“Not every child needs to grow up on Facebook”: Angelo Kelly talks to TagesSatz vendor Stefan Marx

Angelo Kelly is the youngest member of the multi-generational travelling band, The Kelly Family, who have sold more than 20 million albums since they first started performing in the 80s. TagesSatz vendor Stefan Marx caught up with him for a candid conversation before his concert at Hanover’s youth church. They talked about memories, home schooling and future prospects. The interview marks the start of a series for the Göttingen street paper entitled ‘Vendor meets…’

Angelo Kelly & Stefan Marx Photo: Ute Kahle

By Stefan Marx, TagesSatz vendor

Angelo, I hear you didn’t get much sleep last night. How are you feeling today?

I’m feeling much better; a huge thanks to my dentist here in Hanover for that! He saved my day this morning, and the concert for my fans. We arrived on the tour bus last night and my first stop this morning was the dentist round the corner. I feel human again now.

As a child, you performed as a street musician with your family. I still remember you from when you sang the number one hit ‘Angel’ as a little boy with long curly blonde hair. Today, I hear in the media that you still have fans from back then, who follow the tour bus around. Is this just a rumour or is it really true?!

Yes, there is still the odd fan or two. On the one hand, it is a huge compliment, but on the other, it really is too much of a good thing. That’s also the reason we moved abroad, as there were often fans in Bonn where we lived until our tour through Europe. Today, I live with my family in Ireland, and enjoy the tranquillity and the neighbours popping round for a cup of tea simply because they like me as a person and not just the star.

As a child, you were only ever seen accompanied by bodyguards. Did this have an impact on you?

Unfortunately, it really was necessary at the time. We actually had a very sheltered childhood – though the public may not believe it. Our parents, and later my father and older sisters, always tried to protect us. We were also schooled by our parents and teachers at home, in the caravan, and later on the barge. Home schooling was very rare back then. Today, I must say, that it did me a lot of good, and we naturally also had far more opportunities to experience the countries and learn the local languages during our travels than other children do.

Is this also the reason why you and your wife choose to home school your children?

It is actually more for practical reasons. In 2009, we decided to tour Europe in a caravan with our children, and because education is compulsory in Germany, we had to find a solution. In Ireland, home schooling is permitted, though they must complete homework and examinations just like all the other children. They will ultimately gain qualifications that are comparable with the German Abitur school-leaving examinations and can go on to study at university.

Home schooling allows us to enjoy greater freedom, to plan better, and to not be continuously apart. We are very close and work as a team.

You started your own family at a young age. Was that an attempt to create something of your own?

Oh, that makes me laugh! My wife and I met when we were very young and everything just followed its natural course. That being said, my wife still studied first and we have a very traditional understanding of values and family. But the biggest advantage of being a young parent is that I will hopefully also become a grandparent while I am still young, too, and can then have lots of fun with my grandchildren. My parents never had that opportunity.

Back in the day, your father was often criticised for exploiting you children and abusing you as moneymakers. Do you find yourself facing similar criticism today?

Not directly, though comparisons are drawn time and time again in the media. But it was also other times in those days. Back then, us Kellys were very much in the limelight and led very public lives, so to speak. It is a good thing that there were no mobile phones or internet back then. Who knows what that would have led to, and which of us would have become selfie stars! Today, we are all more withdrawn and ensure our families have plenty of privacy. We do not lead public lives, but rather normal – you could perhaps say bourgeois – lives.

“Other times” is a good way of putting it. Today there are mobile phones and countless new media. You attempt to discourage their use at your concerts and – in contrast to some other musicians, who often find themselves facing a sea of phones – are often very successful in this. Do you block this world out completely? Or how do you manage to regulate it?

There are simply very clear rules – including for you, as the media. My wife and children generally do not give interviews and are only photographed in official photos. This allows us to retain a certain degree of control, though ultimately we cannot prevent it entirely. Because they should also have the freedom to go shopping or swimming and not be recognised.

It has worked well so far, especially when I am not around. The older children will undoubtedly make their own mistakes when they post photos online for themselves and so on, but we have hopefully made them conscious of the fact that not every child needs to grow up on Facebook. My children will grow up with musical instruments in their hands, not mobile phones.

Your wife and children meanwhile also join you on stage. That must be exciting, but certainly also not easy. What is the biggest challenge for you?

Like all parents, we try to protect our children and if one of them doesn’t want to do something and says no, then they are not forced to. There have been concerts where one or other of our children have not joined us on stage. But they simply did not want to go on stage that particular day – and that is also ok. That being said, when they are a bit older, they must also learn that they have to see things they have agreed to do through – to the best of their abilities. Without the dentist, I would have been in really bad shape today, but I still would have given my best. We try to be role models for our children without enforcing rigid rules. They should be allowed to develop freely, just like we did.

That sounds fascinating! I have also followed your musical development and was actually particularly impressed with some of the things that were never really made public, though. Your studio work with Heinz Rudolf Kunze, for example, and your skills on the drums. Will this work be continued?

I am pleased to hear that such things are also remembered. I am an extremely versatile musician – there will undoubtedly be this-or-that still to come.

You are currently touring with a repertoire of Irish Christmas songs. How do you celebrate traditional holidays?

If we are in Ireland, it is very simple: in an entirely traditional style. With presents on 25 December and a Christmas tree. In Ireland, an extra place is always set at the table at Christmas, in case there should be an unexpected guest. We always do that. This year, we will celebrate in Berlin and will ourselves be guests. One time, when we were travelling in Spain, it was something of a challenge to find a tree.

And what will you do in the summer?

We will spend time in the recording studio and regain our strengths for the second part of the tour: it was such a success that we already have several sold-out concerts this autumn. I am delighted to hear this, as this shows that there are still people out there, who also appreciate quiet tones in these loud times.

Thank you for the interview!

Translated from German to English.