Posts Tagged ‘Robert Earl Keen

09
Jan
12

Our Kind of Music is moving!

After a little over two years at its current location as an ordinary wordpress blog, Our Kind of Music (OKOM) is finally going to grow up and become a real website! We’re still going to be bringing you great articles and news about your favorite Americana / Folk / Roots artists, but over the next couple months we’re going to kick in the second wind!

In the past, we’ve brought you interviews with Todd Snider, Will Kimbrough, and Robert Earl Keen and we had fun doing those, but now we want to take interviews a step further. How would like to see Skype interviews with OKOM artists? Yeah, I thought you might like that. I’m jazzed about it too! I think it would be a hell of a lot more fun than reading those transcriptions of the phone interviews! And I sure as hell won’t miss that shitload of typing!

We’re also planning on bringing reviews of up-and-coming OKOM artists’ releases; news and tour updates about your favorite OKOM singers; and much more.

But first – I do have a bunch of typing to do and finish up those final installments of The Lost Snider Tapes that I promised you (almost a year ago). The Lost Snider Tapes – Part 1.3 will kick off the new website.

The new Our Kind of Music website is located at ourkindofmusic.com. Slide on over there and take a look. While you’re there, take a second and enter your email address where it says, what else… Enter Your Email and you’ll get notified when the new site is up and buzzing!

24
Feb
11

The Lost Snider Tapes – Part 1.2

This interview with Todd Snider took place the morning of May 9th, 2009. Todd’s upcoming record, The Excitement Plan, was due to be released a month later. In this second part of the interview, we cover everything from pot to Dock Ellis to being lucky in life.

OKOM: The last time you were in Eugene, we were talking on your bus, and you mentioned that you and Dave had gotten popped for possession. Now, I’m assuming that’s the backstory for “Greencastle Blues.”

Todd: Yeah, it is.

OKOM: Yeah, and I couldn’t help but make comparisons between “Greencastle Blues” and “Tillamook County Jail.” But, “Greencastle Blues” has a serious and somewhat dark, more mature tone to it. There is even a hint of regret in there. What were your – if this isn’t too personal – what are your thoughts about what you went through that ended up being the inspiration for a very personal song.

Todd: Yeah, I was feeling more ashamed about getting caught smoking marijuana than about smoking marijuana. At the age of 42, I think it was my seventh little trip to jail, and they are starting to get old. I would like to shake that side of my life but the thing that sticks with me is that I still smoke weed and I assume that I probably will for the rest of my life. So, that means that I always have to be real careful and try not to be disrespectful to the people that don’t want me to do it.

OKOM: What also came across in the song – besides being so personal – was that last line that spoke like a little act of defiance – “less than an ounce of possession, shit, I can do that kind of time standing up.”

Todd: Yeah, I feel like I was trying to show the cycle of how somebody stays a person like me. And most of the cats in my neighborhood are like that too. You find yourself – well I guess I shouldn’t say you, I should say I – you know how someone says, “You find yourself.” I’m like, no, you find yourself. Don’t tell me what I should do. So anyway, I find myself – damn, after that I forgot what I was going to say. But I liked the other point. [laughs]

OKOM: [laughs] A little side thing, last night I read that the New York Times had dubbed Jackie Greene as the Prince of Americana. I couldn’t believe that when I read it but… So, what would that make you?

Todd: Ummm, The Grand Imagineer!

OKOM: [laughs] That sounds much better than Prince.

Todd: [laughs] Yeah!

OKOM: Okay, onto the next one. “America’s Favorite Pastime” – the title alone can be taken two ways – is it baseball or hallucinogenic drugs?

Todd: Yeah! [Laughs] Wow, I love you, man! You really appreciate the lyrics. I like to hear that you listen to it because it makes me feel understood. I always try to put in little things like that, you know?

OKOM: [Laughs] Man, you’ve got a lot of stuff like that. Now, when did you first hear about that game? I mean, you were only about four years old when that game was played.

Todd: Oh yeah, sure, I know. Maybe it was about two or three years ago. Maybe it was from one of the guys in Yonder Mountain String Band. I know it was backstage at a hippie festival, and the conversation went to – because a lot of the hippie bands take acid before they play – and the conversation turned to Dock Ellis having thrown a no-hitter that way. And I was just very fascinated by that.

OKOM: So did you have to do some research about Dock Ellis and that game?

Todd: I did. I had my friend Peter Cooper show me how to get on the computer and get the box score. Wait a minute – was it him? Anyway, somebody showed me how to get the box score. That was all I needed.

OKOM: You give a rundown of the whole game and a lot of the stats in the song.

Todd: Yeah, I do. My innings and my scores I believe are correct. And the coach’s name, Murtaugh. I used the box score pretty much for all that. And I had heard of this one part, that I couldn’t quite get in because I couldn’t get it to rhyme. It was a part about somebody hitting a dribbler at him and he hit the dirt like it was a line drive. I had heard that supposedly happened.

OKOM: Yeah, I believe it did. Okay, “Bring ‘em Home.” I love the viewpoint from the soldier’s side and it is not your typical end-the-war songs.

Todd: It was important to me, for some reason when I was working on that song, that I don’t come out and tell anybody to bring somebody home. So I felt like I wanted to tell it from the point of view of somebody else.

OKOM: Right, and why not somebody that’s out there in the middle of it? One of my favorite lines from that song is “it seems like all I’m ever almost dying to do” I mean, listening to that, it’s like you’re saying – or he’s saying – that he knows that any day he could die.

Todd: Exactly, and he’s just trying to get back. And I don’t know the answer. I know some people with some kids over there that just want to come home, man.

OKOM: I hope you don’t mind, Todd. I’m just going down the list.

Todd: No, I’m enjoying it. I appreciate you doing this for us and thank you for listening to it.

OKOM: That’s what’s always got me about your stuff. I always tell people when I turn them onto your music – listen, because you’ve got a lot to say.

Todd: Well, thanks man. That means a lot.

OKOM: It’s not superficial shit, it’s deeper than that. You work hard at it, and it shows. Next one – “Corpus Christi Bay” is one of my favorite Robert Earl Keen songs. But you didn’t just do a cover, you made it your own.

Todd: I tried to.

OKOM: I think it’s your vocal style and when that haunting fiddle of Molly’s comes in on the second chorus just sets that sad and pathetic mood.

Todd: Yeah, you got it.

OKOM: Now, was there a personal reason for the choice of that song?

Todd: Yeah, I’d heard that it was true for Robert Earl. Every time I’ve heard that song it reminded me of me and my brother. If you took the Corpus Christi Bay and replaced it with, say, the music world; and took the oil rigs and replaced it with the road and honky-tonks, you’d have our story. He [my brother] was out there with me for a while and now he’s home.

OKOM: Where does he live?

Todd: He lives across town here. He works in a booking company.

OKOM: So, you guys are still close?

Todd: Oh yeah, very much so, I talk to him every day.

OKOM: Are you far apart in age or are you very close?

Todd: I think it’s only about a year.

OKOM: That’s good to be close. My brother and I are nine years apart; we’re like two only children.

Todd: Oh wow, that’s weird.

OKOM: The years don’t matter; we love each other like brothers. And I think  – shit, I know – I was an accident. My mom told me I was.

Todd: [laughs] Hey man, that’s cool, accidents are fantastic!

OKOM: [laughs] Hey, as long as I’m here! Enough about me. Okay, a couple of songs – “Slim Chance” and “Good Fortune” – it’s obvious, well at least it seemed obvious to me that you’re talking about Melita. Does she inspire you a lot?

Todd: Yeah, oh yeah.

OKOM: Do you consider yourself lucky?

Todd: Oh yeah, very much.

There’s more to come next week. Right now, I’ve got to get ready to go to Reno for Todd’s two shows at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. See you there. It’s gonna be a blast.
20
Aug
10

Robert Earl Keen Interview – Part 3 of 3

On August 18, 2010 I was given the opportunity to interview the legendary singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen. In Part One of this three part interview we talked about a variety of subjects – a burning car, Todd Snider, and Robert’s not-so-traditional love songs. In Part Two of the interview we explored some of his more bizarre recordings and one of his somewhat unorthodox songwriting methods. In this final installment, Robert tells us some more about his songwriting methods, some of his thoughts on mainstream country music, and an interesting side-story about a song that is probably his most popular – “The Road Goes On Forever.” Enjoy!

Robert Earl KeenOKOM: Okay, you’ve already mentioned one of your methods of songwriting – lying naked on the floor with your guitar –

REK: [Laughs]

OKOM: [Laughs] So, I don’t even know how to ask this next one. When it comes to songwriting, when compared to mainstream – oh hell, I can’t compare you to mainstream, I can’t even listen to that shit – anyway, you seem to get it so right when others seem to be getting it so wrong. I guess the question is – how do you approach a song? Is it story first, lyrics first, melody first, or does it vary?

REK: Because I’m not a genius musically, I really like to latch on to some kind of music that stirs me or something that piques my interest. So, I do kind of just strum guitars. My God, when I really get set up to writing, I set about five, six, or seven guitars around me. I’ll strum on one for a while, and maybe I’ll feel like it’s kind of dead. So, I’ll pick up another one until I sort of get a vibe. What happens with me is that the music will bring out some sort of image. Then I’ll take that image and try to describe it. Maybe it’s a car in a parking lot under a street lamp, or maybe it’s a girl in a doorway – any kind of an image. That’s where the beginning starts to blossom a little bit. Then once I describe it to my satisfaction, then I’ll try to create a puzzle. And then I’ll try to solve the puzzle.

OKOM: That’s really interesting. That’s a cool approach, I mean, starting without knowing the ending.

REK: Yeah, I know. I like to read. One time I went on this Leon Uris jag where I read all his books. Then I read some of his biography stuff, and when I read that he’d started with the ending, I went, “Well shit, that’s cheating!”

OKOM: [Laughs]

REK: You know? [Laughs] Anybody can work backwards. Let’s work forwards and find the mystery, you know? Where’s the mystery? So, I’ve never been much on starting with the ending. I don’t know why. It’s just one of those things. I like to stumble onto the ending, you know?

OKOM: Yeah.

REK: It’s more why I don’t write from titles much. I’ve written a few songs from titles and they’re never as good as a song that I write from an image. So people will give you those – “Hey, here’s a good title for you!” – shit, I don’t know, man, I can’t write from a title. It’s a tried-and-true method; it’s just not my tried-and-true method.

OKOM: So, where do you do most of your writing? Do you do it on the road?

REK: No, no. I have this place; it’s a little shack on a side of a hill that I’ve owned for about twelve years. I do most of my writing there. I used to say that I didn’t write on the road. But, I’ve got where I’m on the road so much that I’m working on that. I’m working on getting over that whole fear. I’m not saying that it works all the time. It seems to be harder to really kind of mine some serious lyrical pay dirt on the road. However, I do try a lot more than I used to. I’m on the road all the time, so I got to write something.

The Rose HotelOKOM: Hey, one of the songs from Rose Hotel – “Village Inn” – Have they ever called you and thanked you for their increase in business since that song came out?

REK: [Laughs] No, they never did. But I haven’t been back. So, if I go back, I’m definitely going to hit them up for it!

OKOM: Yeah, they should at least put you up for free, right?

REK: Yeah, yeah.

OKOM: So you actually did write it there?

REK: Yeah, I wrote it right there. Even though there was some tongue-in-cheek stuff going on there, it truly was an inspiration. I was truly inspired. As a matter of fact – and I’m not a big [guitar] tuning guy but – I found a tuning on that, I swear that it was just because of where I was and what was going on. That’s how I ended up writing the song. Like I was telling you, I have to find some type of music to follow. I found this little weird small change in tuning that just made that song happen. That was what it was.

OKOM: Another song on Rose Hotel – “Wireless in Heaven” – You haven’t caught any heat from the Vatican over that one yet, have you?

REK: No, I don’t even worry about it anymore. [Laughs] Actually, I was worried more about heat from Starbucks.

OKOM: [Laughs] Yeah, they’re pretty tight with their trademark.

REK: Right, they are.

The Road Goes on ForeverOKOM: Okay Robert, this next question comes off the Todd Snider Listserv – they call it The Shithouse Wire. [Robert laughs] I put this question out there – “If you had one question to ask Robert Earl Keen, what would it be?” So, this comes from Eric Kincaid in Grand Rapids, Michigan – damn, I sound like Casey Kasem…

REK: Yeah. [Laughs]

OKOM: Anyway, he asked, “Have you ever been approached about making a movie based on the song ‘The Road Goes on Forever’?”

REK: Well, that one – I used to have a stack of screenplays that people used to send me based on that song.

OKOM: Really?

REK: Yeah, yeah, and I was always like, yeah, go ahead and write this screenplay or go ahead and make this movie. And I read some of them, and they all really just pretty much reflected the song scene for scene.

OKOM: They didn’t expand on it?

REK: No, not much, not importantly. Then, this girl from somewhere around Dallas wrote one and won some kind of little local screenplay writing contest with it. They sent it to me and it was great. It was really great! It was sort of Smokey and the Bandit meets The Road Warrior [Mad Max 2] sort of thing, and it was really interesting! It clipped along and filled in lots of stuff. It had some exposition and it had a lot of back-story for the characters. It was great! So, William Morris – I don’t know whether they’ve optioned or something – there was no money, of course, that changed hands – but it’s been sitting on somebody’s desk somewhere for the last couple of years like that. But, that was cool.

OKOM: Yeah, that is cool. I’ve got to ask you about a trilogy on Walking Distance – that pretty much makes Walking Distance one of my favorite albums of yours – and that’s the trilogy of “Road to No Return” – with “Carolina,” “New Life in Old Mexico,” and “Still Without You.” Do you do those much live?

REK: No, I did when I first [released] it. It’s not what you’d call a crowd-pleaser. I did it back then because I really loved doing it, and it was fun to do. I’d have to dust it off; we haven’t done it in a long time. It was a lot of fun but it took eighteen minutes. So, if you have a crowd full of beer-drinking screamers, it didn’t hold their attention very well.

OKOM: Do you have a preference when it comes to types of crowds? Do you like a crowd that really listens?

REK: I love a crowd that really listens but you have to be on your best behavior and you got to keep moving. You’ve got to be a little bit more on your toes with a crowd that really listens. Since I’ve been playing with this band for the last fifteen years, we’ve played so many crazy, rowdy, drunk crowds and stuff; I’d have to say that getting up for that is a little more difficult than riding the wave of a crowd of screaming, yelling, happy people.

OKOM: Do you have to sometimes adjust your set list on the fly?

REK: Yeah, I do. As a matter of fact we have – what is called in the band – The Secret Mike that’s located in front of the drums where I run over to Bill, the bass player, and tell him, “Alright, slash this bunch of stuff, and we’re going to go to these songs!” Then he’ll tell the rest of the band.

OKOM: Yeah, I can imagine that the crowds can really vary so much.

REK: Yeah, they really can.

OKOM: Robert, thank you very much for your time. I’m really looking forward to seeing you in Roseburg.

REK: Great!

OKOM: I really appreciate your time, Robert. Damn, I could go on for hours about your songs but I know you’re busy. I’ll see you in Roseburg.

REK: Well, I appreciate it, too. Be sure and say hi!

Note from author: I didn’t make it to Roseburg BUT I did go to Robert’s show the next night (8/25) in Portland, Oregon. What a great show it was, too! It’s always a treat to see him with a large group of true REK fans.
Some personal highlights – hearing “The Great Hank,” “Farm Fresh Onions,” “A Border Tragedy,” “Feelin’ Good Again,” and the tattooed girl in the baby blue dress who danced non-stop for two hours in front of my cousin Brian and me.
Thanks for an unforgettable night, Robert!

Go back to Part One

Go back to Part Two

20
Aug
10

Robert Earl Keen Interview – Part 2 of 3

Robert Earl KeenOn August 18, 2010 I was given the opportunity to interview the legendary singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen. In Part One of this three part interview we talked about a variety of subjects – a burning car, Todd Snider, and Robert’s not-so-traditional love songs. In this portion of the interview we explore some of his more bizarre recordings and one of his somewhat unorthodox songwriting methods. Enjoy!

OKOM: Now, going back to your What I Really Mean album – There are two songs on there that I love, that’s “The Great Hank” and “Mr. Wolf and Mamabear.” Both of those make me want to ask a two-part question – Where did those stories come from, what were you smoking at the time, and where can I get some?

REK: [Laughs] Well, “Mr. Wolf and Mama Bear” has to do with a personal small-town politic thing that I got involved in. Well, I didn’t get involved in it; I got sucked into it. I didn’t ever want to be a part of it.

OKOM: Wow, really?

REK: Yeah, and it [the song] was my vindication.

OKOM: [Laughs] That’s great.

REK: That’s how I vindicated the entire scenario, to be able to write something in kind of a puzzle form. What do they call it? It’s kind of an allegory without any religious overtones.

OKOM: I’m assuming that you can’t say where that took place.

What I Really MeanREK: Yeah, it was where I was living there in Bandera, Texas. It was all pretty well documented. It was in all the papers and all kinds of stuff. My thing was – because I tried to really hold the noble and gentlemanly line on the whole situation – I never felt like I got my true emotional indoctrination out there. I never really let them have it like I wanted to, so I did it in a song.

OKOM: So, that was your payback.

REK: Yeah, that was my payback. [Laughs] Oddly enough, I have a few songs like that, and every time you sing those kinds of songs, you kind of get your own inner-grin going about that kind of thing.

OKOM: Yeah, I can imagine.

REK: And “The Great Hank” was kind of a combination of some long thoughts on Hank Williams and his career, the strangeness of it, and the shortness of it. And I was in a play in Philadelphia about fifteen years ago that had some elements of Hank Williams. I was truly trying to do one those things that was really interesting and really sideways. I got naked and laid down on the floor in the shack that I write in –

OKOM: [Laughs] You’re kidding, right?

REK: No, I’d lay on the hardwood floor and I’d play the guitar until that kind of popped out. Once it popped out, it was all there in front of me like a hologram. I thought, “Wow, this is it!” So I just stayed with it. I even thought of changing the end but it came out so smooth and beautiful that I didn’t even want to mess with it. I could have tweaked the end a little bit because it does kind of fade off into the dust.

OKOM: Yeah, it does.

REK: I could have come with a little bit more of an impact or something like that, like I like to do, but it just fell out so great – I left it alone.

OKOM: The first time that I listened to it, I had to back it up and listen again where you have that line about him being in drag.

REK: Yeah.

OKOM: Plus, the visuals of him sitting there under the glow of the TV with mascara running down his cheek – it’s just priceless.

REK: Yeah [Laughs]

OKOM: [Laughs] It’s just great, man.

REK: Well, thanks. Yeah, I love that one. That’s fun, but it’s hard to do on stage though, because there’s a bunch of words, a lot of words. It’s almost a tongue twister. If I get started and I stumble – I’ll stumble big time.

OKOM: So, that’s one of your personal favorites?

REK: Yeah, I like to do it. It’s fun to do. It’s more of a performance piece than it is a song.

Gravitational ForcesOKOM: Another one of yours – that just popped into my head – that’s along those lines is “Gravitational Forces.” Were you actually in a club like that?

REK: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. That was all, like I said, more journalistic. I was pretty much talking and telling what I thought. But what I wanted to do with that was the music gave it that spaceiness, gave it the total weird vibe that was really occurring at that place. That was a nightmare from start to finish. I could write another song about the gig itself.

OKOM: Wow, so that actually did happen.

REK: Yeah, oh yeah. It was this place called the E9 Club in El Paso, Texas – the worst place ever. I mean, I’ve played worse places, but that was one of the more bizarre bad places.

OKOM: Man, that’s great. I thought – as bizarre as it sounded – this place can’t really exist. If it did, that’s really something.

REK: Only in El Paso, basically.

OKOM: I guess anything goes there.

REK: Yeah.

Go read Part Three…

Go back to Part One…


19
Aug
10

Robert Earl Keen Interview – Part 1 of 3

As I waited for Robert Earl Keen to call, I calmly went over my notes and made sure that the recorder was set up and ready to do its job – all was cool. The phone rang, I hit the record button, and hit the talk button on the phone – I had nothing but a dial tone. What the hell? The phone rang again, I hit the record button again, and hit the talk button on the phone – again – nothing but a dial tone. Then I remembered – hit the talk button first, then hit the record button. Damn, I hoped that Robert wasn’t too pissed. I was no longer calm. I waited for what seemed like an eternity (it was only about thirty seconds) for the phone to ring again – and it did. My anxiety faded after the first few minutes talking with Robert. It was a lot of fun. Here’s part one of that interview.

Robert Earl KeenREK: Hi, I’m calling for Blake. This is Robert Keen.

OKOM: Robert, how are you doing?

REK: Fantastic.

OKOM: Sorry about the phone problem. I, uhh, dropped it… twice.

REK: No problem. [Laughs] Don’t worry about it!

OKOM: First off, I want to thank you for taking the time out for this interview. I really appreciate it.

REK: Sure!

OKOM: I wanted to ask you about a few things. I’d like to talk about Rose Hotel, and I’d like to go back a few albums as well.

REK: Okay.

OKOM: You know, you and I are the same age, and I also had a car go up in flames back in 1974.

REK: Wow. Now that’s worth going over, huh?

OKOM: Yeah, but I’m SURE that your story is much better than mine. Do you mind telling me about that car of yours in flames on the cover of your Picnic album?

REK: Yeah, It was at Willie Nelson’s [1974] picnic that I went to. I had a date, which was really rare for me.

OKOM: Really? [Laughs]

REK: Yeah, so, I had a date, and I took her to the picnic. You know, I guess it was sort of on the final days of free love, braless girls, and all that great stuff. We just kind hung out at the picnic. The day was a little bit hazy; I’d say a lot of it was fuzzy.

OKOM: Well, it was the seventies.

REK: Yeah, some self-induced and maybe some of it was the weather. But the car caught on fire out in the parking lot and I didn’t have anything to do with it. But you could see the big huge plumes of smoke behind the stage. They came out and they explained how they had this fire out in the parking lot. They called out my license plate number, and I just happened to know it. I remember just running and running through all the people hollering that my car was on fire. People were laughing and pointing. I finally got out there and it was really, truly just burnt to nothing.

Robert Earl Keen's PicnicOKOM: Yeah, in the picture it’s totally engulfed in flames.

REK: Yeah. I just literally sat down on the burnt grass there and started weeping. My girlfriend, my date – she thought that it was the funniest thing she ever saw. So, that was the kind of the end of that relationship, I think.

OKOM: Oh, man! [Laughs]

REK: No, man, it was. We had to hitchhike back. It was some kind of deal.

OKOM: That’s a great story. Hey, I’ve been listening to you for a long time –

REK: Uh-huh, good.

OKOM: – and your songs, your lyrics tell such vivid stories full of out-of-the-ordinary characters. Do these stories sometimes stem from personal experiences and people you’ve met or known?

REK: Well, I think that every good piece of fiction stems from a true story. I always get a kick out of how movies always say it’s from a true story. Well, hell, it’s all from some kind of point of truth. It just depends on how much your imagination kicks in. So, it really varies with me. It can come from something small – me seeing some kind of scene or scenario in my imagination, and then taking it on from there literally. For instance, the song “Gringo Honeymoon” that we still play is almost a true journalistic telling of an exact story.

Gringo HoneymoonOKOM: Really?

REK: Yeah, so I try to go from being as imaginative as I can, to sometimes trying to write down exactly what happened because – to be cliché – truth is stranger than fiction in some instances.

OKOM: That’s true. You know, one time I was talking to Todd Snider about his song called “You Think You Know Somebody” from his first album. I was asking him what inspired him to write that because I thought maybe it was based on someone he knew. He told me he was trying to do what you did with “The Road Goes on Forever” – and that’s to tell a story with an ending that you don’t see coming.

REK: Really?

OKOM: Yeah, and I thought that was pretty cool. He told me that he really worked hard at it too. Was that your intention [with “The Road Goes on Forever”]?

REK: I always feel that I have an inner need to have some kind of wrap up. I don’t know, some sort of dramatic ending. I like drama – in movies, in books, in songs – in any kind of narrative. So, yes, that’s almost always my intention. Moreover, in the world of Todd Snider, Todd has taken it and gone beyond. I mean I’m completely amazed with what Todd does, how brilliant he is with not only his songs, but his storytelling, and his whole show. I think that he’s a talent that has separated him apart from all the others. I think that he’s almost created his own genre.

OKOM: Yeah, and in a way, you have too. But yours goes back so much further and there are guys like Todd that look up to you.

REK: And that’s quite a compliment to me, but he took it on and moved it to something else. It’s nice. I’m just glad that I know him.

OKOM: It has got to be a great feeling that you inspired guys like that.

REK: It is. Sometimes I’m surprised when Todd gives me credit for anything, but he’s just very magnanimous in that way.

OKOM: You’ve never really been mainstream country. You do things your own way. Was there ever a point in your career where you’ve thought, “Maybe I should be more mainstream?”

REK: Well, I don’t know. Yeah, I guess there were times when I’d think that I’d want to be mainstream, you know, written mainstream kind of songs. But it really never was meant to be. I haven’t spent a lot of time worrying about it. But I certainly have wondered what it takes to be mainstream, because I’m not really sure what that is. Just about the time that you think that you’ve figured things out – it changes. You know, I see people with songs these days that I wrote fifteen years ago, basically the same song, that’s now mainstream. I had people – in radio and stuff – back then tell me that’ll never happen; we’ll never play that kind of stuff on the radio.

OKOM: Now they’re playing something that’s damn near the same thing.

REK: Yeah, but you know, we all have our own destinies and I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with that whole idea. So, I just like to write what I write.

OKOM: Right, right, [Laughs] which a lot of us appreciate.

REK: Well, good! I’m glad that I do connect with people. That’s the main thing. If I didn’t connect then I wouldn’t be doing this.

OKOM: I think it comes back to your style of storytelling is what people connect with. They can visualize those settings.

REK: Uh-huh, good.

The Rose HotelOKOM: There’s also another group of your songs that I kind of categorized as non-traditional, sad love songs like “Broken End of Love” and “For Love.” The title track of Rose Hotel is another one of those types of love songs.

REK: Right, right.

OKOM: You know, the two characters never meet; they never come together.

REK: [Laughs] Yeah, right.

OKOM: Do you put a lot of yourself and your own experiences with relationships into those types of songs?

REK: I think the only way you can tap into some kind of an emotional well is to be putting yourself into that situation. I’m always feeling like that – even in the smallest of relationships – sometimes there’s that inner need to really, really have some kind of touchstone or some sort of a connection with that other person. And many, many times you just barely miss it. Those sleepless nights that you can’t figure things out, you try to work out – where did I miss that connection? Why did it dissolve? Why did it not quite come to its fruition?

OKOM: That’s interesting.

REK: Particularly because I don’t feel that it’s my strength as a writer, you know the emotional song or almost even the spiritual song. I think about those a lot more than I do on any kind of a narrative song.

OKOM: So, is it more work for you to do that?

REK: It is more work, yes it is. Because I think that you have to peel back the layers. I always wonder if I’m just emotionally bankrupt or can I just not peel back the layers and be more honest with myself.

OKOM: But your goal is to really hit that vein and hit the emotions.

REK: Yes, very much so, yes.

Go Read Part Two…

19
Aug
10

Living on That Dusty Trail

Robert Earl KeenSince the mid 80s Robert Earl Keen’s songwriting styles have proven to be unequaled. His many loyal fans gladly venture into the vivid settings rendered in Keen’s songs – where his colorful and eclectic characters reside – to live the stories themselves. They know the gang that hangs out at Mr. Blues in “Feelin’ Good Again.” They’re in the alley with Sonny and Sherry in “The Road Goes on Forever” as that fateful shot rings out. They live to drink Mescal with the boys from the old Broken O at Amanda’s Saloon on “Sonora’s Death Row.”

Keen’s subject matter is as wide as the Texas skyline and can sometimes take you places dark and dreadful. He can cast you into a shadowy, paranoid persona where you know everyone is out to “Blow You Away.” In “Billy Gray” he shares the tender story from long ago of young Sarah’s tragic love for Billy. In the end, you’re there next to Billy’s headstone. Keen also has a very sharp wit that shines in the perennial favorite “Merry Christmas from the Family” and in the recent “Wireless in Heaven.”

Robert Earl Keen may very well be the father of Americana music (as some have called him). It’s unclear if he’s ever made that claim, so maybe he’s more like its illegitimate father. But he’s no deadbeat dad – after all, he’s nurtured and supported Americana for years and there are many singer-songwriters who claim him as their inspiration.
This article was originally published in Eugene Weekly, August 19, 2010

Read OKOM interview with Robert Earl Keen…




“Our Kind Of Music” Calendar

August 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jan    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Enter your email address in the box below to subscribe to "Our Kind Of Music" and receive notifications of new posts by email. (You will receive a conformation email). Then click the - Subscribe to "OKOM" - button

Join 30 other followers


%d bloggers like this: