An Interview with Andy Keels

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Surrey-based singer/songwriter Andy Keels joins us today for a chat. We cover his musical origins, his new EP, some of his favorite records, and more. Andy is an exciting artist, one who I believe is on the verge of great things to come. If you would like to learn more about Andy Keels and his new EP 15 Years, you can head over to his Instagram here. Enjoy this interview. Cheers.

Andrew:
Andy, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been a weird year. What have you been doing to pass the time?

Andy:
My pleasure! and yes, it certainly has… 2020 was definitely weirder (dare I say it)… but I’m pleased with how things have gone so far this year. I managed to get over to Portugal in December and decided to stay when COVID got bad again in England, so it’s been nice to be here! The weather has been on and off, but the Piri Piri chicken is consistently amazing 🙂

Like everyone, I’ve been doing my best to keep fit, not drink too much, and work on some of the songs that I’ll be recording later in the year. So, it’s a so far, so good scenario, for now!

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. How did you get into music? What was the gateway, so to speak?

Andy:
I always loved listening to music as a child but only got into it properly when I was about 15. I started writing songs while at school but as I didn’t play any instruments I started out recording songs as layered acapella. I’d basically sing many instrumental and vocal parts and layer them up on my laptop to make outlines of my songs. Once I had some songs I was happy with I put a band together and recoded some of my songs as well as a few covers and ended up getting a record deal with a small, independent label.

As an 18-year-old, this was a pretty amazing thing to happen, so it got off to a great start. Fast forward a year, and we were touring with the likes of Westlife, Girls Aloud, and McFly on arena tours around the UK. So, that was the starting point, which was incredible. Then, it all imploded, almost as fast as it came together. My brother and I kept writing and doing gigs, though I’ve been performing wherever I can since; I just didn’t release anything. So that’s where the ‘15 Years’ title from my EP comes from. It’s a culmination of 15 years of life and work.

Andrew:
As an artist and singer, who were some of your earliest and more important influences?

Andy:
I have so many influences both old and new across all genres but some of my earliest would be as a boy listening to my dad playing Motown classics, Buddy Holly, Aretha Franklin, and Elvis Presley. My mum also used to play a lot of classical music in the car when I was very young, which I’d apparently sing-along to- probably getting it all horribly wrong but it sounds like I enjoyed it!

As a teenager, I was big into Green Day, The Offspring, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Oasis. Other favorites were Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, Boys 2 Men, and NSYNC- I actually studied countless Max Martin (the producer) songs when I was learning to write, in terms of structure and what made up a good, catchy song. Nowadays, I tend to listen to whatever I’m in the mood for, from 50’s Jazz, Miles Davis, to Muddy Waters, to all of the stuff I’ve just listed. More contemporary music includes Lewis Capaldi, Ed Sheeran, and Foy Vance.

Andrew:
Let’s dive in and talk about your new single, “Caroline.” Tell us about the recording and inspiration. How much of an issue was the pandemic in terms of getting your new music out?

Andy:
“Caroline” was an interesting one! I don’t have one set way of writing, and I often have melodies pop into my head when I’m not specifically trying to write. The melody for Caroline was no exception. It was Christmas Eve 2019- I was in the shower and running late for something, but I had a good feeling about it. So, I made myself later by getting my guitar out and figuring out the chords, and recording a basic idea before setting off. The melody was in my head a lot for the coming weeks, and then I heard a moving story about a friend’s daughter battling cancer about a month later. The next time I sat and played the song, the lyrics flowed out with that in mind. So, it’s ultimately about loss.

The pandemic wasn’t so much an issue for getting the music out, but it definitely made the recording tough. I was initially due to record in February (2020), but that was delayed till June due to COVID. It ended up being a good thing for me, though, as I changed some of the songs I had in mind to record and wrote a few new ones in the lead-up to being in the studio, which I ended up recording instead.

Andrew:
My understanding is you’re also working on your debut EP. Is that right? What more can you tell us about it? Where can we get it, and when will it be released?

Andy:
That’s right! It’s actually been finished for a while now but again, due to COVID and the fact I’m releasing everything off my own back has meant there’s been some ups and downs. I recorded the EP in New York, where I’ve been living for the last three years.

I’ve thought about recording an EP for so long, but now, having written hundreds of songs over the years, I wasn’t sure which songs to start with. I also didn’t know where I was going to record. Long story short, I did some research online and read about Germano Studios in NYC, who have an unbelievable track record of producing for many iconic artists. I reached out to the owner, who responded quickly and paired me up with his lead Engineer/Producer, Dave Rowland. We met up and got along well, and I played them some of the songs I had in mind, and they were keen to work together, so it evolved from there.

The EP 15 Years will be out on Friday the 16th of April on all major streaming platforms. You can check out the music videos for the first singles on YouTube in the meantime.

Andrew:
How about songwriting? What is your process like? Does your work come from a deep, ethereal place? Or is it sort of just spur of the moment, so to speak?

Andy:
My writing varies a lot! Sometimes, I’ll write from chord progressions. Sometimes it’ll be from a bass line, a beat, or some sort of lead hook idea, and often it’s just a simple melody that’ll pop into my head. It can also be from a lyrical idea or a feeling.

Once you’ve already got the melody, though, my process with lyrics is also different; sometimes you’ll write a song with a feeling or narrative in mind, and other times lyrics will just present themselves to you as you go. So, to answer your question, it can be either.

Andrew:
Aside from music, what else are you most passionate about and why? How do your other passions inform and inspire your music?

Andy:
I’m into keeping fit (physically and mentally) and promoting mental health as I’ve struggled with that in the past. So, I try and help other people wherever I can either by sharing my experiences or pointing others in the right direction.

I’m also an actor, and though I haven’t done much acting over the last few years, more due to COVID and moving agents, I love acting and being part of projects where you can help be a part of someone else’s vision and work with other creative and inspiring people. It’s incredibly fulfilling. I’m big on nature and being eco-friendly. I was a gardener for 5 years between acting and music, so I like to be outside whenever I can and support initiatives that I believe in.

Ultimately, I think who we are as people, our experiences, and what we believe in has a big effect on what we create. Having had big ups and downs personally over the years has been tough to live through but has proven to be really beneficial for me as a person and my songwriting.

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music? What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Andy:
I love vinyl but haven’t been able to buy a record player in NYC, so I’m limited to digital when I’m in America. I have a record player in the UK and a tape and cd player, but digital often wins as it’s so much more accessible. You can’t beat a good vinyl session, though!

There are so many special albums out there, but some of my all-time favorites include Green Day, Dookie, Oasis, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? And Nirvana, Unplugged in New York. I love the songs in both, and they bring back good memories, too. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue is also just an incredible experience. I often listen to it to unwind.

Andrew:
Touring is a big part of any artist’s proverbial machine, but as we know, COVID has disallowed it. What do you miss most about being on the road?

Andy:
As I’m just getting back into recording and releasing music, it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the road so that’s something I’ve missed a lot. Having said that, it can also be tough! You can’t beat getting up on stage and the experience of performing but when living hand to mouth as it is for a lot of musicians these days it can also be difficult being on the road.

It’s all about the experiences, though. Being with your friends and performing music you’ve written is incredible.

Andrew:
Speaking of COVID, where has it left the music scene? So many indie venues are closing, and people are struggling. Do we recover from this? If so, how?

Andy:
It’s a strange time in general, but music will always be there for us. The music industry has changed so much over the last 30 years and is in a constant state of evolution. I think this is going to continue to over the coming years, so it’s going to be really fascinating to see what happens not only with music, but all industries. With ever-increasing advancements in technology and AI, the world is going to change at an incredible pace over the coming 5-10 years, far quicker than previous years, for better and worse.

Music will be fine (in general), but how artists release music and breakthrough and how labels operate (and make money) will be an ever-evolving process, in my opinion.

It’s really sad to see so many iconic venues closing! And cool bars, restaurants, and places in general. Sadly, that’s how things are, for now, so I think people will have to do more to fight for their local music venues, either with crowdsourcing or, by making their local authorities sit up and take notice by getting petitions signed to increase support. Those in positions of power should be aware of the importance of their local music venues and take pride in what music culture and creative arts stand for.

Andrew:
Last question. What advice would you have for other indie artists looking to take the plunge?

Andy:
Sadly, many people, even friends that mean well, have a very negative outlook when it comes to people being creative and pursuing careers they’re passionate about. Since it’s statistically highly unlikely that anyone will be a successful actor, artist, or singer/songwriter, people advise against it, but artists don’t think that way. They make music, write, perform, paint, build, or create because they love doing it. It’s not all about mainstream success. So, I think it’s about perspective and WHY people make art. Because it makes them happy… The point is, if you enjoy doing something, do it, and don’t be put off by negative people or people who don’t understand you. Always try and have a side hustle as well as you need to sustain yourself.

Apparently, now is also the hardest time ever to release music as there is just so much being released. I’m not successful (yet) 😉 so I can’t give any groundbreaking advice. Just enjoy what you’re doing, and if nothing happens, at least you gave it a shot.

Also, feel free to reach out and connect with me. I’m still learning/evolving, and my EP incorporates a wide range of ideas, styles, sounds, and influences, so I’ll be pleased to hear feedback.

Interested in learning more about the work of Andy Keels? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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