Interview: Folk singer Annie Keating looks forward to Putney Gig at Half Moon pub
Folk singer Annie Keating has played her distinctive brand of music around the world. Alexandra Rucki spoke to her as she preparred to play Putney.
Alexandra Rucki: What can audiences expect?
Annie Keating: This trio tour is going to make for such lively shows. I am lucky to be playing with two of the best musicians I know ... Trina Hamlin on blues harp, percussion grooves and back up vocals and Jason Mercer (currently touring with the Abrams Brothers and earlier this summer with Ron Sexsmith) on bass and banjo.
I have also recently begun playing with finger picks, which make the live guitar sound much brighter, faster and more resonant. We hope it's going to be a finger picking, harp blowing, swinging good trio acoustic time! Of course with some sultry, slower more mellow heart ache tunes thrown in because ... I love those sad songs too.
AR: What influences your music?
AK: The biggest influences are probably the true singer-songwriter poets of the roots variety like Bob Dylan, John Prine, Lucinda Williams, old Neil Young, Stones, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings ... I guess the category that fits best is "Americana" or Alt Country style music. But the truth is I don't like to be categorized (who does?!) and it's always a tricky question because I really & truly adore so many different kinds of music. I'm always craving new sounds of different kinds for joy and inspiration. My latest playlist favorites include artists ranging from Gillian Welch to Macklemore ... R. L. Burnside, The Civil Wars, Wilco, the Milk Carton Kids, Vampire Weekend, the Replacements, Sam Baker, Josh Ritter, Radiohead, Patty Griffin ... Great songs, themes of longing and beautiful acoustic sounds influence my music the most I suppose. But boy do I love to work out really hard to the Rolling Stones and disco. A good groove can be everything.
AR: When did you decide to make a career out of being a musician?
AK: I've played guitar since I was 12 years old and I wrote my first song at 14 and then played a good deal in high school/college. I tried playing out when I first moved to NYC but it was hard ... intimidating clubs and booking people and I didn't know other musicians really ... most of my friends were involved in politics or film. So I dove into activist work for more than a decade (environmental justice work, civil liberties, reproductive rights ...). It wasn't until we had our first child (when I was 32) that I decided what I really wanted to do: hang with my little girl and make records. I was lucky enough to do it. Late bloomer! But oh has it been a great 10 years! If I can do 5 albums in 10 years, perhaps I can do another few before I the decade's out ..
AR: For Keeps is your fifth album, how has your music developed?
AK: I took more risks on this album. It's not as easily categorized (as folks, roots etc) and perhaps that alienates some listeners. There's a rap song, a Neil Young cover and some more rock influences tunes along with the folk numbers. The music developed organically with me sketching out parts in Garage Band and working, reworking ideas until we were ready to start recording. I wanted (and needed) to take some new risks and new turns on this album and try out different sounds/styles a bit. For me this was refreshing and exciting and I love how the album came out. I've already written half of the next album (hope to record in 2014) and it is much more finger picking/Roots, Americana ... we'll play a couple of these new tunes on the tour because I can't resist trying them out.
AR: What is your favourite track on the album?
AK: Right by You. Or All Gone. Or Storm Warning. No! ... Right by You. Don't make me choose ... they're all my babies that grew from tiny seeds of ideas (emerging despite terrible struggles with writers block and self doubt) ... I joke here. A little. But the truth is that writing is not easy or fun!
AR: You are based in Brooklyn, how different is performing in London to the USA?
AK: Not so different. NYC and London are actually quite similar in that you really have to be a able to draw a good crowd (doesn't how good the music is if you can't turn people out, you won't get booked) ... So people please come out to the shows! So we can keep coming back to play!
AR: Where is your favourite place to play a gig?
AK: In New York City, I just had such a nice show at the Living Room I love city shows but often find it's refreshing to get out where there's not thousands of bands playing every night and people make more effort to find new music and really listen/appreciate a show, it's different in small towns. People listen more and come up to talk and buy CDs, that's fun. Holland was amazing (I love "In the Woods" as a venue, so supportive to musicians and when you play, the room is silent! Everyone is listening. Strange for a New Yorker who is used to lots of noise and fighting our best to be heard here.
AR: What was it like being talent spotted by BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris?
AK: Amazing. I'm such a Bob Harris fan, his shows have introduced me to loads of great music. And to be on his show and on his radar is a great honor. Sadly he'll be in Nashville this time around while we're touring the UK so we won't be able to do a live session with him. But he continues to play tracks and email/tweet about the tour - what a lovely guy he is. And the best interviewer around he really and truly loves and understands music and musicians.
AR: Who usually attends your shows? Is there a certain type of person attracted to your music?
AK: Brilliant people with great taste in music! Just joking, hmmm that's a hard question. I guess I'd have to be honest in saying I don't draw that many people under 30 years old my music probably appeals to serious music fans who are my age or older and drawn to similar songwriters, acoustic oriented with a bit of twang?
AR: What else have you got lined up for 2013?
AK: Stay tuned to find out! I've got some great NYC shows set for later in the fall, but mostly I'm focused on making this tour as great as it can be. We can't wait to play.
Annie Keating is performing at The Halfmoon, Lower Richmond Road, Putney, on September 24.
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