Because Of You
CHET O'KEEFE ist ein klassischer amerikanischer Singer/Songwriter. Die Empathie, die lieblichen Melodien und der Humor klingen manchmal sehr nach John Prine und Guy Clark. Kraft, Trauer und Melancholie atmen Townes van Zandt. Es ist kein Zufall, dass es einen vierten Meister gibt, der uns zum Zuhören brachte und sagte, Chet sei sein absoluter Favorit. Otis Gibbs ist sowohl ein großer Fan als auch ein naher Freund. Sie haben die selbe Fähigkeit, das anonyme Amerika widerzuspiegeln (abzubilden), das die meisten leben und atmen. Chet O'Keefes Lieder sind eine Liebeserklärung an die kleinen (bescheidenen) Leute. Leute, die ohne größere Ansprüche aber mit allerlei menschlichen Defekten irgendwie funktionieren.
Drei Wochen Unterwegssein mit Kinky Friedman bedeutete viel für Chet O'Keefe. Vor allem wurde jedes Konzert zum Triumph (Sieg), als ein zunächst schockiertes Publikum nicht anders konnte, als vor Chets starken Liedern und warmherziger Persönlichkeit zu kapitulieren. Der andere Effekt ist der, dass Chet und Kinky wirklich Freunde wurden, und nach dieser Tournee zieht Chet über den Winter in Kinkys Ranch. Kinky wird den bescheidenen (anspruchslosen) Chet bei Kontakten und seiner Karriere in Texas und den übrigen USA unterstützen.
Wie viele wahre Talente ist Chet in jeder Hinsicht ein verborgener Schatz. Als er die Platte einspielte, wohnte er im Künstlerquartier um East Nashville herum und schrieb die meiste Musik für andere. Nun ist er in die nordwestliche Ecke des Bundesstaates Washington auf einen Berggipfel gezogen, der seiner Familie seit Generationen gehört. Dort wohnt Chet in einer kleinen Hütte ohne Elektrizität und Wasser. Die einzigen Nachbarn, die manchmal vorbeischauen, sind eine Clique von Bären, Elchen und Wölfen, die kontrollieren, ob Chet draußen etwas Gutes zu essen liegengelassen hat. Dort schreibt Chet seine Lieder und fühlt sich wohl. An gewissen Tagen und Abenden fährt er runter in eine der Kleinstädte in der Nähe und spielt in einer Bar oder besucht ein Internetcafé, um seine Mails zu checken. Manchmal arbeitet er auch ein bisschen zusätzlich auf einer organischen Farm in der Nähe. Chet ist wirklich so rootsy wie man nur sein kann.
Chet O´Keefe’s brand new album ”Because Of You” ranges from deep, dark and moving songs all the way to upbeat and light numbers. It fits on pretty much every occasion. The sound is very pleasant and easily approachable if you are just looking to lay your head on the shoulder of a beautiful country album, but it also has the quality and depth to really move you if you are ready to completely introduce your heart to a great singer-songwriter.
Peering out from behind a pair of black spectacles, beneath the brim of a dark hat, singer-songwriter Chet O’ Keefe watches the world turn ’round.
At first glance, he quietly radiates the aura of a mysterious, wandering nomad; a rootless troubadour; a Huckleberry Finn-meets-Bob Dylan-meets-John Prine. Upon observation, however, you realize there is a good reason why. When it comes to music, O’Keefe is as real as it gets.
“I got my first records when I was 6 years old,” he says. “They were The Moody Blues’ To Our Children’s Children’s Children,’ a self-titled John Edwards record, and Cat Stevens’ ‘Tea for the Tillerman.’ In 1998, in my early 30′s, I won a songwriting contest put on by a Massachusetts radio station, and time in a professional recording studio was part of my prize, so I finally got to make a record of my own.” Since then, he now has three albums on the shelf: His debut record, “Four Wheel Low,” (1998), the 2012 release, “Gamebird” and the brand new ”Because Of You”.
Asked about his musical influences, and he thoughtfully begins to list names. “Albert King, Albert Collins, Roy Buchanan,” he responds. “A lot of those old guitar players influenced my musicianship.” This is becomes obvious when he, on occasion, transforms from smooth songsmith to razor sharp guitar slinger, wielding his signature turquoise telecaster, hand-built by a friend over 20 years ago. “But as I started becoming more interested in crafting songs, not just playing guitar,” he continues, ”I began to turn to guys like John Prine, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, and Bob Dylan.”
O’Keefe also cites his own father as a source of inspiration for his music. His father, now 77, aside from his career as an architect, is a musician himself—a jazz guitarist who, up until 3 years ago, still performed 3 or 4 nights a week. “My father taught me a very important lesson about music,” Chet says. “He told me: ‘Songs should be a part of your life. When you put life experience to words and music, what do you get? You get emotion, and that’s where songs come from.’”
O’Keefe, who grew up in New England—Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire—moved to Washington state about a year and a half ago, after a 10-year affair with Music City: Nashville, Tennessee. And right now his setting up his winter camp in Texas, on his good friend Kinky Friedman’s ranch. But everywhere he’s traveled, his outlook on music, and his appreciation for the art of songwriting, has remained constant.
“It’s subjectivity-versus-objectivity,” explains O’Keefe, when asked about his purpose as a songwriter and musician. “I love that you can write one song, and it will mean so many different things to so many different people. I want to create something that has meaning to people, whoever they are.”
Still, Chet says life experience, not just a good imagination, is a key to producing powerful, meaningful, impactful music. “Emotion not generated from life experience—when it is gleaned from someone or somewhere else—is not authentic. On the other hand, when you’re writing from a place of authenticity, you will create profoundly more affective than when it is coming from any other place.”
“We live in a world of professional listeners, when we ought to be professional creators,” he muses. “Pop culture dictates that you can buy or steal what you need, rather than creating it for yourself. So many musicians are salesmen rather than artists. These days, it seems more about selling music than it is about creating it.”
Such a realistic attitude comes through in his music—an authenticity that is hard to miss in his conversation, his guitar playing, and especially his lyrics.
And it is this authenticity, most probably, that has earned him many unique opportunities over the years.
As an example, in 2010, his song “Ring the Bell,” was recorded by popular bluegrass pickers, The Gibson Brothers, went to the number one spot on the bluegrass chart, and stayed there for 3 months. It was also chosen as the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Song of the Year. Nashville, too, opened up some opportunities for the traveling tunesmith.
“When I lived there, I used to play some of my songs once in a while at this little place called Browns Diner, and Nanci Griffith used to come and watch me perform. It turned out she was a fan of my music. I later asked her if I could open for her sometime, and she invited me on a tour in Europe in 2010.”
She also performed with Chet on his 2010 release, “Gamebird.”
“After recording this CD at home on my computer, the hard drive crashed, at which point I called Nanci Griffith and said, “What should I do?” ‘Call my producer, Thomm,’ she said. Within minutes Thomm had called me, we got together at his studio and recorded it, and were off and running.” Thomm Jutz, Griffith and O’Keefe’s producer, warmly recounts the entire experience as being ‘one of his favorite experiences in the studio.’
“He’s a highly evolved human being,” says Thomm. “His spirituality is reflected in his songs, and in the way he lives his life. I’ve seen him wow big audiences that had never heard of him before.”
Or, in the words of Nanci Griffith: “Welcome to the magical world of Chet O’Keefe.”