The Ogden Amphitheater is starting a three-part contest over the course of the summer to pick the best out of nine area bands. The first Friday Night Rockstar launches the amphitheater season next Friday, June 1, with three challengers.
Headlining the evening after the face-off is 18-year-old Brogan Kelby, of Farmington, who has recently released his own album, "Sky Lights."
Those facing off in the evening's battle of bands are Mere Image of Layton High School, which won both the Standard-Examiner and PTSA band battles earlier this year. Weber High School's Tribes, which took second in the Standard-Examiner battle, also plays, as does a Salt Lake City-based band, Mystique, produced by Spy Hop Productions.
Kelby is a homegrown alt rocker, born in Salt Lake and raised on the Wasatch Front. His only experience playing in the Top of Utah was a supporting turn at the Ogden Valley Balloon Festival at age 15. By that age, he was already recording original material in a bare-bones basement studio.
"I've always loved recording on my own," said Kelby. "I have my own studio now, a good one, and it is a lot easier. The whole recording process helps you with songwriting, because you can hear yourself, know what styles of music work well with your voice."
Kelby's mother tells him that he sang, even when a toddler, tagging along with her to work. He took up guitar at age 8, and joined the Salt Lake City campus of the School of Rock at age 11.
"We did cover shows, and I did a David Bowie cover show," he said. "And that is also when I started writing my own music and performing. And so I got into writing then, messing around. The School of Rock helped a lot, but we were doing cover songs, and I wanted to get to my own original stuff."
The first song he finished for performance was at age 13, a tune called "With Me."
"That's about when I started performing my own stuff, at the Murray Theater and the Avalon Theater and little places like that. And then at 14, I got a tiny acoustic recording studio set up, a really little ghetto set-up for recording, but it got the job done."
At 15, he was playing the Ogden Valley Balloon Festival, and met the person who is now his manager, Todd Newcombe. Shortly after that, Kelby started recording his album, which was released last fall.
For "Sky Lights," Kelby got production help on some of the album's songs from Branden Steineckert, who now plays with Rancid and formerly with Utah County hard-rock heroes The Used. Kelby's manager Newcombe recommended the collaboration.
"Branden has a rep for being a down-to-earth guy. He listened to my music and really liked it and said he would love to be a part of it."
Kelby had worked with a producer once before. He won time at age 15 with producer Veit Renn, who has worked as producer on albums for artists like 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys, Jennifer Hudson, Wild Orchid and many more.
"He is a very top-40 pop guy. I am pop, too, but I like more edgy rock pop, alternative. I learned a lot with this multi-platinum producer. But Branden really understood what I wanted to do."
Kelby hopes to eventually get signed to a major label, and would also like to do some acting and producing.
"Right now, I want to get my music out there as much as possible, and be able to make a living at it."