Monday, March 26, 2007

Meeting Your Heroes: Talking With Robert Earl Keen

One school of opinion suggests that coming face to face with your heroes can be a seriously bad downer. Feet of clay don’t show up at a distance. This hasn’t been my experience. From meeting early rugby heroes from the New Zealand All Blacks like Earl Kirton and Waka Nathan 20 years ago, to meeting Robert Earl Keen a couple of weeks ago in Austin, Texas, hero worship has been a universally uplifting experience for me. Meeting heroes and inspirational players is the best way to keep positive feelings and self belief growing. And the world is full of inspirational people.

I’ve been a big fan of Robert Earl Keen since hearing his album, A Bigger Piece of Sky in the late 90’s. I’ve been to a bunch of concerts and was lucky enough to be invited to sit on stage with him at Billy Bob’s in Texas last year. In Austin we met at the Four Seasons, an unlikely venue for an ad guy and a honky tonk guitarist to get together. The result was 1-1/2 hours talking about creativity, the excitement of the music business, the pressures of touring 180 days a year. and the joy of family (Robert has two daughters who are 12 and 6). We also talked about the price of success in terms of having to take responsibility for multi million dollar a year enterprise. It’s a big step from writing songs, singing them, and playing them.

Robert is a big, friendly, warm guy with humor and mischief in his eyes. Some of his songs are funny, some are deeply personal and all drip with truth. The Road Goes on Forever is one of the great stories of all time and if the 21st century does indeed belong to the storyteller, as Rolf Jensen claims, then Robert Earl will be right there at the front of the queue. To get started on the Robert Earl Keen Experience, try and see him live in Texas. If you can’t make that, he will be in New York in November. And, if you can’t make New York, buy Live Dinner No. 2, Live at the Ryman, and What I Really Mean.

p.s. Anyone in or near the state of Oklahoma should check out Robert at the Wormy Dog Saloon in Oklahoma City on 7th April. (How could you resist not going to a place called the Wormy Dog Saloon?)