The full-length debut from singer/songwriter Ruston Kelly, Dying Star is a document of self-destruction and salvation. With a storytelling sensibility that constantly shifts from candid to poetic, the Nashville-based artist details his experience with addiction, which included time in rehab and an overdose in early 2016. Rooted in a delicately sculpted sound that shows every nuance of his vocal delivery, Dying Star captures all the chaos and heartbreak on the way to finding redemption.
Born in South Carolina, Kelly started playing guitar under the guidance of his dad, Tim “TK” Kelly, a pedal-steel guitarist who now performs in his band. Since his father worked for a paper mill and often changed job locations, Kelly grew up moving nearly every two years, living everywhere from Alabama to Belgium. At 17, he took off for Nashville to live with his sister, and in 2013 landed a publishing deal with BMG Nashville. Along with penning songs for artists like Tim McGraw and Josh Abbott Band, he continued working on his own material, releasing his debut EP Halloween in 2017 and earning praise from Rolling Stone (who described Kelly as a “scruffier-voiced Ryan Adams obsessed with both Merle and the Misfits”).
Kelly co-produced Dying Star with Jarrad K (Kate Nash, Weezer), enlisting local musicians like singer/songwriter Natalie Hemby, Joy Williams (formerly of the Civil Wars), Kacey Musgraves (Kelly’s wife), and Abby Sevigny (Kelly’s sister) to bring the album’s gracefully melodic, guitar-driven arrangements to life. With each song centered on lucid self-examination, Kelly shapes his narrative with equal parts singer/songwriter confessionalism and punk-rock irreverence. “A lot of my music is focused on suffering, or trying to understand the human condition through the lens of suffering,” he says. “Which probably sounds totally depressing, but it’s actually the flipside of that. Sometimes you’ve gotta go into that darkness—you need to get lost and then figure out for yourself how to find your way back. That’s the only way we can find pure joy, and really be thankful for the life we’ve been given