John Lennon Songwriting Contest Grand Prize Winner Kelli Welli to Release “Robots Don’t Tell Jokes” April 15
Take a little bit pop, a little bit country, a little bit opera, and a dash of Irish punk. Add in some zydeco, a soupçon of animal ciphering, a stinky shoe, and a nursery rhyme in Japanese, and you have what fans have come to expect from Kelli Welli: originality, personality, and a healthy dose of absurdity. Made with love.
In addition to being graced by a special appearance from Grammy winner Joanie Leeds, the 15 songs on this album burst with the creativity of Kelli Welli and her kids putting on a really big show that includes the voices of favorite kids’ artists and talented friends Red Yarn, Flor Bromley, Kymberly Stewart, Twinkle Time, James Dallas, Elena Moon Park, Claudia Robin Gunn, Maddy Heart, and the album’s primary producer, Bryan Daste. Robots Don’t Tell Jokes… or do they? This album is smart, fun, and as always… made for kids and the people who love them.
“I absolutely loved making Robots Don’t Tell Jokes with friends and folks who were willing to stretch out of their norms or comfort zones with me,” says Kelli Welli. “To commit to quality, while at the same time doing things they’d never done before, like the kids coming into a recording studio for the first time, or the highly skilled, successful musicians embracing some wonderful absurdity by giving their all to make my song about a stinky shoe the best it could be. There’s a lot of love and joy in this album, and I hope the kids and grownups listening out there feel it coming their way.”
Robots Don’t Tell Jokes kicks off with the upbeat “Rainbow Love Song,” an empowering anthem about all the colors of love and joy that come with living a life filled with abundant variety, acceptance, and gratitude. Kelli Welli is backed by nine distinguished guest artists, whose diverse voices blend to create some of the finest vocal choral work ever heard on a kids’/family album. “Ezra’s Frickle Song,” inspired by Ezra Holbrook’s renowned deep-fried pickles, displays an authentic New Orleans zydeco sound enhanced by the zesty treat of excellent singing layered on top. Grammy winner Joanie Leeds joins Kelli Welli on “I Will Miss You,” an unforgettable lullaby masterpiece that shines its love on moms everywhere.
Other highlights include the hilarious “Stinky Shoe,” a fine bit of absurdity featuring accordion and flute in an Irish punk interlude à la The Pogues. Kelli’s dog, Piper Peach, and her best canine friend, Loki, have their moment in the sunshine and everywhere else as featured guest dogs on “Dognado.” The track glows with a family get-together, country-folk feel that culminates in the perfect storm of a “dognado.” Kelli Welli sings “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” – including a verse in Japanese – with a transcendental radiance that is beautifully matched by the arrangement’s sublime mandolin interlude, as performed by Timothy James Uecker. The album’s stunning epilogue presents the “operatic” debut of Kelli Welli singing that thrilling aria and tribute to fragrant footwear, “Stinky Shoe Reprise.”
A stand-out song is the album’s title track, which puts Kelli Welli in a solo spotlight that allows listeners to marvel at her artistry. She can sing with lovely warmth and then flip to a rock-hard laser quality that flashes when the expression of the lyric needs that kind of edge. Kelli explains the song’s origin: “I’ve been asking little friends in recent years what they would like me to write about. A boy names Amais, who was eight years old at the time, wanted a song about robots. So, for him I wrote ‘Robots Don’t Tell Jokes.’ Truth be told, ‘Robots Don’t Tell Jokes’ is something of an anti-tech song, even though I don’t think that’s what Amais intended! I envision the main robot trying to be more human, embracing things like real records, colored pencils and paint, an abacus … his bedroom is filled with non-electronic items. In this song, I’m trying to humanize the robot a little bit.”
About Kelli Welli:
Kelli Caldwell, who performs for kids as Kelli Welli, is an active songwriter in both the children’s and singer-songwriter/Americana (“grown-up”) music arenas. She has released two award-winning children’s albums and was the Grand Prize Winner in the children’s category of the 2021 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Kelly was a winner of the West Coast Songwriters International Song Contest in 2019, 2020, and 2021, and she was a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition in 2019 and 2020 and the Great American Song Contest in 2021. Although Kelli is relatively new to the thriving Portland, Oregon kindie performance scene, she has been named a TOP 5 Parent Pick by PDX Parent magazine.
Kelli’s original “songs for the kids and the people who love them” tell goofball stories, paint lovely pictures, celebrate love, nature, and languages, and honor all the details that come with raising the little people in our lives. Kelli, who has been called “hysterically and superbly talented,” doesn’t believe songs should be “dumbed down” for kids. “I have tons of respect for kids, remembering a lot from my childhood … what mattered to me and what it felt like to navigate a big world,” Kelli says. “Music always marked important moments and was like a friend in tough times. I hope my songs reach kids in that way and that they feel believed in.”
Kelli has a Master of Publishing degree from Canada’s Simon Fraser University and a B.A. in Speech Communication with minors in Japanese and German from Oregon State University. She worked in public relations for Harper’s Magazine in NYC, then owned a creative design agency in Portland before focusing more fully on her music and raising her boy/girl twins. She has studied speech-level singing with The Voice Project, spent more than eight years on the Portland Songwriters Association board, and is currently a member of the Recording Academy, West Coast Songwriters, Nashville Songwriters Association International, Children’s Music Network, MusicPortland, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Previous releases include the albums Let’s Go, Pistachio (2021; National Parenting Products Award) and Ooh La La Too Doo Na Na Oop Bop Oop Bop Ribbit (2020; National Parenting Products Award, Moms Choice Gold Award), as well as three EPs released in 2016: LOVE, Turtle Doggie Monkey Froggie La La La La La, and Lullabies: For Kids and the People Who Love Them. Kelli’s debut Americana album for adults, Heart Wanderer, will release later this year.
8 Pound Gorilla Records is the inevitable offspring of 800 Pound Gorilla Records, the world’s largest Comedy Record Label. Moving into kids’ and family programming was a natural decision for the company’s founders, Ryan Bitzer and Damion Greiman. Once again, they’ve discovered an under-served genre. There’s a veritable treasure-trove of talented artists around the world making high-quality family-oriented music that remains largely unknown to mainstream audiences. With unique marketing strategies and analytics-driven audience building techniques, 8 Pound Gorilla Records is building a platform for this genre that will bring increased awareness and opportunities for these talented performers. They’re partnering with the best independent kids’ musicians on the planet to help build a community of music and joy for families everywhere.
Robots Don’t Tell Jokes will be available on Amazon, Bandcamp and at kelliwelli.com.