Paul Maurice Kelly is an Australian rock music singer-songwriter, guitarist, and harmonica player.
He has performed solo, and has led numerous groups, including the Dots, the Coloured Girls, and the Messengers. He has worked with other artists and groups, including associated projects Professor Ratbaggy and Stardust Five. Kelly's music style has ranged from bluegrass to studio-oriented dub reggae, but his core output straddles folk, rock, and country. His lyrics capture the vastness of the culture and landscape of Australia by chronicling life about him for over 30 years. David Fricke from Rolling Stone calls Kelly "one of the finest songwriters I have ever heard, Australian or otherwise."
Kelly has said, "Song writing is mysterious to me. I still feel like a total beginner. I don’t feel like I have got it nailed yet".
After growing up in Adelaide, Kelly travelled around Australia before settling in Melbourne in 1976. He became involved in the pub rock scene and drug culture, and recorded two albums with Paul Kelly and the Dots. Kelly moved to Sydney by 1985, where he formed Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls. The band was renamed Paul Kelly and the Messengers, initially only for international releases, to avoid possible racist interpretations. At the end of the 1980s, Kelly returned to Melbourne, and in 1991 he disbanded the Messengers. Kelly has been married and divorced twice; he has three children and resides in St. Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne, with his girlfriend, Sian Prior. Dan Kelly, his nephew, is a singer and guitarist in his own right. Dan performed with Kelly on Ways and Means and Stolen Apples. Both were members of Stardust Five, which released a self-titled album in 2006.
Kelly's Top 40 singles include "Billy Baxter", "Before Too Long", "Darling It Hurts", "To Her Door" (his highest-charting local hit in 1987), "Dumb Things" (appeared on United States charts in 1988), and "Roll on Summer". Top-20 albums include Gossip, Under the Sun, Comedy, Songs from the South (1997 compilation, his best-charting album), ...Nothing but a Dream, and Stolen Apples. Kelly has won eight Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Music Awards, including his induction into their Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2001 the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) listed the Top 30 Australian songs of all time, including Kelly's "To Her Door", and "Treaty", written by Kelly and members of Yothu Yindi. Aside from "Treaty", Kelly has written or co-written several songs on Indigenous Australian social issues and historical events. He has provided songs for many other artists, tailoring them to their particular vocal range. The album Women at the Well from 2002 had 14 female artists record his songs in tribute.