Singer-guitarist Kelly Richey has a long career that stretches back 25 years. She’s released 16 albums over the course of that time and played lead guitar in Stealin Horses, a popular Kentucky-based rock group once signed to Arista Records. Drummer Sherri McGee is an in-demand session musician who previously anchored the rock group Velvet Elvis.
Earlier this year, the two formed the Cincinnati-based female power duo, the Spear Shakers. They'll bring their combination of blues and rock to the Winchester Music Tavern
in Lakewood at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 14.
In separate phone interviews, the two discussed working together in the band.
Talk about how the two of you know each other.
[McGee] came to Lexington in 1980. Shortly after that, I was playing with Stealin Horses. The signed to Arista in 1986. She was in Velvet Elvis. They signed to Enigma Records at about that time. We knew who we were, but we were in different musical cliques and never had an opportunity to work together. They started touring, and we started touring. I ended up based out of Nashville, and she ended up based out of L.A. I always wanted to work with her. I came off the road about two years ago after the touring season and sold my house and downsized to see what the next move was. I wasn’t sure what I saw in my future. I knew I wanted it to be simplified. I stepped back and took some time to reflect. I was asked to play in an all-female cover band for a New Year’s Eve date last year. That’s something I don’t really do. It was just one show, but it sounded like a lot of fun. I told them that if they could get Sherri to do it, I would do it. She said she’d do it, so we did, and we had so much fun.
We kind of crossed paths in the early ’80s. I used to see her play in the really early ’80s when she used to play guitar behind her head. She was quite the show person. When I was in Velvet Elvis, we were both on the road. This girl in Lexington put together a one-off band of girls and I had played with them before. They were doing it again, and I thought it was a lot of work for one night. But she said that Kelly was playing guitar, and then I wanted to do it. She heard that I was on drums and was excited to do it too. We said, “What do you think about doing something together?” This is the first time I’ve been excited about a band in a long time. Generally, I play with three or four bands at any given time. It’s fun, and it’s right up my alley.
Are there other female musicians you particularly admire?
There are. I just saw Tash Sultana at the Fox Theatre here in Oakland. She uses loops and beats. She does these bedroom takes and knocks out these songs. She’s touring all over the world, and she sold out the Fox other night. It was the night of my birthday, and that’s why I came out. That kind of thing inspires me. There haven’t been that many female guitarists that inspire my guitar playing but there have been female songwriters who have inspired me. There’s Joni Mitchell and Heart and Fleetwood Mac.
Well, I just happened to be watching TV the other night, and they were doing a special on the Carpenters. Karen Carpenter was the drummer. When I was a kid, I would rush to the TV to watch her play drums. I used to play in a band in Hollywood and Kathy Valentine was the guitar player and Rosie Flores played with us for a while too. I still keep up with them. The drummer for Kid Rock is pretty badass too.
The group is billed as a female power duo. Talk about that approach and what that entails.
I had tried to do that during my break, but I couldn’t find the right drummer. Sherri and I got together and rehearsed once. I realized it would work out fine. I bring the music I’ve been working on, and she follows me right off the cliff. We’ve hit it hard, and I’ve been booking regional venues I’ve played in the past. When it comes to power duos, the White Stripes initially caught my attention. I started listening to them and they had that great live record. It was so reckless and then the Black Keys came out. I thought, “Wow!” He has that great big kick drum. It takes that kind of drummer to pull that off. I’m a pedal board guru and I’m so into them, I almost need a separate therapy session to help me deal with them. I’ve been experimenting with different delays in the studio. I set up live in my studio for my past two records, and it’s like I merged on the highway and ended up on this exit. So it’s been something I wanted to do for a while, and now it’s finally manifested itself.
When Kelly and I first talked about this, she said, “Think of a bass player you like to play with.” We tried out one guy. He would have been fine, but he was too busy. I said, “Why don’t we just be a two-piece? The Black Keys do it. The White Stripes do it.” Kelly has such a fat sound. I just play off of what she’s doing. I think we practiced one time.
What songs will make their way into the set?
They’re all originals, but sometimes, I will do a Hendrix or Zeppelin tune at the end. I’m pulling material from my last two solo albums. I have two complete records and almost every song works for what Sherri and I do. It’s all original, and it’s allowed me to reform and embrace songs that I’m playing the way I originally wrote them. I’m expanding my guitar sound, which has evolved. I’m a guitar player through and through. I’ve started writing more material too.
It’s her songs, and they come easily to me. Her songs have a Zeppelin-ish feel to them that I like. They have good melodies and good lyrics and good rhythms. We’re finding our way playing together.
I like your performance of “Leaving It All Behind.” What’s the story behind that tune?
When I did my last two solo albums, I found three crates filled with cassette tapes along with eight boxes of poetry. I transferred them all to digital because I knew they wouldn’t last forever. I found 72 hours of material and pulled from that most of the songs on my last album. “Leaving it All Behind” was where I was in life at that time I wanted to move forward and not be so stressed. It’s just an upbeat tune. I just got that groove in my head, and I couldn’t shake it. I always loved Bad Company. Sherri and I had only done a couple of shows together when we first played it on a TV news program. It’s become one of Sherri’s favorites.
When I make my notes, and I’m learning the song, on that one, the first thing I wrote down was “sit up straight.” That means I’ll be doing a lot of foot work with my kick drum. It just has that beat. I can’t be slumped over.
Do you think you’ll do an album together?
We just finished a three-song EP. We’re going to do festivals this summer. I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had in my career. This is stress-free, and we’re good friends. We didn’t really know each other before we started playing together but now we’re good friends.
We recorded three songs just last week and got video footage of them too. I’m fairly anxious to see the footage. It’s been going great so far. Any band is like a relationship with different personalities and egos, and we just seem to really click. She’s just a good person, and I’m a pretty cool cat too.
The Spear Shakers, Sam Hooper Group, City Heat, 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, the Winchester Tavern, 12112 Madison Ave. 216-600-5338, Lakewood. Tickets: $8-$12, thewinchestermusictavern.com