If you are reminded of the American actress and Princess of Monaco (1929-1982) when you see the name Grace Kelly, maybe you should add a new face. Korean American Grace Kelly (26), who was born 10 years after the actress Kelly passed away, is a musician. Grace Kelly is her real name. She was born as Grace Jeong, but her last name changed when her mother married Kelly, an American.
Kelly is the country category winner of this year's John Lennon Songwriting Contest, the competition for aspiring singer-songwriters around the world. Your reporter met with Kelly in central Seoul. “My song, ‘Feels like Home’ is a love song dedicated for my boyfriend. I cannot believe I won such a big award,” she said, smiling but almost tearing up with joy.
Kelly’s music career is also unbelievable. She started songwriting at the age of seven. “I led my band when I was twelve," she said. "I was thirteen when I travelled outside the United States for the first time, which was to perform in Norway for my band."
Her band performed with the late Dave Brubeck (1920-2012), known for his legendary "Take 5," on numerous occasions, and released duo albums with American jazz musician Lee Konitz and Phil Woods (1931-2015), respectively.
“It was also surreal for me to perform at President Obama’s inauguration ceremony," she said. "Wynton Marsalis and his son happened to stop by at a restaurant where I was performing and suggested that I perform at the event."
At the age of 16, she entered Berklee College of Music in Boston on a full-ride scholarship and began to teach at her alma mater at 19. Kelly’s new album titled " GO TiME: Brooklyn 2," featuring Kelly’s winning title at the John Lennon contest, is extraordinary. All of the numbers were recorded live at a recording studio in Brooklyn. Kelly, who sings and plays the saxophone at the new album, had invited a small audience, danced and played the saxophone. The sound engineer was against the idea due to sound quality concerns, but she used a wireless microphone to dance and perform.
“I've adored the movie ‘To Catch a Thief,” starred by Kelly (1955, directed by Alfred Hitchcock), since I was little," she said. "I love my name."
As a new generation who loves classic art, she aspires to be a bridge to the younger generation to share her passion for music history and jazz.
“I am inspired by all genres, from Charlie Parker to Skrillex," the 26-year-old said. "These days, I’m really into K-pop musicians, such as Fx and Lee Jin-ah."
Kelly will perform with her band "Brooklyn Band" at the Jaraseom Jazz Festival, which will be held in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province on Sunday. It’s time to dance.