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New and Next: Meet Roc Nation R&B Artist Bridget Kelly

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Bridget Kelly

ESSENCE.com's "New and Next" column spotlights the brightest new talents we think you should know. This week we meet R&B singer and ESSENCE Music Festival performer, Bridget Kelly.

Who is Bridget Kelly? A fiercely talented singer from the Big Apple who attended LaGuardia High School for Performing Arts. In 2008 she landed a meeting with Roc Nation's A&R team and was signed to her very first record deal.

Not soon after the New York anthem "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys filled the airwaves, Jay-Z tapped her to fill in for Keys on tour. "I went on tour with Jay for a year and sang 'Empire State of Mind.' Almost every live performance that he did. We did a national tour here — it was a really incredible time," she tells ESSENCE.com. "But it was hard. I was very nervous at first. When I first started I was freaked out because I’m a fan of Alicia Keys. I put a lot of pressure on myself because a part from the audience watching. Once I was able to put my own niche on it… I got totally comfortable with it."

Who she sounds like: Kelly has a rich voice with lots of body. It's unpolished yet authentic. Unlike many budding pop stars, she doesn't need the bells and whistles to keep you interested. With Kelly, it's simply about the voice. She tells ESSENCE.com that her yet to be titled debut album will sound "aggressive, raw, honest, emotional and cool." But she's quick to say she's trying to add something new to the genre. "I have a lot of records that are talking about love and heartbreak. When you’re a singer, its kind of hard not to sing those records because most of the greatest records that real singers sing are about heartbreak or about being in love. So I’m trying to add a comedic feeling to a lot of the records that I’m doing."

Where you'll see her next: Kelly is heading straight to New Orleans for the 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival. Although she's a newbie to the scene, Kelly is prepared to put on a show of a life time for festival-goers. "I can't wait to just get up there and lose my mind," she told ESSENCE.com. "Get up there and just go crazy!"

With excitement in her voice, Kelly turns down the volume and gets serious for a moment. She shares that she really wants to make sure she does a phenomenal job and above all, sing correctly. "I really want to show as much of myself as I can. I want to put my best foot forward and really just not think about anything other than the fact that it's my moment."

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