Belting Tunes And Pouring Joe
Backstage at the Winchester Music Hall before her concert on November 4, Anne E. DeChant reviewed the play list with her full-band line-up. Then the 4-time winner of Scene Magazine’s Best Singer Songwriter award double-checked one last time with Kelly Wright, her longtime back-up singer, and the show was a go.
Onstage the band was in fine form, by turns soulful and action-packed, playing a mix of material, much of it from DeChant’s emotive new cd release, ‘Swing.’ And Kelly Wright, LA-born but raised in Lakewood, was both the mirror to DeChant’s lead and expansive in her own right.
“I have lots of choices here as far as vocalists go,” said DeChant, an Avon Lake native transplanted to Music City, “but my choice for support vocals is in Cleveland.”
‘Swing’ is Wright’s third collaboration with DeChant, a collaboration stretching back ten years.
“It was supposed to be a one-gig thing,” said Wright.
The Cleveland-based group, Odd Girl Out, had broken up in the late 90s, its lead singer DeChant embarking on a solo career, when one of the former members of the band recommended Kelly Wright.
“I knew her in high school, so when she recommended me to Annie, it all came full circle,” said Wright.
Lakewood-raised since fifth grade, Wright was a freshman at Lakewood High School before breaking into song. She daily commuted with a neighbor to school, and one morning tagged along to her neighbor’s audition for Roadshow, the school’s Downbeat Magazine’s award-winning vocal jazz ensemble.
“I was just sitting there doing all the homework I had sloughed off the night before, and the director asked, aren’t you going to audition, and I said, no, no, I only know campfire singing, but in the end I auditioned, and I made it, and my neighbor did not. It was the last time I got a ride, but it was the start of music for me.”
She sang throughout high school and attended Akron University on a music scholarship, later going into broadcasting, but finally gave up singing to open the Borderline Café with her culinary school-trained sister, Carrie.
“This is all I did for a long time,” Wright said. “I still wait the tables, pour all the coffee, and pretty much do all the talking. I think I’m the boss, but Carrie is really the heart and soul of Borderline.”
Outfitted with barely ten tables, the walls painted a peach yellow, and ‘suns coming up, I got cakes on the griddle’ among other John Denver lyrics gamboling over the walls, the Borderline Café is a popular breakfast-only nook on Lakewood’s west end.
“The two of them are good together,” said Colleen Wright, their mother who commutes from Marblehead and pitches in on busy weekends. “Kelly remembers everybody’s name, they all come to talk to her.”
Noted for its inventive seasonings and Southwestern twist on traditional morning fare, the cozy and sometimes overflowing café at breakfast crunch-time is roundly considered to be worth the wait.
“Everything Carrie makes is fresh,” said Kelly Wright. “Nothing comes out of a ziplock bag or frozen. Those eggs are cracked exactly when you order your omelets.”
Since resurrecting her singing career, Wright has continued to work with DeChant, as well as singing and playing her guitar in an acoustic combo at outdoor summer venues. She is also the voice of a jazz duo, often heard in the wine bar at Brothers Lounge on the Lakewood-Cleveland border.
“I’ve played everywhere with Annie, all around the country,” Wright said. “It was a weird late-in-life kind of youth, joining the band when I was thirty-three, but it has led to many really great things for me.”
In addition, she is involved with the Ohio City Singers, an all-star cast of North Coast musicians that includes a choral group often featuring more than thirty family and friends.
“It’s all the guys from local indie bands,” Wright said. ”They write original rock Christmas tunes, and we do a big show, and every year it’s just been getting bigger and bigger.”
More than 300 revelers packed the Around the Corner Saloon on an icy day in 2009 when the group in Blues Brothers-style steamed up the windows. They reprised their raucous holiday jam at the Stone Mad Pub in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood the following year.
“How I got started in music was an accident, like many of the things in my life,” Wright said. “Music was a great part of school for me and I am forever in debt to my first teacher. I never actually knew I could sing. It really did change my life.”
The Ohio City Singers and Kelly Wright will be at the Cambridge Room at the House of Blues the afternoon of December 3 for a show and release of their new Christmas recording, and later that same evening will offer up musical cheer at the annual Lighting Up Lakewood parade and festival on Detroit Ave.
Even if it’s cold and blustery, or some snow falls, as it will do in winter in Lakewood, Kelly Wright won’t mind.
“I bopped around a little bit, but for the most part I’ve lived here my whole life,” she said. “The Midwest is good for me. I’m a big gal. I like to layer, so I love it here.”