Don’t let the gorgeous eyes, high cheekbones and full lips fool you. KELLI LIDELL is no supermodel and she is not the latest in a line of country divas to come off the Nashville (or is it AMERICAN IDOL these days?) assembly line. Instead, she is a country-blues roadhouse mamma with a sultry purr and a band of ball-to-the wall blues rock slingers. There was never any doubt about LIDELL’s destiny. The daughter of country singer JOHNNY LIDELL ( famed for the hit song PRIMROSE LANE), the young KELLI took to music enthusiastically but there was also a bit of an acting bug that needed to be satisfied (as a child, LIDELL was a regular on the hit TV show THE LIFE OF GRIZZLY ADAMS). For a brief moment, the shot at music stardom was coming true as she was signed to CBS RECORDS but the thrill was short-lived as LIDELL was involved in a serious auto accident. After ten years of grueling rehabilitation LIDELL learned that life was too short to stand still and is hitting the road with her band THE SHADOWMEN with a vengeance. Not forgetting the ten year struggle following her accident, LIDELL founded the SECOND CHANCE FOUNDATION – a non-profit organization geared toward helping individuals faced with adversity to achieve their dreams.

ROCKWIRED spoke with KELLI LIDELL over the phone. Here is how it went.

How do you feel about this CD?
I’m really proud of the CD and stuff and I’ve always believed that once it’s done – never go back and fix anything. I’m pleased with it.

You’ve got quite the band behind you.
Oh the boys – THE SHADOWMEN. I’ve got to tell you these guys are one in a million. We handpicked these players and they are just excellent. They all have their own personalities. DANIELE DE CARIO – THE HITMAN jumps up and down onstage and he has a good time when he’s playing I just love those little guys.

This album is pretty much a return for you.
Well, I’ve been doing it all along and Thank God for MIKE LESNIAK. He decided to sign on as my manager and then we set up some auditions and we hand picked these guys. I’m quite lucky to have a good band like this.

What do you think each of them brings to the table musically and personality-wise that makes it all work?
CHRIS TURBIS is a wild card. He plays keyboards and he is always the life of the bunch. He can play like nobody’s business. MIKE LESNIAK is on drums and he has been in the music business for a long time. He’s the “smart” guy. He always takes his time on deals and he is just a really good guy. We have JEFF MALLOW from Indiana who plays guitar and his favorite saying is “Shitfire!”. When we hear him say “Shitfire” that means it’s good. DANIELI – THE HITMAN from Italy is just incredible. He never makes a mistake on the bass – ever.

You were born into music pretty much because of your father and his career but how did music begin for you?
My dad owns this club called THE CHECKERBOARD and he had this band that was playing there. I was about four and decided that I had better get up there and sing. They put me on apple crates and I sang SHUDDERS AND BOARDS and I had no teeth in the front so I was really lispy. Then, I sang with them again when I was about ten or eleven and from then on that was how it went. Once music hits you, there is nothing else to do.

But you did other things. You acted as well. How did that happen?
I was visiting with my mom and aunt in Park City Utah and I was combing my hair and these guys were standing there and they come up to me and said “Hey! You wanna be in a movie” so I ran to my mom and I said “Mom, I’m gonna go be in a movie!” and she said “What?!” I did and extra part on GRIZZLY ADAMS. I love acting too. It’s great fun. I think I was just born to be an entertainer. There is nothing else.

But eventually music was what you settled on and you were signed to CBS.
Yeah and then I had a car accident so that kind of tipped the deal. I spent ten years in a rehabilitation center trying to learn how to walk and talk again. My brother – when I was trying to learn how to sing again – would sit with his hands out and I’d watch his hands for notes. Family was just a great help back then.

Ten years is a long time to learn to do everything again. What was the darkest moment for you after the accident?
Crawling to the bathroom. I just started thinking that this is not going to work for me. Even in rehabilitation I was like “You know what? I’m coming back. I’m gong to act again and I am going to sing.” And you know how doctors are. They were all like “The best you can hope for is bagging groceries or something” and I was like “Oh no! No, no! That’s not going to happen!”

You started this foundation called the SECOND CHANCE FOUNDATION. Obviously this foundation was fueled by your own life experience. Would you like to talk about that?
I started the SECOND CHANCE FOUNDATION for people deserved a second chance at their dreams. Our first thing out of the gate was that poor kid DAVID(ROTHENBERG) who was burned by his father.

I remember that. I was a kid when that happened.
He is one of the nicest guys and he really wanted to direct and I was like “Well, why don’t you direct the music video!” and he was like “I’ll direct it if you sing in it”. He went on and directed a BUDWEISER commercial. We’ve also got some actresses in there one of whom was standing at the back end of a car and another car hit it and it tore her legs off. It was horrible. I set her up with a little movie studio so she could film movies and act. I told her “You know what? You’re breathing. You’re not dead. You can act in a wheel chair.”

On this CD you’ve got this song called CAN’T.
Oh! The four letter word!

Talk about that son in relation to struggles in you life and the struggles of others who have come through your foundation?
I’m telling you, when I hear people say they can’t do something, I go nuts. “Can’t” is a four-letter word and I say that to the audience. When I tell them that I’m going to sing a song about a four-letter word, their mouths drop and I say “Oh not that one! – the other four-letter word!” I wanna smoke a Cuban cigar when I want to. I don’t know why there is this whole thing about “Oh my God! Don’t visit Cuba!” so I had to throw that line in there and I really would like to buy a farm where money grows on trees. I’ll tell you that right now. I also don’t like taking my clothes off in an airport so I had to throw that line in there and I also had to throw a line in there about those killer bees that everyone is afraid of. I can’t stand the word can’t. When someone says that they can’t do something that is when I say “Get up! You’re gonna do it!”

It’s safe to say that music was what got you through learning to walk again.
Yes it did. MERLE HAGGARD, WILLIE NELSON and PATY CLINE. The hardest thing was hearing what I did before the accident – the songs that I did. The worst thing was seeing people that knew me and I didn’t know them. They were like ‘Hey how are you doing?” and stuff like that and I would just stand there. My eyes might as well have rolled to the back of my head. It was just fucking horrible.

When you were with CBS, what was you musical approach?
It was Country. I thought “Yeah, I’m gonna be PATSY CLINE damnit!” It was definitely Country. All of a sudden now, I’m a wild son-of-a-bitch. I’ll tell you how that happened. We were filming a movie called CRAZY and there was this song called WELL OH WELL I’M COUNTRY (SINGING IN A ROCK N ROLL BAND) and I was in the studio recording it and something happened. Something snapped and I started singing rock n roll. All of a sudden, MIKE is in the studio going ‘Oh my God! She’s crazy! Look at her!!!” Something happened. There is something about rock n roll and the blues. It’s crazy! Thank God I’ve got someone like MIKE around because he doesn’t put me in a box and tell me that I’m going to sing this way and that I’m going to dress that way. We just did this show at the REDHAWK CASINO and here I was trying to wear these street clothes and MIKE says “Oh no! You’ve got to be a little dressier.” He said that we can’t wear ripped jeans and all I heard was the word “can’t”. So what did I do? I went out of the back of that stage and went into the crowd and started raising hell. So I’m thinking ‘that’s it! There not having me back here again!’ All of a sudden there is this mob of people and these security guards made there way through and came up to me and said ‘lady! You better get back on that stage!” and I was like “Okay!” I really love being in front of an audience. I really like roasting people and raising hell with them, getting ‘em going and making ‘em sing. They all have these big smiles on their faces but some of them, you can see are shy and they are like ‘get away from me with that microphone!’ and the next thing you know, they have it in their hand.

Explain how songs gets written for you.
Sometimes, it’s like pulling teeth. I find if I’m sitting trying to write a song that’s not coming to me, I’m like “forget it!” I carried this one chorus in my head and one night at the studio, JEFF’s best friend called him and said that he was leaving LA. JEFF was all bummed out and telling me that his best friend was leaving the music business and that he couldn’t take it anymore. All the while, the sun was setting right behind him and all of a sudden I go ‘The sun is going down / sadness all around’ and then I look to him and I asked him if he’d mind if I wrote a song about it and he said no. I carried the song ‘TAKE IT EASY ON MY HEART’ for years. I kept it in my head and all of a sudden I see JEFF running in to the rehearsal room and the whole band runs in behind him and I was like “What are you guys doing?” We all just started playing and two hours later, we had the song. My brother came to visit and I’m sitting in a restaurant about six months before he was here and I was watching this guy and he had empty eyes and I was thinking ‘empty eyes that are looking but he’s not seeing’ and I thought that that would be a good line too. ‘Empty arms that are holding without feeling' - I had that in my head when my brother came to visit. He had the opening for this song. It went like ‘He pours his last drink before he walks down that hallway to hurt.’ My brother recited me all of these lines and I was like ‘I’ve got you chorus.’ We put that song together and the song ‘EMPTY EYES’ will always stop a show. This poor little guy was standing there crying once and I had to go hug him – the poor little thing! If I see anybody crying during that song, look out. Another song called ‘SOMETIMES’ is another one that is hard to get through without people crying.

What kind of a place are you coming from as a songwriter?
I’m looking at the world and what’s going on now and I’m writing about it. I’m writing about what is happening without saying things like ‘the government sucks!’ or something like that. I watch what is going on and I try to bring it into the music and touch the people with it. You’ve heard of the ICE ROAD TRUCKERS?

We’re the BACK ROAD FUCKERS. We just have hours of fun on that bus. We all play different characters on the bus. I play a sex therapist hat takes phone calls on the bus and the band calls me up. We keep ourselves well entertained on the bus.

It doesn’t sound like you need to entertain yourselves too much. You guys have everything – a bar, living quarters etc.
Hey, It’s the Big Black Bus. We’ve even got a song about the ‘BIG BLACK BUS’.

Talk a little more about performing in from of live audiences.
I love the audiences. Most of the time you’ll see me, I’m down in the audience with the people. I just love the people. I love singing for them and talking to them after the shows an d stuff. The wildest show that ever happened – other than Sturgis – was at the LITTLE INN. The bartender, in the middle of the set, jumps on the bar and goes “You rock KELLI!” and all of a sudden this huge riot started and that was the first night that our publicist DOUG had decided to see us. Poor DOUG! He simply came up to check us out and the next thing you know, he’s doing the Can Can and he got the whole place going.

That doesn’t sound as crazy as the Sturgis gig. Talk about that gig.
There was this lady. She was flashing her tits all night at me. And BRIAN, I’ve got to tell you, I’ve seen more tits than a plastic surgeon. Even my mom is like “Women actually flash their tits at you?” and I say “All the time!” So this lady is out there dancing all night and the next thing I know I hear this voice whispering “KELLI!” It was this lady. It was a tall stage and she is this little thing walking up and then she comes up to me and says “I lost my eye!” I said “What?” She said “I lost my eye” So I called out for a flashlight and me and the band helped her find her eye. That was the most outrageous thing that ever happened.

From the CD, what songs stand out for you the most and why?
‘ME AND BOBBY MCGEE’ because of the way that it’s done in a minor key. I think it’s sadder. I probably shouldn’t talk for KRIS KRISTOFFERSON but I think that when he first wrote that song that that was how he felt.

It’s always been a sad song but the minor key makes all the difference.
I also like AIN’T NO SUNSHINE. I like that song because I can get the audience involved and get them to sing and dance. ‘TWO STEP’ is a true traveling song.

What’s next for the band in terms of recording?
We’re recording on the big black bus and what we would like to release is something called ‘TUNES FROM THE BIG BLACK BUS’.

What would you like someone to come away with after they’ve heard this CD?
If anyone had any problems, I would like their problems to disappear and I’d like them to get lost in the songs and to feel good. It’s all about feeling good. You can say things to people but they will always remember how you make them feel. I want them to feel at peace and if they laugh or if they cry, that to me is like icing on the cake.