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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Two-time Grammy Award-winner coming to Knitting Factory on Wednesday

By Jordan Tolley-Turner The Spokesman-Review

Tori Kelly may already be a two-time Grammy Award-winner with five studio albums in her discography, but the acclaimed singer-songwriter still feels like she is on a self-journey where she “continues to evolve and grow.” Kelly’s lifelong journey has not only inspired her freshly released self-titled album, “TORI,” but will bring her to Spokane for the first time as well.

At age 31, Kelly has been an established figure in the world of entertainment for years, from her roles in multiple movies and shows to her critically acclaimed albums, including 2018’s Grammy-winning gospel album “Hiding Place” and 2019’s “Inspired by True Events.” And yet, the album she had envisioned in her head for years, the one she had been truly searching for as an artist, had yet to come to fruition. That is, until about four years ago.

“Mentally, I was already in this place of envisioning this sound and the whole aesthetic back in 2020, but then the pandemic happened,” Kelly said.

Kelly would “pivot” momentarily, creating her late 2020 Christmas album “A Tori Kelly Christmas” and parting ways with her old label before going into the studio with countless hit-maker Jon Bellion.

Without the oversight of a label and complete creative freedom, Kelly and Bellion chipped away at the project from 2021 until the end of 2023. The duo would recount influences from the late 90s and early 2000s time and time again (Aaliyah, Missy Elliot, and Destiny’s Child – just to name a few). In fact, legendary artist and producer Timbaland found himself loving ad-libs done by Bellion (in imitation out of love and respect) so much that he ended up doing them himself.

In contrast to some of her earlier work, the acoustic instruments sit on the back burner a bit more than usual while a steady pace, distinct drums, and electric production drive the project. Per usual, Kelly’s vocals (particularly her range explored throughout) impress from track one to fifteen.

Lyrically, the project is diverse and widespread across the album’s 40-minute run-time – from love and heartbreak to conviction and pure fun.

“Lyrically, I really pulled from many different places, and one thing I love about this album is that it touches on so many different sides of me,” Kelly expressed. “From a really inspirational song like High Water where I really dive into a deeper, more hopeful place to another song that’s literally just about getting ready, having a fun night, and looking cute with your girlfriends.”

But this album isn’t just “a departure from (her) older stuff” sonically, it represents a mindset and personal sense of contentedness that Kelly has found with experience and age. Growing up as a self-admitted “shy kid,” Kelly has grown more and more confident over the years of challenges, growth, and expectations, not only with her music, but as a person. And with that evolution comes more willingness to express certain aspects of herself, something that then becomes displayed in work such as this.

This sense of self-confidence and summarization of herself as a person is why Kelly found herself drawn to self-titling the album in form of the fully capitalized “TORI.”

“I was wrestling with it, and I just kept going back to ‘what if this is my self-titled moment?’ ” Kelly explained. “I finally just claimed it and owned it because it felt so right with this music.”

And with this recent release, Kelly will embark on what she believes to be her best shows yet, the “Purple Skies Tour,” the same venture that will bring her to Spokane and the Knitting Factory for the first time on Wednesday, April 17.

Besides a small stint in late 2023, it’s been a number of years since Kelly has been on tour, and she looks to continue letting her vocal prowess speak for itself, having the acoustic moments she’s always done get their limelight, and throw in her most notable throwbacks. But, she also looks forward to performing her new songs for the first time and perhaps having more energy than the fans are used to on this run, along with visiting a handful of places across the U.S. she’s never been to before.

“Touring and just performing live in general is my absolute favorite part about what I get to do,” Kelly expressed. “I think every night will feel different and special, and I’m very excited about coming up there to Spokane, I’m really looking forward to that.”

With this tour and finally performing the songs she’s been wanting to make for years, Kelly will finalize what this album is, personally, all about – expression, confidence, and freedom.

“I really feel like I’m stepping into myself with this new chapter of life,” Kelly said.