben Miller from Tray Lewis’s band and Riley Green and I just put this album together. This is really the first songs that I ever wrote, and not only that, but it’s the first songs that were not only accepted here and back home.”
Connelley said anyone who has been following the last few years will hear some familiar songs on the album, like “Hard Times,” which he wrote on the way to Allen Bolen’s show on Q95 FM.
“I had written half of it and then I got over there and finished the rest of it and then sung it on the radio that night,” Connelley said.
“It’s almost cliché to say this, especially back where we’re from, but God has been so huge in what I’ve done,” he said. “There are things looking back on you couldn’t have planned – no amount of money could have bought you. Rubbing a shoulder with somebody. Ending up where you’re living, because down here rent is insane. So many things have turned in my direction and for me to name the people who are playing on this album with me. I tell everybody it’s not me playing every instrument. Down here you write the song, and you get the song structured together, and you walk in, and a bunch of pros sit down and they cut their own instrument. You’ll kind of guide them on where you want them to go with it, but if I named the people playing on it, you wouldn’t know their names, but if I name who all they played with you’d be like ‘wow!’ These are the hired guns here in Nashville and I just happened to be friends with them, so it’s one of those things where work and pleasure mixes.”
“I’m proud of it,” Connelley said. “I’m not that guy that comes up goes, ‘Hey, I just wrote the greatest song in the world.’ I can’t. I don’t think of it that way, really. If I does good – I hope it does, because that means I get to keep doing it. I just hope for that, really. I just hope people enjoy it.”
Connelley said he wrote the songs while dealing with all kinds of emotions and life events, explaining he writes what he feels he needs to, noting he writes every day.
“When you record an album, it’s such a beautiful thing,” he said. “We forget the term ‘record’ is used so much, it almost doesn’t have a lot of meaning now, but to make a record of something – it’s a recording, it’s a record of a time in my life throughout a couple years, really. I wrote all those songs within a couple years. Some I wrote in five minutes and some I wrote in over a year, but I’m excited to see what people think of it.”
For those who can’t get enough, Connelley did tell Mortimer Media Group he is working on his next album.
“Calico,” by Ricky Connelley, will be available on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and DistroKid starting November 25.
To watch his full interview on Your News Today, with Ritt Mortimer, watch the Friday, November 18 show on YouTube, available at https://youtu.be/eQ02x8Of2ck.