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Kelly Kneiser of Glossary: The Maximum R&B! Interview






Jeff Clark


Author's note: 


I love Glossary. It was during a Lucero show at The Bottletree in Birmingham when I was blown away by the pedal steel playing of Todd Beene. After asking, "who the hell was that guy -- he's amazing" to the right person, I was told that Beane was a member of the band Glossary and "they were from Murfreesboro" and "they were awesome," etc. 


I found Glossary on the web and downloaded "The Better Angels of Our Nature" and I immediately became a fan. I knew as soon as I found the download, which you can still get -- for free, I was either going to love or hate a band that was ambitious enough to title an album after the inaugural speech of Abraham Lincoln. I fell in love with the album and the band. 


Some people say you find things when you need them in your life, and as a man of faith, I agree. I found "Better Angels" and the song "Shout It From The Rooftops," with its life-affirming lyrics about faith over organized religion, exactly when I needed them. I may have had my ups and down since then, but I vowed to "just never let the devil win again." 


I loved the album so much that I emailed Joey Kneiser, the band's lead singer and guitarist, to see if he would be interested in doing an email with me. He was one of the first people who agreed to be interviewed when I was at the now-defunct website I'll always be grateful to Joey and Henry Rollins and Paul Thorn and Matt Besser for those early interviews. 


I saw Glossary blow the Drive By Truckers off the stage once in Memphis -- yeah, I said it. 


Joey's ex-wife, Kelly, sings harmony vocals in Glossary. In 2010, she released her first solo EP, with songwriting contributions from Joey and other friends. You can download this for free, too. But if you are getting all of this free music, I suggest you buy the band newest album, "Long Live All Of Us." It, too, is in heavy rotation on the iPod, along with Kelly's album, Joey's solo album and "Better Angels." 




Glossary will be hitting the Hi-Tone in Memphis tomorrow and then playing a free show at the Blue Canoe Wednesday in Tupelo. If you can't catch one of these shows, try to catch them August 16 at The Botteltree in Birmingham. Everybody sounds better at The Bottletree -- trust me. 


Kelly was kind enough to do an interview with me recently. 




How did your role in Glossary come about? 


Glossary has always had a female vocalist, since they formed in 1997. Originally, it was the fabulous Maggie Manley, and when she decided to leave the band, Joey asked me to join. That was in early 2000, and at that point Joey and I had already been singing together some. I had sung my whole life, but harmony singing is something I really learned from being in the band.  




We're you a music fan as a child? What were some things that influenced you? For me, I was highly influenced as a child by STAR WARS, , Paul McCartney and Wings and outlaw country music, especially Waylon Jennings.  


I was a music fan, but mostly from listening to the radio. My parents didn't play music much around the house, but in the car my mom and I agreed on the oldies station, and we would sing along together. I loved soul music, Motown--that was my favorite and it still is. I knew all the words to every Supremes song. Anything from the '60's and '70's was pretty much my jam as a kid, and '80's pop music holds a special place in my heart, even though so much of it is terrible. It's still easier for me to get into older artists or bands than modern ones.  




But really, I think I was more influenced by movies as a kid. I was way more emotionally attached to them than music. And eventually, in high school, the cassette tapes I wore out the most were movie soundtracks.  




When I was a kid, my dad took me and my brothers to the movies every weekend. E.T. is the first movie I remember seeing in the theater. And my parents didn't restrict our movie watching at all, so I watched R-rated movies, too. All the classic '80's movies--Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Goonies, John Hughes movies for sure--everything a kid would want to see, were my favorites, and I still love them. My brothers and I were really into James Bond, too, and we would have marathons of them at home. Later, in high school, I worked at a video store and I would take tapes home every day (tapes!). By then I think I had come to realize the importance of music in movies. I mean, Disney animated films back then had already been an influence on me (Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast), because their songs were so good back then, and begged for singing along. But when I was older, and i was still more of a "movie" person than a "music" person, movie soundtracks became a way for me to experience the movies I loved in a different way. Pulp Fiction blew my teenaged mind, and then I would play the hell out of the soundtrack. My brother and I would listen to it together and talk about Dick Dale and dance. Empire Records was a good one for '90's alternative music. But my favorite soundtrack was Beautiful Girls; I really love that movie, and its soundtrack is just a fantastic album, a mix of modern and old soul songs. That soundtrack is where I first heard Afghan Whigs. Even now, since music has become a bigger part of my life, I automatically imagine a "scene" when I listen to a song I love. I make a little movie in my head to go along with it.  








Is Glossary a full time job or do you work a day job? 


I do work a day job. I manage a studio in Murfreesboro that gives canvas-painting classes. We tour as much as possible, but we're not quite to the place where I don't have to work when I'm home.  




How was Bonnaroo? Did you have any "oh my God" rock star moments? Did you get to see Kenny Rogers perform? I heard it was dope! 


Bonnaroo was super fun, way more than I was expecting. It was our first year playing it, and we had a really good experience there. Of course, we didn't go all-out Bonnaroo, like, camping and sweating off ten pounds or whatever. We couldn't stay the whole weekend, so we were just there hanging out the day we played. We saw the sights and hung out with friends...and did not see Kenny Rogers perform, unfortunately. (Have you seen his face nowadays? What is going on there?) Basically, we hate to party and we're a disappointment to all festival-goers everywhere with our lackadaisical approach to rock-n-rolldom. Except for how we all slept with Thom Yorke. 




What made you decide to make the EP? What inspired the songwriting? 


My EP was something Joey and I had been talking about doing for a while. We try to stay busy in between when Glossary records, and it just turned out to be a good time to work on it. I liked the idea of a solo project, but I'm not a songwriter. Joey had the idea of getting our friends to contribute songs, so we just asked our songwriter buddies from bands we know from around Murfreesboro. I have talented friends... I hesitate even to call it a "solo" EP, because everything was so collaborative. I am kind of amazed at that collection of songs, because when I first heard them I thought each one was a great song, they seemed exactly right for me to sing, and all fit together really well even though they were all written by different people. It seemed natural that they be on an album together. 




"Don't Give Up On Me" really gets to me. The lyrics, "In the days when I felt the world through you and holding on was enough to hold on to...," are quite touching. 


I agree -- that's the song that Joey wrote. He actually wrote that one for me to sing in 1999, before I was in Glossary. We recorded it on a 4-track back then, I believe. I always liked it but it didn't work as a Glossary song, so we decided to put it on the EP. It gets to me, too! It's such a wistful, melancholy kind of song. Also, it was written when Joey and I were first dating, and recorded for the EP not too long after we split up, so that made it more significant to me. 




Glossary has a lot of positive, life-affirming lyrics in its songs. Is it easier for you to write about pain or when things are going well in your life? 


Well, again, I'm not a songwriter, so I suppose I can only speak from observation about this. I remember Joey saying, as he was starting to write the songs for Glossary's newest, "Long Live All Of Us," that he felt like it was going to be different for him to write this one, tougher maybe, because he just felt really good and positive, where sometimes before he'd been writing from a darker place. And I don't know if the process itself turned out to be more difficult for him, but I feel like the newer songs are just as,I don't know -- Meaty? I feel like that's the word. Just as meaty as his older ones. 




What song do you wish you had written? Why? 


I'm going to go with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." I recently rediscovered that song and became preoccupied with it for a week or so. I just love that a song can be so simple and straightforward in the way it breaks down these huge emotions. It's not flowery, and it knows what it wants to say. The Shirelles' version of it is perfect. When I hear it, I can just picture the whole scene in my head--I mean, who hasn't felt that way?  






What music do you listen to these days? 


Most recently, my tastes have been all over the place. It might just depend on if I feel like dancing, or not dancing: Fleetwood Mac, The Cure, Bonnie Raitt, Joe Pug, The District Attorneys, Robyn, Prince, Son Volt. This is what my ipod is telling me. What a mess. 




Do you enjoy touring? Is it hard being the only woman on tour? 


I do enjoy touring very much, more than just about anything else. I feel incredibly lucky to get to travel with my friends and play music for good people. Being the only woman might have been sort of hard, ten years ago, but it isn't now. That probably has more to do with me changing than anything else changing. I feel like in the early days I would come across guys who worked at venues (working door, doing sound), who were condescending to me and made me feel out of place. But I think also back then I was not very confident as a touring musician, and now I am, so that makes a big difference. As far as just the daily life of touring with a bunch of guys, that isn't tough at all. I think after years of traveling together, and generally being in it as a group, we're just a family. And being female doesn't make much of a difference in that respect.  






Do you try to stay healthy on the road or do you like indulge in truck stop fare and Denny's, etc? 


It's tough to eat healthy on the road, but we try. A lot of the time it's slim pickins' when it comes to healthy food, so the trick is to make the best choice you can from what's available. Of course, we do eat at Waffle House a lot. There comes a point during tour when all you want is a salad and vegetables. (As I answer this question, I am digesting a Frosty.) 




Check this out and then tell me how bad ass you think it is 




Wow, there is a lot to love there. First off, it's crazy that THAT voice comes out of that guy. And they are tearing it up, thy keyboard player is crazy. When I see videos like that I just wonder if the audience is freaking out, like, "Holy shit!" Also, Wet Willie has an album called "The Wetter, The Better." Amazing.  




I am getting married in October. Any martial advice? 


Mawwiage! Congratulations! 


Giving marital advice is tricky, because obviously no two relationships are alike. But three things come to mind, so here they are:  


1) Always remember that you can never stop working at your marriage to keep it healthy and make it better. It's like a job that you never retire from, but in the best way, the most rewarding and feel-good way. You just can't be lazy about it and let it languish; it requires upkeep, even when it's going well.  


2) Don't make decisions in your marriage based on what outside people/forces think is best for you. For example, don't buy a house just because your brother gives you shit about renting, or have kids because society says that's the next step. And if you never own a table and eat every meal together in front of the tv, just keep at it if you decide it works, even if Hamburger Helper commercials try to lead you astray with their perfectly lit dining room family time.  


3) Have new adventures together. This is most important. Knowing another person as well as you know yourself is amazing, but forever is a long time. You have to have couple adventures to keep things fresh, even small ones. You don't have to go skydiving; maybe you just both eat a ridiculously hot pepper, or go canoeing if you never have. Make your life together more interesting than the ones you had before you were married.  


I take no responsibility if that advice turns out to be bull, but it might be worth a shot.  




And my Matt Lauer question: What brings you the most fulfillment in life? 


I guess I feel fulfilled from the feeling that I'm doing exactly what I should be doing, and I get that feeling the most from being in Glossary. I get pretty bad anxiety, when I'm home and feeling restless and not knowing what to do with myself. Then we leave, and that all goes away,  


and I just feel really satisfied. It's the same when we record. Also, I like knowing people and their stories. I need to know there are awesome, positive, true folks out there in the world who make up for all the bad, and I have met so many from being in my band. All of the above sounds cheesy, I know, but it's true. There you go, Matt Lauer! 




Tue Aug. 7--Memphis, TN at The Hi-Tone 


Wed Aug. 8--Tupelo, MS at Blue Canoe 


Thur Aug. 9--Atlanta, GA at Smith's Olde Bar 


Fri Aug. 10--Nashville, TN at The High Watt 


Sat Aug. 11--Athens, GA at 40 Watt 


Tue Aug. 14--Chattanooga, TN at JJ's Bohemia 


Wed Aug. 15--Knoxville, TN at The Well 


Thur Aug. 16--Birmingham, AL at The Bottletree 


Fri & Sat Aug. 17 & 18--Asheville, NC at The Orange Peel, with Drive-By Truckers 


















Courtesy Photos 


Glossary Photo Courtesy Facebook 


Kelly Kneiser Photo Courtesy 






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