Musician Kelly Macleod believes the time is right, and she is heading home.
Macleod was born in Shreveport and grew up in Bossier City. She graduated from Airline High School in 1981. As the daughter of two educators, Macleod said it was a tough choice in 1985 when she dropped out of college and moved to California with her band, Private Life. But her parents even bought the van she left in and supported her journey — a journey that began after a chance encounter with a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend.
“We were discovered by Eddie Van Halen,” she said. “Valerie Bertinelli’s parents live in Shreveport. He and Val were visiting and, lo and behold, they came to where I was singing. We met and became fast friends. He encouraged me to keep writing music. And then I finally did it. The band got in that van and went out and slept on a lot of floors. Eddie produced the first record. We ended up as the opening act on Van Halen’s oU812 tour. That feels like a lifetime ago.”
Eventually, the Private Life era ended. Macleod took some time off from singing and she had her first child. Macleod’s new music era with The Sweet Potatoes began with her, her husband and Laura and Rick Hall, a couple they met at church. Rick Hall had an independent movie project titled “Slice of Pie” he was working on. Laura scored the project, Kelly starred in the film and her husband was the sound engineer. After that project, the ladies began writing songs together.
“When you don’t know someone really well, it’s odd to sit an write together,” Macleod said. “But once we got started, we were writing left, right and center.”
Macleod said The Sweet Potatoes’ sound has been described as “down-home” and “folksy.” Their three-part harmony is a large part of their appeal she added. Some of their influences include Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris and the Pretenders.
“I’m still a rocker at heart,” Macleod said. “But now my country roots have really blossomed.”
Rick and Laura Hall each have their own Cinderella stories, Macleod said. Laura Hall is the piano player from the improv comedy show “Whose Line Is It Anyway.” Rick Hall is an actor. He has appeared on NCIS and played Agent Johnson on Disney Channel’s “K.C. Undercover.” Those varied experiences give the band lots of stories to share with their audiences.
Those audiences remain one of Macleod’s favorite parts of performing. Because The Sweet Potatoes’ music is family-friendly, the crowds include children, young adults and seniors. The Sweet Potatoes play churches, theaters and coffee shops. Macleod said the band’s favorite venues are house concerts.
“It’s intimate, not what you’ll hear on the radio,” she said. “You can see everyone’s face. I played Madison Square Garden, and that was really cool. I swear, honestly, some of the experiences I’ve had at house concert are more emotional. You really connect with the audience. As a songwriter, it doesn’t get any better than that. I am humbled by it every time.”
The Sweet Potatoes are on tour in support of their third album, “Headin’ Home.” That title is very apropos, Macleod said. She has not played music in the Shreveport-Bossier City area in years, and this band has never been to the area.
“We’ve kind of built our fan bases in the Midwest, and it’s just been a long time coming,” she said. “And finally it all came together. For this album to be what we are bringing with us is amazing, because so many songs are referencing what happened to me as a girl and a young woman there. We realized we are writing it about home.”
She said she is excited to perform in her hometown. “I still dream about the stuffed shrimp at Freeman and Harris,” she said. And while she might not be able to visit one of her favorite hometown eateries, concert-goers will connect with many of the songs on the new album.
“I love when they listen to the lyrics,” she said. “I have the Red River bridge in there. Benton Road is in there. ‘Those Pines’ is about the pine trees there.”
The Sweet Potatoes’ albums are available on the band’s website, thesweetpotatoes.com, or on iTunes.
The Sweet Potatoes will perform at 7 p.m. March 8 at Bellaire Baptist Church, 1210 Bellaire Blvd. For more information, call (318) 746-3914. The band also will play at 7 p.m. March 11 at Fairfield Studio’s Shreveport House Concert Series.
By Scott Anderson