They may not be house hold names yet but you’ve heard them none the less. Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony (Louis York) have had hits with Michael and Janet Jackson, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Bruno Mars, Celine Dion, John Legend and many others. And like many others they moved to Franklin TN three and a half years ago to be closer to the creative community Music City has to offer. Kelly and Harmony have both been involved in music from an early age and both had very successful careers before their record label brought them together. Performing progressed to writing which progressed to producing and other behind the scene work and so they’ve come full circle to create the duo Louis York. Named after their hometowns of East St. Louis (Harmony) and New York (Kelly) the duo feels right at home in Franklin as they are true wordsmiths in a wordsmith community.
Their new album, aptly named, The American Griots drops today and is so eclectic you might not even know it was the same duo from song to song. “We wanted to empty ourselves creatively. We didn’t want to stay in the box we were put in as songwriters and producers, we wanted to explore all types of music. Chuck started playing classical piano at two or three years old and I played woodwinds and drums at 4 or 5 so we have this extensive knowledge of all styles of music. We’re students of the game so we wanted our first album to be our musical dissertation.” says Kelly
Their first single, “Don’t You Forget” (video above) hearkens back to the sound and style of Earth Wind and Fire, who was a major influence for both. The song has a classic sound with a fresh feel that you want to play back the second the song ends. “Teach me a Song” features country star Jimmie Allen and the reprise features a moving recitation by Nashville poet Caroline Randall Williams who also recites the intro to the album. There is no putting this album in a genre box. Every song has a different style and feel which is exactly how Louis York wanted it.
As if these guys don’t sound busy enough they also run their own label and artist collective “Weirdo Workshop,” which is also based in Franklin and they are excited about their first signees, The Shindellas, and all female band. Also under the Weirdo Workshop umbrella, they’ve formed the “Tiny Book Club” community and “We Sound Crazy” podcast.
Kelly and Harmony also share a passion for motivational speaking and wellness. “Caring for ourselves is a big part of our journey. We’ve both lost about one hundred pounds. We’re gym rats, it’s just part of our daily life. We go several times a week because it’s important to us to stay mentally and physically healthy as well as creatively. The two have spoken at multiple colleges across the country including Berklee College of Music, Howard University, New York University, UCLA, USC, Syracuse, Belmont, Lipscomb and Vanderbilt among others.
If you want a chance to see these guys in an intimate setting you can get tickets for their Dec 7th Franklin Theater show while they last. Buy the album here.