He may not have been chosen for “American Idol” late last summer, but Santa Barbara resident Kellen Romano is keeping on by once again hitting the stage of SOhO Restaurant & Music Club for its singer-songwriter showcase. On November 12 the 22-year-old singer will lead off a three-artist lineup by performing the first hour of the showcase, which will feature a twelve-song setlist of original material and classic rock songs that are his inspiration. Whether in the former or latter category, all the numbers he’s chosen fit into the theme of songs that mean something significant to him, which he called “songs from my heart.”
While he won’t be playing any newly written music of his, Mr. Romano will perform some numbers that he hasn’t yet done at one of SOhO’s singer-songwriter showcases. These include covers of The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” and Prince’s “Purple Rain,” his set’s last two numbers and the lone electric songs in a mostly acoustic set. When it comes to covering such famous music, Mr. Romano tries to bring his own flavor to the songs while retaining their most well-known moments.
“I try to keep some stuff from the original recording, usually stuff that’s very iconic, but I do try to put my own spin on it whenever I can,” he said.
With each performance he does, Mr. Romano includes two or three of his original compositions among his renditions of evergreen classics. The two he thought best fit the “songs from my heart” theme were “A Universe in My Hand,” which he wrote about all the things one can do with a smartphone, and “Music is My Life,” about how he has evolved as a musician. Elaborating on his young history of performing, Mr. Romano said the latter song recounts how he very nearly sold his guitar when he was in eighth grade out of frustration with finding performance opportunities. Once he started attending San Marcos High School, the opportunities he sought presented themselves with Royals Got Talent, a talent show benefiting the nonprofit Kids Helping Kids. Mr. Romano participated in the show each of his four years of high school and was hooked on performing thereafter.
In additional to originals that are near and dear to his heart, Mr. Romano will also sing the acoustic covers he performed for his “American Idol” audition last August: Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” and Ed Sheeran’s “The A-Team.” When asked about his memories of auditioning for the TV show, Mr. Romano said it was an overall positive experience, albeit with a significantly longer wait time than most auditions he’s done.
“It’s very different from other auditions… I was in the line for four hours,” he recalled.
After killing the hours by warming up and jamming on his guitar, Mr. Romano passed the preliminary round with the two numbers he prepared, but didn’t make it past the first round of executive producers. He admitted to the New-Press that he didn’t think it was likely he would proceed to the next round, but had hoped his participation could get him local coverage and raise his profile.
Intent on becoming a professional musician, Mr. Romano intends on transferring from SBCC, where he currently studies music and economics, to either Cal State Long Beach or Cal State Northridge and continue his musical training. When asked the standard question of what he enjoys about music, the young singer-songwriter said it’s all down to the feeling it brings.
“I don’t really know how to describe it. It just feels like I’ve accomplished something,” he said.
Mr. Romano’s November 12 performance at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club will kick off the singer-songwriter showcase at 7:00 p.m., with doors to the venue opening at 6:30 p.m. His set will be followed by performances by Miss Judy B at 8:00 p.m. and Mary Clifford at 9:00 p.m. Tickets cost $8 and will be sold at the door. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club is located at 1221 State St. Ste. 205.