Keir has already achieved some major highs. He’s recorded at the world famous Maida Vale studios and he’s played Glastonbury in 2017. This is nothing more than his quality deserves.
The artist is truly innovative in his approach to music defying genre and making music that had the BBC purring:
“Every once in a while you come across an artist who changes everything. Keir is one of them”
Hailing from Corsham in Wiltshire, he first uploaded to BBC introducing in 2016 but since then has gone from strength to strength playing festivals, sold out gigs and being Radio 1 song of the week. We will be hearing lots from this artist in the future once the world gets back to some sort of normality.
With a new song ‘Paranoid’ out, it was a pleasure to chat with an artist who takes huge inspiration from the past but creates a sound very much for the future.
EP: So, for people who are not familiar with you, can you tell us a little about your music.
K: Pretty much for as long as I can remember I’ve been making music. It’s all I’ve ever really been interested in. I never thought about doing anything else and I was lucky enough to, somehow, be able to do that. I love a lot of everything; I love old stuff, new stuff. From as early as I can remember I was entering school talent contests, ‘Corsham’s Got Talent’, that kind of thing. My brother plays drums in the band so we were always making stuff. It kind of progressed from there; we joined bands, moved to Bristol where I was in a number of different types of bands. I was exploring a lot of different things and then found myself playing as a solo artist. That felt right.
EP: So, you started at BIMM, and then moved into bands before branching out on your own. Do you think going solo was necessary for your development as an artist?
K: Yeah, definitely. I didn’t really know anyone else who played music before moving to a City. I was in a tiny town where it was basically just me and my brother making music as a two piece. Moving to Bristol I was suddenly surrounded by other musicians which really blew everything open. I could collaborate more and it changed everything.
EP: …And yet, with all that collaboration, you still ended up thinking solo was best for you?
K: Its always collaborative in the world that I’m in, even as a solo artist; it’s still very much a collaborative effort. I would make part of a song and then show it to my brother or show it to another friend so that we can then produce something together. The nucleus might be solo but the final result is still collaborative in its nature. I really enjoy that.
EP: Your music is not easy to pigeon hole, which is great. With such a diverse style, who would you consider to be your main musical influences?
K: I love a lot of really old stuff. I’m very into Bowie and Amy Winehouse and Aretha Franklin. I like Frida Kahlo. I love Gertrude Stein; she’s my favourite writer. I love that exploration, that messing around with words and syntax. I really love that. I guess those are my main people. I love androgyny; I think a lot of the people I really like defy genre as well. It’s not that they are trying to defy genre but I think in this day and age, especially, that’s not so important, perhaps.
EP: With such diverse, iconic influences with such strong styles, how do you make your music feel like something entirely new and not simply an homage to those that came before? Where is the line between originality and impersonation?
K: I think the whole thing is a process really. At first, you are building songs and creating things, videos and music, which is a bit of an homage and then you move out of that from very early on and make it your own or use it, digest it in a’ you are what you eat’ kind of way. You listen to the stuff you love and you allow yourself to be influenced without copying it too much. Or, do copy it, to begin with and then as the songs develop keep writing. It almost happens by accident; you don’t think about it too much. You just continue making the stuff that feels like a good expression to you, a good piece of work. You’re not trying to not copy but it should happen in time if you continue to stick at it.
EP: You kind of want those influences to provide the seeds that your music grows organically from?
EP: You’ve been hailed as “an artist who changes everything” by no less than the BBC. Does that kind of plaudit feel inspiring or does it feel like an added weight of expectation?
K: It’s not really something to be bothered with. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s really flattering to receive complements like that but I’ve always had a lot of self-loathing, self-hatred which I was talking to a friend about recently because it allows me to create more music because I’m always trying to push forward. Sometimes it’s nice to take the complement but to be honest I don’t think about it too much; I’m really obsessed with making music and making songs, creating art. It’s nice but it doesn’t really affect or change anything.
EP: With that in mind, your lyrics are very personal and explore some deep-seated emotions. But I feel a real positivity too. You’ve kind of answered it but do you consider yourself generally to be a positive person?
K: I think most human beings are generally positive even if they have an idea of themselves as being more pessimistic. I suppose I am quite positive really. Through the music, I like the idea of it affecting people in a positive way more than any other.
EP: Do you find it easier to use your innermost feelings as inspiration rather than playing safer and not getting below the surface of things?
K: I think my music does come from a deep place but I wouldn’t describe it as being an easy process but I love it. It’s not always glitter and fairies; we’ve built a song hooray, it’s much harder than that. It’s not easy but I love making these songs.
EP: I didn’t really mean to say it was easy, do you find it cathartic to lay your soul bare in your music?
K: I think it depends on the situation. Of course, if there’s some horrible break up or something like a family bereavement involved it has its cathartic edge to it but sometimes, not at all; sometimes it’s for fun, or out of boredom or frustration. From song to song, it’s really to do with the circumstance of that particular day, that particular time and place and what’s been happening in your own life. That really affects whether it is cathartic or not
EP: So, with that in mind, do you sit down and have a song writing day and really commit to writing for a period of time or is it a more organic, let’s wait for the music to come to me and write it down in a perpetual arc kind of approach? I ask because you come from a schooled approach like BIMM after writing at home for so long before that period.
K: First of all, I was terrible at BIMM; I’m sure they hate me, my attendance was awful. It did teach me a lot but I’d hate to ever think of making music as a job or a ‘right, I’m going to do this today’. For me, it’s much more of an other-worldly thing, it gives my life a meaning; it’s a really powerful thing. I like to do it whenever physically possible every day, in fact at the moment it is every day. For me it’s about inspiration and expression. It’s a really important thing. It’s a very primitive process; I become very childlike and intuitive. For me, you’ve got to be very up for breaking all your own rules and forgetting any rules of sounds; which piano sound you’re allowed to use, what was your last song, what was the drumbeat. I forget everything and start again and make something that could be the first song ever. That’s how I like to start.
EP: Which completely explains the diversity of your output. So, Keir, you’ve recorded at the legendary Maida Vale; how did it feel to follow in the footsteps of your heroes like Bowie?
K: it was mad! At the time it’s hard to enjoy those moments because it’s that sort of vivid, surreal moment to moment process where you’ve got to sing a song, film it, record it and be calm and get on and do it. Sometimes I find it difficult to breathe in those moments which I think was the case on the day but afterwards, watching the video back of ‘Squeeze Me’, it was really special. What an amazing place; I’m not sure you can even record there anymore.
EP: I think one of the trends of writing during the pandemic, certainly an impression I’ve got from other artists I’ve spoken with, is that the lyricism has become really honest, real soul searching, soul baring stuff. What’s your take on that? Do you need honesty in the lyrics to be able to put the song across?
K: Yes and no. I’ll try to articulate what I mean by that. Sometimes fabrications of the truth and white lies can appear that are quite interesting as well. There are a few songs in the past where I’ve described a day, I’ve overheard a family sitting on the bus talking about something and wrote it into a song and I fabricated, I lied about what they talked about. In the song I overheard them talking about the heavens, life and the afterlife. They weren’t talking about the heavens, I lied but for me that was interesting; it fell out lyrically, it rhymed so the line worked. Sometimes word play can override honesty but you have to choose what’s right for that piece of music, which is always different.
EP: On top of recording at Maida Vale, you’ve played the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury. Two amazing achievements. Were you able to enjoy Glastonbury or was that a scary experience for a young artist?
K: Not too scary. They didn’t happen too early; we’d already been playing for a while and been writing all the time, constantly, and it didn’t feel too early on in the road for us, me and the band. It didn’t feel scary, it felt good. I think….in a strange way. I didn’t want to go into those things thinking that we weren’t deserving of it. We’d worked hard and I was proud of the music and with humility, it felt right. Let’s do this. We should do this.
EP: The next single ‘Paranoid’ is great. Tell us a little about the way it came about?
K: It’s kind of embarrassingly straight forward in a way after talking about writers and word play. This song actually doesn’t do that; it really is just straight down the line about falling in love. It’s a weird one to talk about because the song and that relationship is now over. So, it’s this strange thing to look back on this song and release this song with the irony that’s it’s about the fear of diving in, feeling stupid and ridiculous about doubting love when the relationship I was scared of has finished. It’s a very odd thing. I find it quite hard to be straight down the line about these things, these meanings…it’s different for each listener but it’s all in there somewhere.
EP: It’s almost crying out for a follow up single…
EP: Now that lockdown looks like it might be drawing to a close, how do you see things panning out? Have you got anything live in the pipeline?
K: I’m not sure. I spoke to my manager about bits and bobs but at the moment I’m more interested in living day to day, making songs day to day, thinking about music, videos and artwork. I’ve been keeping a diary, watching films, reading books. I’m not so interested in getting excited about maybes at the moment. I think you can end up driving yourself mad. I’m not sure with what’s going to happen with shows but I do know I’ll have so much new music. I’m going to release a lot this year.
EP: Well, that’s great. I for one can’t wait and wish you lots of success with the music. Have you tried to stay in touch with your fans with social media?
K: Early on, last year, I went quiet for a while because it felt right but now with ‘Paranoid’ coming out I’ve enjoyed speaking a little but more but really, I’m quite shy so it’s a weird job to be in. I don’t know about talking too much online…
EP: Well, Keir, your brilliant music speaks volumes. Thank you for your time and all the very best for the year. Stay safe and take care.