Take a tenor banjo, add an alto voice and toss in interest in French, visual arts and graphic design, as well as an exploration of acting, and you end up with singer-songwriter Kelly Hunt.
Hunt will play a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday at The 146 Taphouse, 146 W. First St. in Salida.
Currently touring in support of her debut album, “Even the Sparrow,” Hunt has explored many pathways in her life. Before entering music professionally, she studied piano, sang in choirs and performed in theaters.
The arts were a significant part of her childhood. Her father, a pilot, played a bit of saxophone, and her mother studied opera.
But it was stumbling across a Depression-era tenor banjo that focused Hunt’s musical direction. “I found this instrument and taught myself how to play,” Hunt said. “That freed me because I could improve. I wasn’t locked into one style of play.”
Hunt doesn’t play the banjo the way most know the instrument – you won’t hear fast picking and a race for tempo, à la bluegrass. In Hunt’s stylings, the song comes first, and both the instrument and her vocals service the tune.
Hunt sang soprano in choirs, but the range of the banjo pushed her to explore alto with her vocals, which she considers her primary instrument. “I’d never tapped into that (alto). It was exciting unlocking a different part of my voice.”
Her first album is as eclectic as her past, not surprising for a singer who claims everyone from John Denver to Kierkegaard to Walt Whitman as influences.
Hunt’s music is reminiscent of a simpler time. The music is complicated yet accessible. Her lyrics are literate and poignant, not surprising for an avid reader whose earliest endeavors in writing were of poetry.
Appearing on stage with Kelly Hunt is violinist Stas’ Heaney, who co-produced the album.