Burlington videographer seeks to expand – Castleton Spartan

The state of Vermont has been enjoying a near creative renaissance since the turn of the decade, with many musical artists making a national impact. One of the emerging faces at the forefront of this movement, alongside artists like 99 Neighbors and North Ave Jax, is Kelly Butts-Spirito.

Self-proclaimed videographer and director, Butts-Spirito is a fierce visionary who is driven by the idea of ​​pushing the boundaries in overlapping creative spaces, with his brand “Love, Kelly” attached to music videos and concerts, with plans to expand into fashion in the future.

Some of these gigs have filled venues with over 200 people while having to turn down as many and more, and artists he has worked with include Trippie Redd and KBFR, the latter of which achieved nuclear popularity thanks to a hit single from TikTok. And with all of those accomplishments under his belt at a young age, he’s able to exude energy through social media positivity and in-person crowdwork.

While Butts-Spirito’s rise is inevitable, his past would not lead you to believe he would be where he is today.

As a youth, Butts-Spirito struggled with substance abuse issues that had plagued him since college age. At 17, he was asked to leave high school in Burlington and find a new place to figure things out. He spent three months in a rehab center, then moved to a group home in Montana. He maintains that although it was a difficult time, the experiences under his belt led him to where he is today.

“It’s hard to be a critical addict,” he laughs. “And being sober at that age, you have to be really ready to be different.”

After returning from the group home, he participated in a post-college year at Winchendon School in Massachusetts, where he rediscovered his stride as a baseball and cross-country athlete, leading to collegiate attention and a eventual career, first in Ithaca, then Evansville. Although it turned out to be positive at first, the environment was not good either way and Butts-Spirito retired completely.

But he took a liking to making videos in Winchendon and spent time at several different studios, including last summer in Atlanta.

A fun part of the experience of growing up as a creator is being able to take calls from people who turned him down, like Seven Days and the Burlington Free Press, he said.

His creativity also kept him close to home. In late November, Butts-Spirito posted a video with Burlington artist Jackson Sevakian, who performs under the stage name “North Ave Jax.” The video for “Trust Nobody” has racked up 295,000 views on YouTube and the audio has over 600,000 plays on SoundCloud. And while this isn’t the first time the two have collaborated, it’s the most notable to date.

This relationship goes back a few years, but resurfaced in the early parts of the original 40s when Butts-Spirito heard Sevakian’s music and was inspired to strain and reform it on a more professional level.

North Ave Jax recently signed with Love Renaissance Records and for Butts-Spirito it was also a very enjoyable experience witnessing his rise.

“It just keeps getting better, and what we have isn’t like any other artist relationship, it’s more like a partnership,” he said.

The “Trust Nobody” video was shot entirely in Burlington, and many of the shoots take place in locations that hold a sort of ironic meaning for the young artist and director, who both look back on their high school experiences with less than fondness. It came with a bit of a setback from the record company, but Butts-Spirito says it was worth it in the end, especially with the local impact it had.

This local impact was felt again in November during a concert under the Love, Kelly brand presented at the ArtsRiot! of Burlington. The show was headlined by KBFR, whose song “Hood Baby” was a 2020 TikTok hit and who recently collaborated with Butts-Spirito on another video. Zaia, the funk-fueled MC from Atlanta, and Sevakian from Burlington, were also featured, and the gig had to turn away as many people as he admitted.

This journalist also had the opportunity to perform during the show, accompanying Obi the Voicegod of Castleton. Butts-Spirito said southern Vermont and Rutland County are “really dope markets” and “untapped by the people of Burlington, for the most part.”

As he seeks to do just that, Butts-Spirito is working with Castleton University student and West Rutland native Tyler Serrani on a video and wants to do more.

“I try to speak in schools, and it would be an honor to speak in Castleton. I think it would have meant a lot to me as a freshman in college to hear my story now, you know? ” he said.

Serrani, who performs under his own name, is working with Butts-Spirito on a video for his track “basketcase,” and already considers him “a bit of a mentor” in their short relationship.

“I felt like I’d known Kel a lot longer than I have, I guess that’s just the impression he gives people,” Serrani said.

As for the ArtsRiot! Show, Butts-Spirito said, “The coolest part for me was that there were people from every chapter, from you, Jax, KB, Zaia, some of my friends from rehab even showed up . And working with my friends Kevin and Marley on it made it even more special.

The aforementioned Kevin and Marley are Kevin Garrison and Marley Tipper, two other Burlington products who are old friends of Butts-Spirito.

Tipper broke into modeling and online influence (@marleytipper) around the time Kelly started making videos, and found success in both areas, with over 31,000 Instagram followers to boot.

“She’s got a real knack for knowing what’s going to explode,” Butts-Spirito said, emphasizing her importance to the whole process.

“I’ve known Kelly for seven or eight years now, he’s one of the most driven people I know. Behind the scenes it can get rough, but he always pulls through and makes the most of everything. I love this man,” Tipper said.

Garrison was a former standout football and basketball athlete at BHS who began working more closely with Butts-Spirito after a house show he hosted.

“One thing that makes Kelly successful is that he doesn’t let failure defeat him and that’s why he’s in the position he’s in now. He epitomizes dedication and consistency,” said Garrison said “I’m sure Kelly will have to face 100 other obstacles as well, but I’ll put my money on him every time to overcome them,” he continued. “He conquers hate with love, something this world needs more than ever.”

Butt-Spirito is planning a future show at Higher Ground and has been thinking about where he’s been and where he’s going.

“My mistakes don’t define me anymore, like I was really afraid they did,” Butts-Spirito added.


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