Danny O’Keefe on making round turns and having a very good time – Americana UK

Danny O’Keefe on making circular turns and having a good time – Americana UK

Nonetheless writing new songs in his ninth decade and celebrating his catalogue.

Singer-songwriters write songs, and that’s precisely what Danny O’Keefe has been doing all his working life, and he’s nonetheless doing it in his ninth decade. He in a short time established his credentials when he included the now basic ‘Goodtime Charlie’s Acquired The Blues’ on 1972’s ‘O’Keefe’. Over time he has been lined by artists together with Elvis Presley. Jackson Browne, John Denver, Willie Nelson, Leon Russell, Michael Chapman, Steve Forbert, Chris Hillman, Waylon Jennings, Donny Hathaway, Judy Collins, and that’s solely scratching the floor of the covers of his songs. Whereas he has continued to put in writing songs he has launched his songs on smaller labels from the ‘80s onwards having been on Atlantic and Warner Brothers within the ‘70s. Sundown Boulevard Information have launched a double album, ‘Round Turns’, which features a choice of his releases since 2000, and a dwell efficiency from a home live performance recorded in Minnesota.  Americana UK’s Martin Johnson caught up with Danny O’Keefe at his dwelling in Washington State over Zoom to debate ‘Round Turns’ and why he continues to put in writing new songs.  He explains that he nonetheless sometimes performs dwell for followers he considers his buddies, however that lengthy highway journeys are not a part of his life. Lastly, he explains how his co-write of ‘Effectively, Effectively, Effectively’ with Bob Dylan began from a lower than severe premise when he was a employees author at Dylan’s Particular Rider Music.

How are you, and the place are you?

I’m tremendous, and I’m at dwelling on just a little island in Washington State between Seattle and Tacoma, and it’s a stunning fall day right here.

Why haven’t you retired from music, what retains you going?

It’s what I do, it’s like being alive as a result of if I didn’t play music I don’t know what else I might do. After I come to my workplace the very first thing I do is choose up my guitar, and it’s in all probability for a similar motive I picked it up so many, a few years in the past, and that’s it satisfies one thing very deep inside.

You appear to have ploughed your individual furrow throughout your profession of over 50 years.

Effectively, I’m positive there have been ghosts that I adopted. We’re all influenced, and we observe these influences till we discover ourselves, and I believe that’s what most individuals do. Among the finest items of recommendation I bought early on was to not take note of my contemporaries, and that’s been strong recommendation for all these years. I believe you might be higher off not taking a look at who’s your competitors as a result of no one is actually your competitors besides your self, and people deep influences and the inspirations that bubble up every now and then and produce you that data that lets you create. The worst factor you are able to do is write a tune by Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones as a result of they’ve already executed it higher than anyone else can do it.

You have got been lined by many nice performers a few of whom are nice songwriters in their very own proper, Willie Nelson, Leon Russell, Charlie Wealthy, Chris Hillman, Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings and your tune with Dylan. What does that imply to you as a songwriter?

I’ve by no means been lined by Dylan, however I’m completely happy I share a copyright with him on a tune we didn’t actually write collectively. All of these individuals you talked about, when somebody finds one thing in one in all your items that resonates inside them. One of many biggest honours you’ll be able to have, and all these individuals I’ve profound respect for and a few are expensive buddies, is after they document one thing of yours that they love or they suppose it’s a piece of enterprise. For no matter motive they do it, it’s the biggest honour you’ll be able to obtain.

What’s your relationship with ‘Good Time Charlie’s Acquired The Blues’ which got here early in your profession and will now be stated to be a part of the Nice American Songbook?

I all the time like it when individuals cowl it. It’s the identical factor, it’s a profound praise that they’re paying you that they’ve discovered one thing for themselves in one thing that resonated from deep inside you. I consider it as one in all my oldest buddies, I nonetheless play it and I discover new issues in it. Not a lot new music, however generally new nuances in it, and I’m so glad it came over.

The place did the thought to your new album ‘Round Turns’ which incorporates a studio album of your newer songs, a few of which have been launched earlier than, and a dwell album masking your complete catalogue?

All of it’s the thought of the founder, and producer, of Sundown Boulevard Information, Len Fico. He got here to me out of the blue, I didn’t know who he was, and he had a passion for the music and he’d put collectively a set of the recorded songs. A few of them had been on albums, however they weren’t available and I don’t suppose lots of people had heard them. I used to be very complimented that he wished to place them out, and hopefully achieve a bigger viewers. I’m probably not in a position to do this myself as a result of I’m not the very best of businessmen, and that’s pretty apparent. They’re going to see the sunshine of day and I hope individuals like them. A few of them are written with shut buddies of mine, some are written simply on my own, they’re simply all sundry songs I’ve been recording since 2000.

There appears to be numerous co-writes, why did co-writing change into engaging to you as you bought older?

That was deliberately so. I used to go to Nashville fairly a bit, although I hardly ever go there now, and a part of the way in which the enterprise works there may be that you simply write with different writers, and ideally it optimises the probabilities of having your tune lined by having publishing corporations approaching artists, that’s the speculation of it anyway. The opposite a part of it that I actually loved, and nonetheless get pleasure from, is that generally we get fairly tired of ourselves and stumble into ruts, particularly as guitar gamers and a whole lot of the individuals I might write with have been keyboard gamers, and they’d strategy a tune utterly otherwise than I might. Simply listening to the totally different tonal qualities or the totally different progressions can encourage you into a distinct thought, and that’s kind of the reward of collaborative writing, new pathways open up that you simply hadn’t considered earlier than.

I’ve bought to ask about your Dylan co-write ‘Effectively Effectively Effectively’.

I used to be a contract author for Bob Dylan’s firm within the ‘90s, an organization referred to as Particular Rider Music, and the girl who was working the West Coast workplaces referred to as me as much as inform me she had a demo that Bob wished to see if I might write lyrics to. I don’t know whether or not that was the gospel reality however that was her story and I didn’t know any totally different, and once I heard the tape it was pretty easy with Bob saying a few phrases on it as he was indicating a chord change, “Effectively, properly…”, to whoever he was taking part in with. I assumed I used to be being placed on just a little bit and I appreciated the humour of it, so I added one other properly and made it a tune about groundwater. It’s a severe tune, however the origin has a level of humour in it.

What have been your ideas on listening to these songs from the 2000s once more?

I don’t hearken to my very own work fairly often, however I listened to it this time as a result of it was being placed on an album and I wished to be sure that the factor was balanced and it appeared proper. I don’t return and hearken to my songs a lot apart from those I play dwell, and that’s a distinct context as a result of I’m normally simply taking part in with an acoustic guitar somewhat than a full band, however to be trustworthy, most of them I like. They have been actually enjoyable to document, some have been recorded merely however all of them have been recorded with buddies and never below the auspices of an enormous document firm with calls for that you simply needed to discover a single earlier than they might launch the document. It’s form of not like that anymore, and it’s the pleasure of creating music, and once I listened to them I assumed all of them held up. I like ‘em.

The dwell aspect is a home live performance, what’s particular about taking part in to such a choose viewers?

The opposite disc on it, sure, is at my pal Glen Elvig’s in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’ve referred to Glen’s concert events because the Carnegie Corridor of home concert events, he’s an artist in his personal proper and he has redesigned his home, notably the lounge of his home, to be a live performance corridor that holds 100 or 110 individuals, perhaps just a little extra. It has a ravishing stage, and nice lighting and sound, and I regard the individuals who come there as buddies at this level. They’re enthusiastic, they know their music they usually respect it, they aren’t drunk, and it’s a luxurious to have these sorts of venues to play.

Who chosen the songs?

These are all of the songs that Len Fico favored, it’s his listing. I don’t suppose I added something to it, and solely due to size, I believe one tune bought taken out. I’m unsure what number of are on it now, 16 or 17, or one thing like that. It’s a good broad spectrum of what I’ve been doing since 2000.

Your early stuff isn’t really easy to get bodily nowadays, does that annoy or disappoint you?

Effectively, I don’t have any management over it. A part of the issue, as most artists know with the odd exception, is that the corporate owns your masters and also you lose the precise of management over them, whether or not they go into some again lot storage facility or they get put up on Spotify, or wherever, you largely don’t have any management. I believe most of my stuff is up on Spotify, with perhaps some exceptions, however the corporations that launch most of which can be in utterly totally different locations now. Atlantic and Warner Brothers, and smaller labels, don’t exist truly. It’s simply a part of the historical past, if they will discover a venue for it and other people prefer it, nice, however it’s a little late within the sport to fret about something apart from you hope they respect it.

How typically do you play concert events nowadays?

Not fairly often. I performed extra typically earlier than COVID destroyed the music enterprise, although it’s coming again. The primary factor was that COVID made it intimidating to have a home live performance with 100 individuals or no matter, and it in all probability wasn’t smart to do this and a part of the enterprise simply shrunk, it went away primarily. The chance for opening up for larger artists and greater venues form of went away too. Everybody pulled of their horns for the three years COVID decimated every part, and tried to remain wholesome and artistic, and that was about nearly as good as you may do. It’s starting to vary now however the different side of it’s doing a present after which driving 400 miles to a different present, and to do this repeatedly will kill you, each figuratively and actually. So it’s a must to choose your venues the identical method it’s a must to choose your battles and hope individuals come and the sound is nice and one other one comes alongside earlier than too lengthy.

You talked about earlier you might be nonetheless writing songs, do you might have any plans for them?

We’ll see after this double album comes out, we’ll see how it’s obtained. I’ve 20 or extra songs, and out of these there are no less than 14 or 15 that I actually love, and I can see being launched. They’re recorded in demo format at this level, and it’s a query of whether or not there may be any curiosity as as to if I situation them in an official method. They’re a part of a legacy that I need to be obtainable in some format.

This can be an unfair query, however what’s your favorite cowl of one in all your songs?

There are a bunch of them, however I believe it has been for a very long time and it nonetheless is in a method, and that’s Waylon Jennings’ recording of ‘Goodtime Charlie’s Acquired The Blues’. I knew Waylon Jennings and I favored him very a lot, and I admired him, he was an authentic, and he’d been a bass participant for Buddy Holly, he was a legend. I similar to his model, he did it like himself whereas many of the variations that you simply hear of that tune are very near my association. A few of them are even recorded with the identical musicians, the Memphis Boys, that I recorded with. So, for someone to search out their very own method by means of the tune is a part of the expertise of listening to one other individual do it. It’s a tremendous praise after they do document it, but when they make it their very own, that goes method above and past that, and I assumed Waylon did.

You have been one of many first artists to take a proactive strategy to environmental points. What’s your view of the present state of the surroundings?

Effectively, it’s chaotic and we don’t appear to study very a lot from historical past as a result of we do appear to repeat it over and over. The Earth will maintain itself, and whether or not we’re essential to it or not will probably be evidenced by means of historical past. I hope we make smart selections that save ourselves, and all our fellow creatures on the planet, however it’s one thing that has already been put into course of, and whether or not we are able to change one thing for the higher is difficult to know. It’s like can we cease conflict, it does appear that we are able to’t as a result of it’s one thing intrinsic to our nature, whether or not it’s the territorial crucial or no matter. You may’t go nuts worrying about it, you are able to do no matter piece that you will discover and try to make it higher, however in the long run, it’s what it’s, and like Pandora, we are going to hope that hope nonetheless stays within the field.

We prefer to share new music with our readers, so presently, what are your prime three tracks, artists or albums in your playlist?

I don’t hearken to modern artists and songwriters, or individuals who do what I do, as a result of I’ve by no means seen the worth of it, and it may be harmful to a author as a result of, in your artistic course of, you might be simply influenced, and what you need is to have an affect resonate deep inside you. If I hearken to Bruce Springsteen or I hearken to the Rolling Stones or the Beatles, I get affected and influenced by them, so I choose to not hearken to them. The stuff I are likely to hearken to, notably currently, is issues like Invoice Evans ‘At The Village Vanguard’ with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. He was magnificent and he was uncommon, an virtually classical American artist. His work with Miles, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley, and within the trios he labored in are simply stunning items, and I can hearken to them over and over, and I typically do. Jan Garbarek is one other person who I like rather a lot, a Danish saxophone participant, and I’ve listened to him for years. Once more, it’s these issues that form of transport me aesthetically, I assume, for lack of a greater phrase, that take me into an area and the house is artistic I suppose. No matter I write from that affect can have no bearing on what they do as a result of I couldn’t play with them on my greatest day. That’s a part of the artistic course of, in the identical method while you learn writers, one of many guys  I final learn, Cormac McCarthy, ‘The Passenger’ and ‘Stella Maris’ was a double e-book, and it was very influential. How that finally ends up affecting me when it comes to the artistic course of I don’t know, however I used to be utterly absorbed in it. I nonetheless return and marvel on the methods he was capable of play that take a while to find as a reader. He is a superb author, one of many nice American writers.

Is there any likelihood you’re going to get over to the UK and Europe or is {that a} journey too far nowadays?

Taking part in is all the time as much as whether or not somebody asks. It isn’t one thing I might provoke alone, but when somebody thought there was a motive, and someone thought it was viable and financially worthwhile for them. These are lengthy journeys to get on to a aircraft and fly internationally. I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t do it, however I don’t have any plans to do it.

Is there something you need to say to Americana UK readers?

I hope that they will discover this music someplace, steal it in the event that they must, and pay for it if they will’t. I hope they get pleasure from it and these are all songs which can be essential to me. Some are re-recordings of older work, and like we stated, there’s a dwell CD, so if you wish to see how I defend myself with only a guitar and my voice that will probably be evident as properly. You may simply hope it finds an viewers, that’s the very best you are able to do. The brand new album is my largest concern, and getting most of my consideration nowadays, I hope individuals prefer it, after which I’ll return to engaged on the brand new one as quickly as I can.

Danny O’Keefe’s ‘Round Turns’ is out now on Sundown Boulevard Information.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.