A rocker with soul (and blue hair)

Culture & Entertainment, Spotlight — By

Karri Daley is a Madison staple.

For the past three years, the 27-year-old singer has lit up the Madison music scene with her shows at Funky Mondays at the Frequency. Performing as part of the Clyde Stubblefield Show ⎯ Clyde Stubblefield being known for his years with James Brown in the late ’60s ⎯ she wows her audience with her wild, soulful voice and commanding stage presence. And the electric blue hair doesn’t hurt, either.

But if you saw her three years ago, you’d see an entirely different woman.

“I got to the point when I was 24 going on 25 that I realized that anything that I ever wanted was slipping through my fingers because I was too afraid to take it,” she says. “I was too afraid of criticism, too afraid of what other people thought, too afraid of being booed off stage.”

It’s not as if Daley wasn’t talented ⎯ it’s quite the opposite. Daley first started singing at age 3 when her mom, a writer, played guitar for Karri and her sister, Aryn, to sing them to sleep. Despite no formal training, Daley set herself on the path toward a career in music. But something set her back ⎯ her shyness. While Daley performed in bars and coffeehouses, she had no stage presence and went entirely unnoticed.

When she was 20, Daley met her sound engineer fiancé Jaimie Doering, who fortuitously began working for Stubblefield. Daley took on lighting. It wasn’t too long before Stubblefield himself noticed her.

Karri Daley rocks out at the Frequency in Madison. Photo by Lukas Keapproth

“When I first met Clyde, he said, ‘Who’re you little girl? I hear you can sing,’” she says. “…I decided to get up and sing a blues song with him all nervous and shaky, but they thought I was cute and they let me do it every now and then.”

As time passed, Daley pushed herself to open up more on stage. After about three years, Stubblefield offered her a deal. “Clyde said, ‘Hey, you know you’re gettin’ real good. I wanna give you a chance, I wanna hire you. Would you like that?’ And I said ‘Yeah! Are you kidding me?’”

And thus a performer was born ⎯ almost. When shedding her shy way of life three years ago, Daley wanted to change in a big way. That’s when the blue hair became part of her life and an integral part to her identity.

“People would like my voice but wouldn’t remember my name. I was just another blonde girl, brunette girl, black-haired girl — even if I dyed it bright pink or bright red it didn’t matter, it was all the same,” she says.

That’s when she settled on blue. “I knew it was very unusual-looking, which is exactly what I wanted. Not only because it’s fun and I like it ⎯ and I really do like blue ⎯ but I really was doing it for marketing,” she says, giving her neon locks a twist. “So now if people don’t remember my name, they sure as hell remember I have blue hair.”

With blue hair and a newfound confidence, Daley took the stage with the Clyde Stubblefield Show and never looked back. She not only won over her new bandmates, but also the audiences she entertained. “She has a way of connecting with the audience. People just love her,” says guitarist Joe Wickham. “And women too. Usually they get jealous because she’s the hot girl singer, but she just wins everybody over.”

And now, she’s hoping to win everyone over with her own original album, set for release in early 2011. “They’re songs that I didn’t just come up with out of my head just for the sake of writing a song, they’re all genuinely from the heart,” she says. “I strongly believe it’s therapeutic.”

None of Daley’s success would have happened were it not for the epiphany she had at 24. Not only does she believe in it, but also she espouses to everyone she meets, “Life is too short to be shy so get out there and just take it.”


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