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. The following year, her song “Growing Like a Stringbean,” was a Top 3 Finalist. Fan favorite “Rainbow Love Song” is currently a finalist in the 2022 International Songwriting Competition, with results still pending, as of this writing. “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 9-year-old twins. 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,’ ‘Kickin’ It with My Chicken,’ ‘All Ways Together Always,‘ and ‘Tinkle Tinkle Toot,’ 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!” Caldwell also brings a parachute and shakers for kids and their grownups to play with during the shows.
“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 album, Robots Don’t Tell Jokes.
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 24 at Topaz Farm. Even better, the festival is free to attend!
In addition, don’t miss Kelli Welli at her regular show every third Monday at Hammer + Jacks. Follow @kelliwellikids on Instagram to be in the know about summer shows.
How to Support Kelli Welli
You can find Caldwell’s hits such as “Stinky Shoe,” on her website, and streaming apps like Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Spotify. You can also follow her on Facebook or Instagram. Also don’t miss her new album, coming out June 26, 2023, called Baby Ninja, which featured the voices of sixteen local area children, including Caldwell’s twins. Her son even co-wrote one of the songs! The 16-track album will be released with an accompanying forty-page comic book written by Caldwell and illustrated by Belén Toscano.
“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!”
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