Kelly Barnes was born in December 1975, in Las Vegas, Nevada, where her mother ran a small dance studio and her father worked as a pit boss in baccarat at the Las Vegas Hilton. She began training as a dancer at the age of 3. Her mother Cindy was her biggest fan and encouraged Kelly to pursue a life in performance, while her father, Gary, encouraged education and a more reliable career. Needless to say, though she always had high marks in school, her first love was the stage and she would turn her focus to auditioning and getting a career in the arts. She was on Star Search at the age of 11 and went on to be in several musicals, industrials, etc.. In high school Kelly sang with her older sister in a Christian rock band. Neither one of the girls thought the band was any good but both simply wanted to perform. When her sister quit, she took over as the lead. It was short lived as the band sucked but Kelly got a taste of “front man” status and thought someday she could pull it off again in something more her style. It was then that she attended the University of Nevada, Reno where she studied journalism. One night, after 5 years of school, Kelly called her father in tears and said that she didn’t know what she was doing and didn’t want anything to do with any of her studies. He came the next week to help pack all of her things.
Shortly after, Kelly moved to San Diego, where she received a scholarship at the Academy of Performing Arts, and soon after, began teaching there while working at different bars and restaurants waiting tables. It was in the little town of Ocean Beach that she met Sutton Althisar. She was introduced by a fellow waitress after a Soulcracker show. Sutton was the lead guitarist, singer and writer for the popular band. They began dating and fell madly in love. While Sutton toured with his up and coming rock band, her resume began to get interesting. She was cast as lead dancer in San Diego’s Balboa Park production of Evita. Kelly was cast next to Denise Austin and other instructors in a series of kickboxing workout videos. She traveled with an Irish dance group starring Liam Harney from Riverdance. She spent time in Spain and Mexico, bullfighting (yes bullfighting) for a documentary called The Bulls of Suburbia.
Sutton Althisar was born in Columbia, South Carolina and spent his childhood scattered all over the south. He started his musical studies with piano lessons at age 3, and sang in children’s church musicals before getting an electric guitar at age 12, the same year his parents “rededicated their lives to Christ”. He became very involved in Christian groups and was leading worship in Flagstaff, Arizona when he met the friends with whom he would form Soulcracker. Soulcracker took him from Flagstaff to San Diego, the hub of their seven state tour circuit. He was alternating between touring and carpentry when he met Kelly at the local rock and roll club, where Soulcracker played weekly on the stage that he had built. They fell in love. Soulcracker caught the attention of Jane Lipsitz and Dan Cutforth, who were producing a show for VH-1 about independent bands on tour. The show, “Bands on the Run,” was a success and the band went national, performing to thousands all over the country, including featured performances at The Warped Tour, CMJ, SXSW, and countless festivals. They released five records through their independent record label Large Marge Records, and pioneered internet record sales on their website, personally packaging and mailing merchandise from their manager’s apartment. The band migrated to Los Angeles only to disband in 2002, the year Sutton and Kelly were married and Ragsy was born.
Feeling like there were few lucrative opportunities left in San Diego, the two decided to stay in LA. Kelly’s sister had an extra bedroom in her apartment on western and Hollywood so they moved right in. The apartment was awful, and LA, as most people know, is not easy for the first couple of years, but Kelly got a job at the 101 Coffee shop while Sutton worked as a carpenter. All the while, they continued writing and made the decision to give the band all they had. Their first show was at The Derby and they’ve played intermittently throughout the southwest ever since, in various incarnations. They eventually found a niche in LA with The Beachwood Rockers’ Society, a collaborative group of artists in “proho” including the likes of Lissie, Truth & Salvage Company, Thunder From Heaven, Andy Clockwise, Lowlight, and other “legends” as they semi-jokingly call themselves. Christmas 2008, they released their debut album, Broken Bridge, which was seemingly a collection of bittersweet ballads about love and relationships, but was, in fact, mostly about their individual breakups with Christianity. One month later, they split.
In 2007 Kelly began a side project co-writing dance music with Alexander Perls. They had a major hit called “Get Shaky” that went platinum and to #2 in the charts (under Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” at #1). The song went to #7 in London and is regularly rotated on BBC Radio 1 today. Her club music is popular internationally and she tours at some of the most exclusive clubs abroad. Other songs include “Everybody” ft. Rudenko, “This Beat Is” ft. Laurent Konrad, “Take u down” ft. Roy Gates, “Killer” ft. Jean Elan and more. Sutton also performs alone and in collaboration with several other musicians in The Beachwood Rockers’ Society, most notably with underground LA country legend Tripp Reezak, all the while making a name for himself in carpentry, having built many of the stages and bars he frequents in Hollywood.
2010 finds them in their separate but intersecting lives, Regardless of the painful breakup, Ragsy is the transcendent quality of their love made concrete. It is their child – the culmination of their experiences and efforts – and is the catalyst for their ambition.
Ragsy’s current incarnation features Kelly and Sutton with bass by Justin White, and Bill “Smitty” Smith on drums. They’ve just released they’re EPONYMOUS EP with Bruce Leonhart at Kingsley Studios. It is a five-song look at their time together and their life in LA, and the honest beauty of life tinged with experience.
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