The most brutally honest and intense musicians are capable of thinking out loud. They expose their minds without any concern for the vulnerability of their thoughts. As vocalist, guitarist, and founding member of Bay Area legends Neurosis, Scott Kelly has spent over 25 years exploring the possibilities of sonic catharsis.

In 2001, he released his first solo album, Spirit Bound Flesh, on the band’s own Neurot Recordings. Aiming to explore the possibilities of his own voice, Kelly found acoustic guitar to be its natural companion. “It’s something that just developed slowly,” he says. “It probably took about five years to get to that point where I first started experimenting with actually singing, and then, when I stripped the music down, the lyrics kind of just came that way. It seemed like the words being so up-front and clear, they just started to carry more weight, I guess.”

“In Neurosis, you get lost in the sonic overload, and it’s like a big turbulence. All these different emotions coming, and the words are kind of random and not always immediately associating to each other,” Kelly admits. “I started to think that they needed to tell a story, or they needed to convey an emotion more directly, in a way that people can understand. I was inspired by that.”

Spirit Bound Flesh was released almost 20 years ago, and during this time, Kelly has changed as a musician. “I’ve definitely learned a lot doing this stuff so much. It’s been a long time, I didn’t even think about that—I really need to get out a new record,” Kelly laughs. “I’ve gotten much more comfortable with playing the guitar, and I definitely think that the songwriting has gotten a lot better. It’s clearer, and the songs are more cohesive.”

With his songs, Kelly pulls listeners into his mind by placing the focus upon the strength of the human voice as a musical instrument. “I want people to be able to hear lyrics and feel them,” he explains. “I think I have a kind of obsessive need for people to feel something, and I think that I create the songs so that they will convey these emotions. If people are open to them—which is up to them—they will go on this [journey], maybe let it take them somewhere.”

Building a great relationship with the audience is the most important thing for Kelly. “I feel there’s this kind of unspoken bond between the people that come to hear this music,” he says. “I think we all are sharing some sort of experience in life where there’s loss or redemption or trying to find the sliver of light through the darkness.”

Being a solo artist is different from playing in a band, and Kelly knows that better than most. “There are two different parts of me,” he admits, “one is introspective and the other one is more pissed off. I feel different when I play with Neurosis than when I play solo. It’s more of a kind of calm meditation. Neurosis are very intense. There’s a reason that we only play 30 times a year: it’s fuckin’ hard. It’s hard physically, it’s hard emotionally. It takes a lot out of us to do it.”

Kelly followed up Spirit Bound Flesh with The Wake in 2008, then The Forgiven Ghost in Me in 2012. It’s been a long time since his last album, and this year, Kelly is ready for a new challenge. “[Rwake bassist] John Judkins and I are going to do a record. It’s time,” he says. “We have some songs that are close to being ready. We are a really good group, playing really well together, and I’m really looking forward to it. At this point in my life, it has kind of become the one thing that I can do well, and I kind of missed my chance to develop another skill somewhere.”

With his dedication and contribution to extreme music, Kelly has some advice for younger musicians. “Just make sure that you’re playing with people you want to play with,” he asserts. “Don’t waste time playing with people who you don’t get along with or you don’t really care about, because you’re going to be spending a lot of time together, and there’s no point in that. You’re not going to create something that’s really substantial unless that caring, that eventually becomes love that, then, creates the real music.”

“Other than that, just find your vision and stick to it,” he adds. “Whatever that is, is yours. I’m not here to tell you what that is. If you want to write pop songs and go on a major label, that’s just as much your right as anybody [who wants] to create an avant-garde noise band and release your own records. It doesn’t matter, just do your own thing and have a passion for it.”

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