Music highlights success of Joy Lutheran’s Block Party

By Karen Long

Kelley McRae and her husband Matt were the “headline performers” at Joy Lutheran Church’s Block Party on Sunday, Aug. 7.

Kelley McRae and her husband Matt, were the headliners at Joy Lutheran Church’s Block Party Aug. 7. Photo by Karen Long

Her music is, in her own words, a piece of “Americana.” She describes her style as a little bit of folk meets Southern gospel meets country meets soul. Her influences include singer/songwriters Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams.

Kelley grew up in a small town in Mississippi. She moved to Brooklyn to pursue a career in music while working a full time job as a project manager for a web development firm. Matt grew up in an even smaller town in Illinois, and went to school to be an electrical engineer. In addition to working in his metal shop, he also helped build electromechanical props for Broadway shows.

Last February, Kelley and Matt sold pretty much everything they owned and let their Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment go to chase their musical dreams. They have been traveling in a VW camper van, playing their acoustic music throughout the country.  Their main goal is to make it to the West Coast—beyond that, they hope to keep traveling and playing as far as their music will take them.

In the first five months of their travels they have spent only three nights in a motel, one of them being their first night on the road. Kelley laughed as she said it was ironic that they started out on their “great bus tour” by spending their first night in a motel. Their VW has most of the amenities they need to get by, short of a restroom.

Kelley said the hardest part of being on the road is not having a space that is truly her own. She also said that she is working harder now than she worked before. She and Matt do all of their own bookings and promotion in addition to their performances. Even after almost six months on the road, Kelley and Matt’s acoustic style and passion for music provide a close, comfortable yet very fresh performance.

To learn more about Kelley and her Great VW Camper Van Tour, visit