It’s not always easy to sum up a career — let alone a life’s ambition — so succinctly, but those five words from Robert Earl Keen’s calling-card anthem just about do it.
You can complete the lyric with the next five words — the ones routinely shouted back at Keen by thousands of fans a night (“and the party never ends!”) — just to punctuate the point with a flourish, but it’s the part about the journey that gets right to the heart of what makes Keen tick. Some people take up a life of playing music with the goal of someday reaching a destination of fame and fortune; but from the get-go, Keen just wanted to write and sing his own songs, and to keep writing and singing them for as long as possible.
“I always thought that I wanted to play music, and I always knew that you had to get some recognition in order to continue,” Keen says. “But I never thought of it in terms of getting to be a big star. I thought of it in terms of having a really good career and writing some good songs, getting onstage and having a great time.”
From his humble beginnings on the Texas folk scene, he’s blazed a peer, critic, and fan-lauded trail that’s earned him living-legend (not to mention pioneer) status in the Americana music world. And though the Houston native has never worn his Texas heart on his sleeve, he’s long been regarded as one of the Lone Star State’s finest (not to mention top-drawing) true singer-songwriters.
Opening Act: Aubrie Sellers
For anybody who’s ever felt as if they didn’t quite fit in, Sellers’ masterful second album, Far From Home (the follow-up to her sensational debut, New City Blues), is essential listening. Sonically, it’s a sweeping, epic vision made manifest in crushing, amp-busting guitar rock – Sellers once dubbed this sound “garage country” – and delicate yet shattering widescreen ballads that form compelling frameworks for her angelic voice to take flight. One might assume that such fulsome musical expressions could only come from a grand extrovert, but Sellers reveals the deep-seated anxieties that lie beneath the surface – and how writing the album proved cathartic.
“Anxiety can be very isolating. Unless you’ve really gone through it, it’s difficult to fully understand,” she explains. “I write about it as honestly as possible. Hopefully it draws you in and you find your own meaning in the songs. So much music is all surface and gloss – but I need to get to the root of a feeling, and that’s what makes the music feel genuine.”
“I feel like I’m film in a digital world,” says Sellers. “There are so many slick, clean-sounding records that are designed for quick consumption, but that’s not me. I make dirty, grungy-sounding records, and the emotions spill all over the place. They’re messy at times, but I find beauty in that.”