Only one voice here

Published 10:17 pm Friday, March 28, 2014

She has sung at events and venues all around Suffolk and the surrounding area in recent years, developing a strong group of loyal local fans in the process. But 18-year-old sensation Bria Kelly is on a much bigger stage lately, giving the whole nation a taste of Smithfield through her participation on the hit NBC show “The Voice.”

Kelly has switched from the country-twinged vocal stylings that earned her so much favor at events like Driver Days, where fans could stand on the gravel a few feet in front of the stage and watch the teenager bring soul and character to her performance, to a more bluesy approach that has sounded just the right pitch for this television run.

They can no longer stand near the stage and soak in the live-music vibe of her shows, but Kelly’s fans have been well-served by the change in venue, where even the studio audience accounts for more people than ever were on hand to hear her at Driver Days. She also has been served well by the change in musical style, which, by all accounts, has been a rousing success for the Smithfield High School senior.

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On Monday, belting out Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” in a head-to-head battle round against fellow contestant Tess Boyer, Kelly proved she’s got blues chops to go right along with her country twang. She likely has been exposed to a little of both growing up in Hampton Roads.

Kelly says she’s taking her inspiration in this season of “The Voice” from her mother, who had a close call in the hospital last April. “I want to make her proud, because she has always been my No. 1 supporter,” Kelly said this week.

But while her mother may be Kelly’s No. 1 supporter, the young lady from Smithfield should remember that she’s got thousands of other supporters back here at home, ready to cheer for her whether she’s belting out the blues or crooning country standards. They just want to hear “the voice.” And in this part of Western Tidewater, the voice is Bria Kelly’s.