Busting down another door as an independent songstress, Bridget Kelly presents Summer of 17, a distinctive six-track EP that’s taking her fans on an up-tempo walk down memory lane. After parting ways with Jay Z’s Roc Nation, the New York City singer-songwriter is reestablishing herself with a project that has already climbed to No. 9 on the iTunes’ R&B chart. “Act Like That,” the first single buzzing from the EP, also features Grammy-nominated crooner and her bestie IRL, Mack Wilds.
Here, Kelly narrates a love story chockful of a teenage girl’s pivotal moments through the eyes of her 17-year-old self. While the album might deviate from her usual style of music, the songs invite fans into a more personal and introspective period of her life that she’s never shared before.
Kelly recently dished to VIBE on the EP’s creation, her emerging fitness career and the launch of her forthcoming tour. Watch her work below.—Diamond Hillyer
VIBE: What frame of mind were you in while developing the vocals and sound for “Act Like That?”
Bridget Kelly: The whole EP was inspired by the frame of mind that I was in at the age of 17. I was always a tomboy, and toned down my curves and girly attributes all the way down. Up until I was a high school junior, I wore baggy boys clothes on purpose. I wanted guys to look at me in the same way they always did. I didn’t hit puberty—puberty hit me. And hard. All of a sudden, my guy friends had changed, like, ‘Whoa, we used to be friends, and now, you’re trying to touch me!’ I wanted a record that spoke to the girls that were confident and secure enough in themselves to flirt and be cute, but still understand when they have to set boundaries for a guy. In “Act Like That,” it’s sending that message that if my cheeks weren’t out, you wouldn’t be trying to talk to me. That needed to be highlighted, and I wanted it to be a battle of the sexes sort of thing.
What made you tap Mack Wilds?
I felt like Mack was perfect for it. It’s a New York vibe and feel, and he’s a good friend of mine. Plus, he’s a flirt! He’s an R&B kid, so it made sense for him to be the guy that channeled the guys’ point of view. He’s young and fun, and girls like him. I really wanted someone who a lot of the girls like.
How did working with Kelly Clarkson and being recognized by the Grammy Academy fuel the singing and songwriting process for this EP?
That’s actually a very funny story. An A&R came into my session the day that I wrote that song and hated it. He was like, ‘This song is terrible! This is what we’re paying you for? You shouldn’t write anymore.’ The songs I was writing at the time were for myself, and he thought they were completely sh*t. But he told me that I was wasting my time and that I should just show up and sing. Leave the writing to the writers. After that, I didn’t write for two years. Oddly enough, that song was recognized from Kelly Clarkson. So for me, that was just reaffirmation to say not just f**k him, but I’m where I’m supposed to be. Even if I think it sucks, I’m still going to roll with it and let that aspect of my craft flourish. When you don’t recognize your power as an artist, you allow others to have more power over your craft than you do. That moment let me know that I gave him too much power. I used that power to really bring this EP to life.
Is everything you went through in your teen years also channeled through this album?
I feel like I’ve come full circle and am back to being 17. I’m 29 years old and I’m helping my friends plan weddings, bridal showers and baby showers. Meanwhile, I’m over here like, ‘Can we take a trip somewhere real fast and just get wasted?’ or ‘Can we go out on a Wednesday night and just be lit?’ But everyone is trying to be responsible adults and we’re pushing 30. Now, everyone is counting down the days and thinking that we’re getting old. When you’re a girl, there’s that pressure though. I’ll go see my family every few months and they’re like, ‘When are you getting married? Are you seeing anyone? Like, what’s the plan?’ When I was 17, it was the same thing. ‘When are you going to college? What are you going to study? What are you going to do with your life? Are you ready to be an adult?’ I feel like I’m on the brink of society’s standards again, and I’m just not coming to it. All the subject matters I touch on in this album is exactly where I’m at. In the wake of high school ending, whatever love I felt like I had, would just figure its way out. And that’s what the songs reflect.
Speaking of society standards, tell us about what route your planning to go with your fitness career.
I want to do something special in the fall for fitness. In the summer, everyone’s still wilding out and eating or drinking everything. We’re not worried about the gym. What’s funny is that a lot of my friends are dancers and fitness is a natural thing for them. They can eat whatever they want and their metabolism just basically disappears. If I eat or drink whatever for like a week, I’ll see something deposit itself and then I get scared. [Laughs.] So this fall and winter, I’m definitely going to work on a program with a friend of mine and we’re going to come up with something. It might be like a “pretty girl sweat” sort of thing. I’m a girl’s girl, so I want to host activities for women that uplift and encourage them without being corny or fake. We don’t have to be friends, but you can come in and sweat your a** off.
Who would you say are your #fitspirations?
Angela Bassett is definitely one of them. Her body has been insane since she played Tina Turner, and I’m here for it, all the way. Misty Copeland is another one. Massy [Arias] is one too, and if you looked at her like three or for years ago compared to now, she’s completely different.
Lastly, what can fans expect from your upcoming tour?
We’ll be national and international, so we’re heading overseas! I’m really excited. This seems like a rebirth and reintroduction of who I am as an artist and person. I left the label last year and was in a four-year relationship, which I also left last year. I literally started from the ground [up] with everything. Everything I had was literally in shambles. When one thing caught on fire, I had to burn the whole house down and just start fresh. I’m going to recruit a couple people for the tour, too. It’ll be soulful.