Kelli Caldwell, known to her fans as Kelli Welli, didn’t always love her voice. “It took me a long time to get comfortable with my own voice because I’d been made fun of my whole life for having a very high, babyish voice,” says Caldwell, adding that well into adulthood, telemarketers would ask if her parents were available. “The creative drive to write and figure out the puzzle of each song helped me to push through my fear and discomfort to eventually embrace my own voice.”
And good thing she did. Caldwell is a wellspring of songs adored by Portland families and beyond. She’s been in songwriting organizations and in 2021, Caldwell won the grand prize for the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. “My process has really been to put down any ideas I get into some kind of recording device when I get them and then work out the details and chords,” she says.
Her biggest inspiration? Love. “Whether it’s to honor someone by writing a song for them or about them … about how much they are loved and always deserve to be loved, no matter who or where they are in their lives,” she says. “A lot of my songs are also silly or goofball, but that’s still a way to send out boosts of love through laughter and joy.” (She even has a finished album for adults that she plans on releasing.)
She enjoys making music for — and with — her twin 8-year-old boys. On stage, you’ll find Caldwell jamming with bandmate, Timmy Jim (Timothy James Uecker) who plays guitar. The pair are known for wearing silly hats throughout their concerts, and getting littles up and moving with interactive songs and danceable jams. “We have a lot of fun with ‘The Hat Song’ and ‘Tacos, Bananas, and Toy Boats’ in the live shows,” she says.
Budding artist fans can even find free, downloadable coloring pages related to her songs like “Let’s Go, Pistachio!” Pre-COVID, Caldwell also brought a parachute and shakers for kids and their grownups to play with, and hopes to again soon.
“Rainbow Love Song” was an instant fan favorite, says Caldwell. “It is a deeply layered song about all the colors of love, accepting and loving ourselves and others. Our good friend, Red Yarn came in to sing on it, along with kids’ artists from throughout the country and even a popular artist from New Zealand.” Families can listen to this beautiful song on Kelli Welli’s latest album, “Robots Don’t Tell Jokes,” released in April.
Where to See Kelli Welli
PDX Parent is happy that the joyful Kelli Welli is performing at our annual PDX Parent Family Festival, on Saturday, June 18 at Oaks Amusement Park. Even better, the festival is free!
In addition, don’t miss Kelli Welli at the following events this summer:
- Check out her weekly show at 12:15 pm at Alberta Street Pub.
- She’s part of Wee Wednesdays at Hoot-n-Annie at 10:30 am.
- On Saturday, July 9, she’s participating in the Cathedral Park Performing Arts Collective Porch Concerts at 10am.
- Catch her at Leach Botanical Garden on Friday, July 15 at 11 am, part of the garden’s Kids Concert Series.
- Don’t miss her at the free summer concert series at Tualatin Public Library on Sunday, July 24.
How to Support Kelli Welli
“Buying my music is an awesome way to support my ability to continue making new music,” she says, “Or coming to shows and sharing the love.”
Caldwell adds that her goal is to create and release a new album each year. “And I love writing songs on request, so anyone with a request, just let me know!”