Congrats to our July Artist of the Month, John Keck! Keck—who partially recorded his debut album The Jack Moon Sessions at the famed Sun Studios—depicts his personal experience in thoughtful ways, with an Americana flair. His music evokes Ozark traditions and southern rock, with a visceral emotional tinge. Read more about Keck in our Q&A.
The Deli: Down and dirty: one sentence to describe your music.
Keck: I think my music is very personal, and hopefully because of that people who listen to the lyrics can find something that speaks to them, or at the minimum they can see the image I'm trying to create, the story I'm conveying.
The Deli: Give me some background on your musical career. How long have you been playing music? What made you decide to become a songwriter?
Keck: I started playing in front of people in 2008 at open mics, and started booking shows regularly in 2010, so just a short time compared to my friends. I have a lot of catch-up to do. I found songwriting to be a therapy for dealing with my emotions, I guess it’s a bit of an escape too. In 2008 I ended a marriage of 14 years and found myself feeling very raw and exposed to life in a new way. I also didn't have anyone to fight with anymore and so I guess I started fighting with myself. To me, writing a song is a fight with yourself; it’s an argument between your fear of letting other people know how you feel and the desire to be honest in a public way.
The Deli: What inspires your music and songwriting?
Keck: My relationships and encounters with people are my primary inspirations. I don’t write much about the way the trees make me feel or something like that… It seems that even when I try to write about someone other than me, my personal experiences come out in my lyrics, so I don't really try to fight that anymore and just accept that I can’t be neutral to what I observe. I would like to be better about my work ethic and writing process, to be more diligent. I don't feel like I spend enough time on it. But I guess I don't really like to think of what I'm doing in comparison to anyone else, even my idols. So I don't keep regular hours, like some people I know, I let it come to me. Sometimes it's in waves, sometimes there are long dry spells. I try to record every thought I have, even when I know it’s bad in the moment. If I think it is good, I usually remember it and can come back to it. Usually it’s in the morning and makes me late for wherever I'm going. I'm always late, I apologize to everyone, maybe I was writing a song about you.
The Deli: What have been your greatest musical accomplishments?
Keck: Being played on the radio is surreal to me. The radio was so important growing up. I don't think people can appreciate it now. With access to the world’s known recordings on our phones, but as a kid before tapes even, anyway... it means everything to me. I think about it in terms of immortality. Those frequencies are traveling in the universe farther than I can conceive. How do you top that? I also played at the Troubadour in London, which was unreal. It’s the first place that Dylan played when he got to England (supposedly), and everyone else that you can imagine. I recorded my parts of my album at Sun Studios in Memphis, so that was kind of too good to think about—the same room Johnny Cash stood in (I sat). The radio wouldn't have happened if the album wasn't made. Honestly, every time someone tells me they like one of my songs I feel like I've accomplished something.
The Deli: Tell us about your debut album, The Jack Moon Sessions at Sun Studios and Chappy Roads. What can we expect?
Keck: I do have a debut album called The Jack Moon Sessions at Sun Studios and Chappy Roads. For the future, I've been writing and writing and have started working with other people to create a new album. I’m going to call it “Photo Booth,” and the songs that will be on it are written with a particular image in mind… does that make it a concept album? That title has many meanings to me, but an easily accessible idea is that I think of my songs like photographs that capture a moment with a certain light, like a black and white photograph. The album cover will explain more.
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Keck: It’s become my passion. I try to go to as many shows as I can. Sometimes I feel like a stalker. Music is my religion, so attending services regularly at our local sanctuaries is critical to enlightenment.
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now? Non-local?
Keck: I don't typically have favorites of anything, but I have to have a good goddamn reason to miss a Dynamite Defense show, if you hear and see Chris Tady play the guitar you'll understand why. Also their songs have such a classic feel to them you really don't know what decade they were written in, I like that a lot. Of course Scott Hrabko, I could listen to his music over and over again. The Silver Maggies and Potters Field: I go home after their shows and wish I could play, sing, and, write songs like them. The Philistines I think have a unique sound too, with so much intensity and drive, they have me hooked. I’m inspired by all of these groups and so many more, but I’ll blush if they read this and then we have to talk about it later. I don’t think Tady goes on the line, so we are safe there. Non-local? I've really gotten into Houndmouth in the last few weeks, both albums are strong in my opinion, I may have already burned myself out on them actually, but I have enjoyed our brief affair.
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
Keck: I guess I should be better about dreaming big... I honestly feel like I'm living a fantasy right now, so each new thing is its own dream. I played Boulevardia last month; that was something I never considered possible before getting asked to do it. Last Saturday, I was at a dinner party with some truly talented people that I was in awe of; they took turns playing my guitar and singing their songs. We were up all night enjoying the moment. That seems like a fantasy now. But like every other person who’s ever scribbled a tune down, I would be on cloud nine opening for Neil Young, or Willie Nelson, or Scott Hrabko.
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
Keck: Dylan, Young, Keith Richards, John Lennon (in no particular order). I think valid arguments could be made for so many others and certainly the people that influenced those four, but just shooting from the hip, these guys created a profound impact in the culture as receivers with a true talent, then as focal points of sound that came through them and out to all of us, in ways that we don’t even know about. Blah blah, lists.
The Deli: What goals do you have for 2015, and beyond?
Keck: I plan to tour this fall, a small one of the Midwest. I’ve never really done an extended journey for more than one night, and I think that’s my next step in evolving as a performing artist. Record and release the new album. Create a band. Play as many shows as “they” will let me.
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Keck: Listen to whatever you want to, don’t let anyone tell you a piece of music is bad or good, if it speaks to you, then it is good to you. I hear people say all the time, “that’s too poppy” or “I don’t like country,” blah blah blah, If you limit yourself to a certain taste, you create a boundary that prohibits your universe from expanding and then it’s expanding without you.
The Deli Magazine was born in NYC's Attorney Street in 2004, in the shape of a print issue with a then unknown band on its cover, called Grizzly Bear. Ths NYC blog came in 2005, then the SF one in 2006, and then 9 more in the following years. The Deli is focused on the coverage of emerging bands and solo artists with a 100% local focus - no exceptions!