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Arts & Culture

Boise Musician Grandma Kelsey Gets Ready To Play Treefort Music Fest

Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio
Boise State Public Radio
Kelsey Swope performs as Grandma Kelsey.

The Treefort Music Fest is underway in Boise and goes through this weekend. More than 260 indie and emerging bands will perform during the festival including local acts. Grandma Kelsey is one of them.

The artist's real name is Kelsey Swope. “Grandma Kelsey was a nickname that my friend gave me," she explains, "because I used to host dinners and things when I was in college. And I love antiques.”

The Boise native is in her early twenties. She wears a feather in her hair and an antique wedding dress that she altered herself.  Kelsey holds her guitar, a prominent black bird tattoo moves as she plays.
Last year on tour, Kelsey became friends with fellow musician Gregory Rawlins. She wrote a song about the moment when they stopped the van by a river. Kelsey learned this was the spot where Rawlins and his wife had spread their first son’s ashes.

“Here’s this person who I’d spent three days with and had no idea," she says. "And then I was looking into his face. I saw all of the pain. I saw all of the joy. Fortunately they have another wonderful baby boy. But it was just this really wild thing that changed me. It changed my perception of love and of light and of darkness, and most of all of transformation and strength.” 
Kelsey graduated from Timberline High School when she was 16. She attended Boise State for a while, but decided the college scene wasn’t for her. Kelsey decided to write music on her own, approaching her craft with intention and passion.

But the artist isn’t all “grandma.” She giggles when she’s asked to describe her music.  
“Well for a long time I said ‘art folk blah blah blah,' she laughs. "But now I…Well I coined this new term actually, it’s called psycho adorable. It’s kind of about all the things that can’t be placed, I guess? They just are. They’re good, and a little bit crazy.”
Kelsey’s mom was an opera singer, so music was a part of her life growing up. She told her dad when she was four she was going to be a country singer. Kelsey admits she’s not much of a country singer but she did produce a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Joline.”  

Kelsey is part of an emerging young music scene in Boise.
“I’ve never wanted to move away because you can do anything you want here and be supported and thrive. It’s something I don’t know exists anywhere else. You know, we’re not Portland or whatever – but we are ourselves – we’re Boise. And it’s so cool, it’s so unique.”

The artist played Treefort last year, and she’s back again this year. She hopes to showcase some new songs during her Sunday show at The Crux.
Kelsey recently gave her two-week notice at the local restaurant where she was a server. She ended her lease in Boise and moved into her grandma’s barn in the woods. She now lives with her dog, two roosters, a horse and an old mule. Kelsey says she’s rededicated herself to her music.