Danny O’Keefe on making round turns and having a great 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 Received 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 jot down 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 stay 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 jot down new songs.  He explains that he nonetheless often performs stay for followers he considers his pals, 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 critical 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 lovely 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. Once 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 cause 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 personal furrow throughout your profession of over 50 years.

Effectively, I’m certain 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. Top-of-the-line items of recommendation I acquired early on was to not take note of my contemporaries, and that’s been stable recommendation for all these years. I believe you might be higher off not who’s your competitors as a result of no person is actually your competitors besides your self, and people deep influences and the inspirations that bubble up now and again and produce you that data that lets you create. The worst factor you are able to do is write a track by Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones as a result of they’ve already achieved it higher than anyone else can do it.

You’ve gotten 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 track with Dylan. What does that imply to you as a songwriter?

I’ve by no means been lined by Dylan, however I’m blissful I share a copyright with him on a track we didn’t actually write collectively. All of these folks you talked about, when somebody finds one thing in one in every of your items that resonates inside them. One of many best honours you possibly can have, and all these folks I’ve profound respect for and a few are pricey pals, is after they file one thing of yours that they love or they assume it’s a piece of enterprise. For no matter cause they do it, it’s the best honour you possibly can obtain.

What’s your relationship with ‘Good Time Charlie’s Received 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 adore it when folks cowl it. It’s the similar 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 every of my oldest pals, 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 around.

The place did the concept to your new album ‘Round Turns’ which accommodates a studio album of your newer songs, a few of which have been launched earlier than, and a stay album masking your entire 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 assume lots of people had heard them. I used to be very complimented that he needed to place them out, and hopefully acquire a bigger viewers. I’m not likely in a position to do this myself as a result of I’m not the perfect of businessmen, and that’s pretty apparent. They will see the sunshine of day and I hope folks like them. A few of them are written with shut pals 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 various co-writes, why did co-writing turn out to be enticing to you as you bought older?

That was deliberately so. I used to go to Nashville fairly a bit, although I not often go there now, and a part of the way in which the enterprise works there’s that you just write with different writers, and ideally it optimises the probabilities of having your track lined by having publishing firms approaching artists, that’s the speculation of it anyway. The opposite a part of it that I actually loved, and nonetheless take pleasure in, is that generally we get fairly tired of ourselves and stumble into ruts, particularly as guitar gamers and loads of the folks I might write with have been keyboard gamers, and they’d method a track fully in a different way 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 form of the reward of collaborative writing, new pathways open up that you just hadn’t thought of earlier than.

I’ve acquired 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 lady who was operating the West Coast places of work referred to as me as much as inform me she had a demo that Bob needed to see if I may 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, nicely…”, to whoever he was enjoying 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 nicely and made it a track about groundwater. It’s a critical track, 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 take heed 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 needed to make it possible for the factor was balanced and it appeared proper. I don’t return and take heed to my songs a lot apart from those I play stay, and that’s a distinct context as a result of I’m normally simply enjoying with an acoustic guitar reasonably than a full band, however to be sincere, most of them I really like. They have been actually enjoyable to file, some have been recorded merely however all of them have been recorded with pals and never below the auspices of an enormous file firm with calls for that you just needed to discover a single earlier than they might launch the file. It’s sort of not like that anymore, and it’s the pleasure of constructing music, and once I listened to them I assumed all of them held up. I like ‘em.

The stay aspect is a home live performance, what’s particular about enjoying to such a choose viewers?

The opposite disc on it, sure, is at my good friend Glen Elvig’s in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’ve referred to Glen’s live shows because the Carnegie Corridor of home live shows, he’s an artist in his personal proper and he has redesigned his home, significantly the lounge of his home, to be a live performance corridor that holds 100 or 110 folks, perhaps just a little extra. It has a stupendous stage, and nice lighting and sound, and I regard the individuals who come there as pals at this level. They’re enthusiastic, they know their music and so they respect it, they don’t seem to be 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 record. I don’t assume I added something to it, and solely due to size, I believe one track acquired 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 lately, 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 suitable 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 firms that launch most of which might be in fully 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’ll discover a venue for it and folks 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 live shows lately?

Not fairly often. I performed extra typically earlier than COVID destroyed the music enterprise, although it’s coming again. The principle factor was that COVID made it intimidating to have a home live performance with 100 folks 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 basically. The chance for opening up for larger artists and greater venues sort of went away too. Everybody pulled of their horns for the three years COVID decimated the whole lot, and tried to remain wholesome and artistic, and that was about pretty much as good as you could possibly do. It’s starting to vary now however the different facet 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 you must choose your venues the identical method you must choose your battles and hope folks 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’ve got 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 at the least 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’s any curiosity as as to if I subject them in an official method. They’re a part of a legacy that I wish to be obtainable in some format.

This can be an unfair query, however what’s your favorite cowl of one in every of 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 Received The Blues’. I knew Waylon Jennings and I favored him very a lot, and I admired him, he was an unique, 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 just hear of that track 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 seek out their very own method by means of the track is a part of the expertise of listening to one other particular person do it. It’s a tremendous praise after they do file 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 method to environmental points. What’s your view of the present state of the setting?

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 care for itself, and whether or not we’re necessary to it or not can 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 struggle, 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’ll be able to’t go nuts worrying about it, you are able to do no matter piece that you could find and attempt to make it higher, however ultimately, it’s what it’s, and like Pandora, we are going to hope that hope nonetheless stays within the field.

We wish to share new music with our readers, so at the moment, what are your high three tracks, artists or albums in your playlist?

I don’t take heed to up to date 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 inventive course of, you might be simply influenced, and what you need is to have an affect resonate deep inside you. If I take heed to Bruce Springsteen or I take heed to the Rolling Stones or the Beatles, I get affected and influenced by them, so I favor to not take heed to them. The stuff I are likely to take heed to, significantly these days, is issues like Invoice Evans ‘At The Village Vanguard’ with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. He was magnificent and he was uncommon, an nearly classical American artist. His work with Miles, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley, and within the trios he labored in are simply lovely items, and I can take heed to them over and over, and I typically do. Jan Garbarek is one other individual that I like rather a lot, a Danish saxophone participant, and I’ve listened to him for years. Once more, it’s these issues that sort of transport me aesthetically, I assume, for lack of a greater phrase, that take me into an area and the area is inventive I suppose. No matter I write from that affect could 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 inventive course of, in the identical method whenever 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 by way of the inventive course of I do not know, however I used to be fully absorbed in it. I nonetheless return and marvel on the tips he was in a position to play that take a while to find as a reader. He is an excellent 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 lately?

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

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

I hope that they’ll discover this music someplace, steal it in the event that they need to, and pay for it if they’ll’t. I hope they take pleasure in it and these are all songs which might be necessary to me. Some are re-recordings of older work, and like we stated, there’s a stay CD, so if you wish to see how I defend myself with only a guitar and my voice that can be evident as nicely. You’ll be able to simply hope it finds an viewers, that’s the perfect you are able to do. The brand new album is my greatest concern, and getting most of my consideration lately, I hope folks 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.

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