by: Haley Miller
It’s hard to talk about Brian Keane’s music and performance right off the bat when you come across someone with such a unique, genuine, and down to earth personality. I soon learned he carried these traits because he sees conversations as a way to embark on writing music. With song writing capabilities that have been shared throughout the industry, I realized this guy has to be a phenomenal conversationalist. And, he’s not half bad at bringing 100% to the stage either.
I made an effort to pick on him for being from South Carolina, but quickly looked past that after talking to him and relating to the music he performed that evening at Blue Light. Laughs are inevitable around this guy– whether you’re having a drink with him or listening to the lyrics of his music accompanied with melodies that seem to tell the stories with a funny feel. The extremely talented songwriter who has been through the ringer and back within the past few years maintained a constant positive attitude and keeps those around him smiling at all times.
After playing the keyboard with Randy Rogers Band for some time, Keane came into his own as a musician and immediately began to stand out in the Texas Country music scene. He struggled for a short time when writing for his second album, but took the important time to evaluate what was causing this block in his life. After acknowledging the issues holding him back, songs started to naturally flow and he found himself enjoying the music writing process so much he put forth quite some time to help other artists in the industry.
His tour mates for the Eight Days of Mayhem (Seth Candan, Eric Middleton, Court Nance, and Justin Nelson), went out of their way to point out characteristics in Keane that they wish most people in this world carried. Such as his simple, yet genuine expression of “thank you.” The guys mentioned that Keane can go into a convenient store or McDonald’s, retrieve his item, and says, “Thank you” with a heart-filled sincerity behind the statement. They exclaim (and I agree) that it’s rare to come across someone who really just appreciates everything in life and carries such a good attitude.
Keane’s music contains content that is meant for people who can laugh, cry, and even get really angry at certain songs. You never really know what exactly you’re going to get from him, but that shouldn’t be taken in a negative connotation. Keane primarily writes about every aspect of his music and gives it to his bandmates to learn and tweak if necessary, but when you’re going to a Brian Keane show–it’s safe to think of his performance as a conversation with talent bombarding through the speakers.
New Slang: First off, you just carry so much humor in your music. Is that hard, laughing everything off?
Brian Keane: Usually, I like to use it to make some kind of point.
NS: Well what’s your sign?
BK: Pices…is that normal?
NS: Well that correlates; that makes sense.
BK: Yeah, well some of the songs like “Two of You,” those are just totally not real and stupid and stuff. That song is completely random, I was never married prior to that song. I am now though! I don’t know why, I just liked writing songs about girlfriends that didn’t exist…
NS: That’s fine, sometimes I make up boyfriends that don’t exist; it’s normal right? Now you’ve played at SXSW before? Do you enjoy festivals or do you prefer touring the road with the band?
BK: I really didn’t enjoy playing there. I played a few years back. It is just built to make musicians kiss the asses of the industry instead of the other way around. You know what I mean?. It’s not very fan based, and if you have a wristband it’s hard to even get into some shows. When we played–basically everyone that was already working with us came. It was a big fun party. It was just really expensive and stuff.
NS: But you play at country festivals too though right? Do you enjoy those?
BK: Oh yeah, those are always a blast. Real fun!
NS: I read where the break-up reflecting on your first album caused you to feel writer’s block when working on the second. Would you say that your second album could have been better since you had pressure to write it or were you over it at that point?
BK: Oh yeah. I was over it. Tre was about a five years in between then and I my second record. The first record was an emotional trauma. The second, I discovered I really like writing about things that I would want to have a conversation about. Instead of collection things I feel strongly about, I was trying to collect titles and it didn’t work. But, I realized if I have a good conversation with somebody and write it down, it’s easy to write a song about it. It’s scratching the same itch, so once I discovered that, the songs just flew out. I wrote nine or 10 songs in like three months.
NS: I know everyone is friendly with each other for the most part, do y’all just call each other up and say, “hey lets’ hang out,” and music appears that way, or do y’all make an effort to sit down and say “OK, we’re going to dedicate today to writing?”
BK: Depending on someone needing a record–we’ll get together and really try to nail stuff and sometimes you’ll get an idea and be like, “oh, I have to do that with someone!” I’ll usually come to a co-write with a completely blank slate. My own songs, I’ll write by myself. It takes a long time, several weeks on each song.
NS: When you say you write your own songs does that entail music, lyrics, melodies, etc?
BK: Yeah the whole thing…I bring to my band the tape of me playing the whole song and they come up with the parts they think works well and I’ll decide what stays and what goes.
NS: Have any tours or a new album coming up?
BK: We’ve just been playing every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, me and my band. So we try to stay busy.
NS: Even though you’ve lived in Austin for about 10 years, you’re from South Carolina. In the Texas Country music scene, how did that play out?
BK: Well, I never really lived there as a grown up. I went to high school in South Carolina, moved to Boston for a while out of high school and got a job playing piano in some bars. And then got really bored with that, and moved to New York City and played keyboard and got really bored with that, then bartended and the whole time I was there, I was really into Texas Country.
NS: That’s unusual because you were so far away. What sparked that?
BK: Lyle Lovett –-that record that was all covers of Texas songwriters (“Step Inside This House)… that what got me really interested.
NS: Do you hear the different sounds and stories of Texas Country from those different regions of Texas?
BK: I don’t hear a difference regionally because they’re so diverse within the regions. In East Texas, you have Whiskey Myers and Miranda Lambert… It’s so diverse everywhere, I don’t specifically hear any regional sound but music from somewhere else goes through this filter of these guys and suits and say, “well, we’re only going to let this play and make it sound like this…” But, in Texas, I can write a song Sunday, show it to my band Tuesday, and play it in front of a few thousand people on Thursday and Friday, and they can not like it if they want. And if they don’t like it, I can write a new song. And if they like it, you know immediately.
NS: Do you manage that negative response rate through social media outlets like Twitter or Facebook, or is it obvious at a performance?
BK: Oh they’ll let you know right there. They’ll either clap or stare. You can tell it in their eyes if they don’t like it.
NS: Anything else coming up coming up you want to touch base on?
BK: Me and my band will be back headlining at Blue Light on May 25!