Kelley Mickwee was a member of the folky duo Jed and Kelley for seven years and the all-female alternative-country quartet the Trishas for five years.
Going solo was not in her plan. But last year, when the Austin-based Trishas took an indefinite hiatus, Mickwee was suddenly out of work. Launching her solo career was the quickest way to get back on the bandstand.
Mickwee, who’ll play a solo show Friday at Artmosphere in Lafayette, had about six months to mull over the Trishas’ pending hiatus.
“A couple of the ladies needed to take some time off to be moms,” she said. “The last tour that we did was three babies, two nannies, five women.”
Sounds like quite a caravan but Mickwee, who doesn’t have children, had fun with it.
“But the touring just got too difficult and expensive,” she said. “Extra rooms and paying nannies. At the level we were at, it just got harder and harder.
“Things were falling apart, but not in a negative, fighty kind of way,” Mickwee added. “Women in their 30s, different things are important to them. You have to decide if you’re going to be a musician and tour fulltime or strike a balance between music and family or have a family and stay home. These gals wanted to focus on the family for a while.
“I had half a year to figure out what I was going to do and go through all the stages of a breakup,” she said. “I went through the grieving process, for sure.”
But wasting no time after the Trishas ceased operation, Mickwee traveled to her former city of residence, Memphis, Tenn., in November and recorded her solo album debut.
Mickwee recorded the album with Memphis musicians in a studio in the mansion formerly owned by Shelby Foote. A historian and novelist, Foote became a celebrity when filmmaker Ken Burns featured his commentary, 89 times in all, in the blockbuster PBS documentary “The Civil War.”
Mickwee and her Memphis players recorded the album, “You Used to Live Here,” in a day and a half. The recording has that distinctively Memphis-style soul-country thing.
“It was quick,” she said of the sessions. “Financially, it needed to be. I got great players and it didn’t take them much time to get the songs down.”
Unlike the Trishas, a group that toured, built a following and then made an album, Mickwee thought she had to make an album first.
“Four women singing together is way more appealing than just one,” she reasoned. “So I knew that I’d have to make the best record I could make.”
Mickwee could have easily made her solo album in Austin, a city rich in musicians.
“I have so many great player friends in Austin who I love and know well,” she said. “But there’s something different about the musicians in Memphis. There’s something about the way those guys play. It’s because they’ve been playing in Memphis for years in smoky dive bars for $20 a night. They don’t try to be something that they’re not. So I want it to sound that way.”
Mickwee’s not one to brag, but she’s pleased with her made-in-Memphis album.
“I feel good about it,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever recorded something and said, ‘Oh, yes, this is just a piece of work.’ I can be pretty self-critical, but I set out to do something and I fully realized my intention.”