Kelli Schaefer took me by complete surprise the first time I saw her perform, at my inaugural house show back in November. Her voice is massive and swells effortlessly (and shiver-inducingly) from deep places within her, just as her piercingly smart lyrics do. One of the most immediately riveting performers I have seen in years, she has silenced the crowd every time I have seen her since then. In her kinetic, can’t-take-my-eyes-off-of-you magnetism, a friend commented that she is reminiscent of The Tallest Man On Earth’s live show. While their music is divergent, they hold power over a crowd in the same way.
On the same gorgeous Saturday last month when The Head and The Heart performed in the historic Shove Chapel for me, Kelli sat high in the pews, listening underneath the stained glass windows. She took the stage herself to grace us all with two stripped and strong acoustic songs from her debut full-length album The Ghost of The Beast (2011, Amigo/Amiga Records). She was feeling a bit under the weather and apologized for her voice, to which all of us listening laughed out loud. She was incredible. She was magnetic.
I am thrilled to present her as the second Fuel/Friends Chapel Session.
Gone In Love – Kelli Schaefer
This song is one of the most gorgeous and compellingly authentic explorations of what true love looks like that I’ve ever heard. By true love I don’t mean roses and greeting cards — I mean wiping someone’s tears with the sleeve of your jacket, holding someone even though your arms are shaking, and singing hymns to someone you love as they are passing. Serious stuff, the times when we all need love the most. As Kelli sings, “When the burden is love, it is the only weight that ever was worth carrying.” Those of us sitting in the pews may have felt like we were hearing one of the truest sermons around, and by the end of the song I had silent tears running down my face but couldn’t say why. As the song says, “We will beat the nighttime bloody with this song, joy’s strong mallet.” It is a song to push back the darkness, with each other.
Ghost Of The Beast – Kelli Schaefer
Many of Kelli’s songs seem to wrestle honestly with faith and salvation, especially the way that it meets the punch-in-the-face reality of illness, desire, and failure. I appreciate this, very much. This song took on a different dimension as it rang out through the church (interfaith though it is) – “Oh mother, you taught me good, you made me want to do the things that I should/ you told me Jesus’ gonna make me a saint, gonna take my hand and make my life complete/ but the narrow path is closing in / sometimes I think I’m too fat to fit on it…” The song, like all her music, plumbs the depth and is beautiful because of her honesty. When she struck the last note and the song ended hanging cliffside, there were several seconds of stunned silence among us sitting there, we onlookers and the other band, and then we all started clapping as loudly as we could.
We’ve already got a few more Chapel Sessions in the pipeline; stay tuned!