Conor Kelly - Lead Guitar & BGVs
Born in Mont Clair, NJ, but raised in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Conor recalls falling deeply in love with music at a very young age. “I remember my mom would play Rod Stewart and Luther Vandross records on the cassette player in her bathroom while she was getting ready for the day. I was always so moved by something as simple as a vocal, and I knew then that I wanted to give others the same feelings that music was giving me”. Before he was born, his mother worked at a radio company, which unfortunately closed down and parted away all of its assets. She inherited most of the company’s audio; an upwards of 10,000 records, which is where Conor began to really discover music on his own. From Abba to Zappa, Conor listened to every single record in that collection and realized a strong appreciation for all genres of music. He gravitated most to the sounds of the electric guitar, especially after receiving his first vinyl records from his Uncle Sean (whom he cites as having a huge impact on his musical development). He received his first electric guitar at age 14, and devoted hours developing his ear, and teaching himself how to play.
In fifth grade, Conor first met Chase Bader in middle school, where they began developing a long friendship that would soon take them all across America. The two of them played in many different bands in high school, but it wasn't until the fall of 2012 when Conor moved to Nashville to co-found a “dream” band that would eventually be called Waker. During this time, Conor and Chase began tirelessly writing many songs together and eventually drafted the rest of the band as the years progressed. In tandem with touring in Waker, Conor has also been pursuing an undergraduates degree in psychology, with a minor in economics at Belmont University. He plans to graduate in May of this year.
As a guitar player, Conor is heavily influenced by musicians including Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, Joe Pass, J.D. Simo, and Jerry Garcia. For the past few years, Conor has also been taking lessons from Jack Pearson (The Allman Brothers Band), and recognizes him as being extremely instrumental in his development as a musician. “I feel as if I’ve almost been taken under his wing in a sense. He is constantly pushing, and motivating me to want more out of my playing and myself. He has become a great friend and has such an amazing ear for music”.
When not on the road or playing music, Conor enjoys playing tennis, going to baseball games, skiing, reading books, writing postcards, and seeing all of the local points of interest. His love for the Marvel and Star Wars universes may seem obsessive at times, but don't worry, he’s got it under control...we hope.
Conor plays a 1981 Fender Stratocaster (Stadler Custom Alnico 2 strat pickups. The middle pickup is wired to be out of phase using a push-pull pot, and the selector is a 3 way telecaster switch rather than the traditional 5 way strat switch. From top to bottom: master volume, tone, volume for middle pickup) that is always kept in standard tuning, a 1993 Gibson Les Paul Classic (Rainy Day / OX4 “Ed King” set humbucker pickups) that changes between “open E” and standard tuning, and a 2013 Gibson SG Standard (Jessica Rabbit, Classic ‘57 humbucker pickups) that stays in open “E” tuning.
He also uses a Fender 1963 reissue reverb tank with a 1966 Fender Bassman amplifier, into a Stadler Custom 3X12 pine cabinet, loaded with JBL E120’s. Occasionally he will use a Polytune stage tuner and a Mutron III envelope filter. He also uses Carter Vintage Guitar “blue mandolin” pics, as well as “large” V-Picks. For strings, Conor plays Elixir .10-.46 gauge strings (sometimes the Les Paul and the SG will get a .11 and a .14 on top)