Soundtrack Of My Life: Kelly Lee Owens

Welsh techno-pop superstar

The first song I remember hearing

Charles Jolly – ‘The Laughing Policeman’

“It’s the creepiest and most fascinating thing. It’s so weird. I remember my dad had it on cassette. He was a carpenter and he’d play it in his van while he was building our house and other jobs… and he thought it was hilarious and as a kid I was confused and intrigued.”

The first album I bought


Oasis – ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory’

“I mainly remember the lyrics and the visuals. On ‘Champagne Supernova’, I remember hearing the waves and the bubbling noises. I’d never heard that on a song before. I was like, ‘can you do that?’ Or the line on ‘She’s Electric’: ‘she’s got one in the oven’. I’d listen and be like ‘what does that mean?’”

The first gig I went to

Boyzone, Rhyl Pavilion, 1995

“They booked this tour before they got massive and played arenas. My mum saved up all of her money to buy me a tout ticket because they’d all sold-out, but we drove up to the venue and we couldn’t find any touts. She went to the box office for a last-ditch attempt and the woman in front of us had a spare ticket because one of her daughters was ill. So she took me in and looked after me and it was amazing. Those formative gigs change you – it doesn’t matter if it’s a pop group or whatever it is, but it’s the fact there’s a performance and the energy being electric.”

The song that reminds me of home


Treorchy Male Voice Choir – ‘Myfanwy’

“I listen to that and I feel the hiraeth – the longing connection to my home. The resonance in the harmonies of Welsh choirs is something that sonically encapsulates what Wales is known for: the melancholy of lost love, the depth of emotion and being unafraid to go there and express yourself. I’ve always wanted to have a male voice choir perform bass lines or synth lines, so I want to incorporate that into my own music.”

The song I wish I’d written

Depeche Mode – ‘Enjoy The Silence’

“I’ve seen the song live a few times now while supporting the band in the US. The synth line is so simple but absolutely mesmerising – as soon as Martin [Gore, guitarist, keyboardist] plays that riff everyone is transported together. Everything about it, every component is just perfect. I think it’s a perfect song.”

The song I do at karaoke

Robyn – ‘With Every Heartbeat’

“I’m not a huge fan of karaoke. When you sing for a job as a musician, I find it odd to get on stage and perform and try to be ‘entertaining’ – I just think too much and can’t let loose! Last time I did it, we were at queer nightclub with all these drag queens watching. I was intimidated by them as I’d seen them perform earlier and they were absolutely stunning. All my friends said they’d come up on stage with me to sing… but of course they didn’t!”

The song I can’t get out of my head

Madonna – ‘Drowned World / Substitute for Love’

“[Madonna’s 1998 album] ‘Ray of Light’ has some big songs, like the title track and ‘Frozen’, but the rest kind of bubble away. They reveal themselves much slower than those two and worm their way into your head like this song – it’s so beautiful and such a lovely opening for an album. It’s a whole body of work and a real place to be present in.”

The song I can no longer listen to

Nico – ‘These Days’

“This song reminds me so much of my twenties and all the things people don’t tell you that age is about: confusion and anxiety. You couldn’t pay me to go back to that age. It’s not even a song I dislike, it just encapsulates everything I was going through so deeply. The growth that has happened since that time… I no longer need to go where this song takes me. I may need to one day, but not right now.”

The song that makes me cry

This Mortal Coil – ‘Song To The Siren’

“Everything about it: the phrasing, the lyrics, the delivery. It’s certainly a ride, and whenever I need to hop on that ride this song can make me cry without fail. I do cry a lot, but I don’t mind it and I like to express my emotions! I’ve worked with [electronic producer] Jon Hopkins and he’s always testing things out by measuring if I cry or not. One time he sent over a song and said ‘if this doesn’t make you cry, I’ll resign.’”

The song that makes me want to dance

Fela Kuti – ‘Let’s Start What We Have Come In The Room To Do’

“When I worked in record stores, I’d play this and see people sway and move as they flicked through the racks. Worked every time! I fucking love that title as well – it’s how I feel when I get on stage and makes me feel so present. And you can hear that in this song and everything he creates and performs. I challenge anyone to put that song on and not move.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Nick Drake – ‘Road’

“The whole thing is beautiful. Texturally he has one of my favourite voices ever. There’s a line in it: “You can take the road that takes you to the stars now” and I like to think I would be on that road on my next journey. I thought about a happy song for this one. When my nana passed we played ‘Copacabana’ because she was a huge Barry Manilow fan. She used to come to all my shows and loved to dance and be at the front.”

Kelly Lee Owens’ new single ‘Unity’ is available now via Mercury KX

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