Michael Keeth Continues to Get Back Up (ALBUM REVIEW)
By Tracy Dietlin
Michael Keeth is one of the hardest working musicians in the Coachella Valley.
On any given week, Keeth performs regularly at several local hotspots from one end of the valley to the other. Along with out of town regular gigs and local upscale private parties and events, that consistently adds up to 6 shows a week minimum and sometimes as many as 9. Not many musicians can acquire a fan base that broad and dedicated to want to see them perform that often. Keeth has also garnered many accolades including, “Best Male Vocalist” at the 2015 CV Music Awards, as well as “Best Duo” with Martin Barrera. He also won “Best Male Vocalist” in 2014.
And with his smooth, sultry, passionate, and impressive vocal range, he in my opinion has earned the title of the “the voice”.
Keeth recently released his second CD titled, Get Back Up. There is a common thread that runs throughout the CD that has Keeth both reflective about past adventures and mistakes, as well as overcoming them, and being grateful for his current seat in the life that he seems to love.
While there isn’t a bad song in the bunch, there are a several standout tracks, many of which are radio ready, top ten hit-worthy songs. It starts out strong with the title track, which is the anthem for pulling yourself together after rough times with the lyrics: Upside down Cuz you lost your love/Inside out I’ll be the one to help you get back up/Don’t let it change you/Don’t let it win.
“Don’t Even Have to Try” is a song for any couple that has weathered the storm and are still standing strong with lyrics like: And you’re beautiful can’t you see/ You’re the only one I want next to me/It’s been a long hard road/And you’re still worth the fight/And no matter what comes our way/I’ll be standing by your side/Cuz baby we don’t even have to try/We can talk all night or we can laugh until we cry.
This track is sure to make every woman’s heart melt.
“People Change” is riveting with simple words that cut right through like: People change/But I still stay the same/Just a faceless man/Begging to buy a name/ People change/But I still stay the same/Just a folded card/Begging to stay in the game.
Musically and vocally, “Midnight” is reminiscent of “Her Diamonds” by Rob Thomas. To compare Keeth to Thomas as a songwriter and vocalist is truly a compliment considering Thomas’ achievements in music, yet to pigeon-hole him as just that would be an injustice. He does, however, conjure up that raw passion that Thomas had on early songs as well as the refined vocal control he has shown more recently. But keep in mind that Keeth has transitioned from a man who used to front a very successful local hard rock band reminiscent of Tool back in the early 2000s, into the master singer-songwriter he is today.
If you’re looking for heartfelt, melodic rock songs, written by a master lyricist, performed by “the voice” then I highly recommend you check out the CD, Get Back Up, and make sure to come out for Michael Keeth’s CD release party at The Riviera in Palm Springs this Saturday, March 19, from 7-10pm.
Keeth was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for CV Weekly.
CVW: This is your second full-length CD, with the last one being Shed the Skin?
Michael Keeth: “Yes. Shed the Skin was all acoustic. This is a full band recording.”
CVW: I know the title of Shed the Skin has a significant meaning. What is behind the title of Get Back Up?
MK: “Shed the Skin was really coming out of a period of external strife, and trying to move past those experiences with open eyes. Get Back Up is an album made up of some older songs that I never recorded the way I had envisioned, and new songs about times of growth and change for me internally, and also of what I hold most important now. We all fall at times. That’s alright as long as you learn from it, and come back stronger.”
CVW: How long did it take to record the album?
MK: “This has been about 4 years of recording, re-recording, trying new techniques, trial and error to get the sound I really wanted.”
CVW: I notice you recorded at Keeth Media Studios. It has great sound for being mixed, mastered and recorded by yourself. Is that a home studio?
MK: “Thank you so much. Yes, it was done at home. I use protools. I have a v kit for the drums, lots of mics, instruments, as well as really cool synths for layers. And an awesome wife and kids who like music in the house.” (smiling)
CVW: There’s also a song on the CD co-written with Eli Becken. Can you tell us a little about that? Was it done when he was out here?
MK: “The song “Who Says” was written a long time ago about a friend expecting their first child; experiencing all the fear and excitement that goes with it. Eli gave me the first chords and I took them and ran.”
CVW: How do you feel your songwriting has changed/evolved over the years?
MK: “I feel like the main evolution has come in the form of just being more comfortable in my skin as a writer and performer. I’m heavily influenced and inspired by other musicians, but I’m content singing and playing my own way.”
CVW: What are your main influences or inspirations when writing songs?
MK: “Mainly personal experiences, but I also like writing from other people’s point of view. To see family or friends go through experiences and empathize with them. One of the greatest effects of music is how it allows us be part of the bigger picture. When you can relate to a lyric or feeling, you don’t feel alone.”
CVW: What song are you the most proud of?
MK: “I love them all. I’ve had some for a long time. And the new additions are close to my heart too.”
CVW: You are one of a select group of musicians that actually makes a good living at being a “working musician” here in the valley. What are your thoughts on that?
MK: “I’m very lucky and thankful for that. I just keep working to be better, show up and stay proactive. I believe that the road will rise up to meet you, but only if you’re working to progress. I’ll never be done learning or trying to improve what I do, and working to expand my audience.”
CVW: What is your formula for keeping it fresh when you play 6-8 gigs a week, every week? Do you change things up?
MK: “I constantly change up my sets. I like writing on the fly. Sometimes I’ll just jam out ideas on the middle of the set. I love trying new songs, and using alternate tunings.”
CVW: Is your lineup still Martin and Josh? Or does that change with different shows?
MK: “I play solo quite a bit. But yes, Joshua Fimbres of Thr3 Strykes is an awesome percussionist/ drummer. And Martin Barrera plays lead guitar. And now Charlie Ellis of Mighty Jack is playing bass (very well, by the way).”
CVW: What do you feel has been the most defining moment of your career?
MK: “I don’t have a specific moment. I’m thankful every day that I get to do what I love for a living.”
CVW: Who were your influences in the past? And who are they now?
MK: “I’ve always been a huge U2 fan. But I love a lot of different kinds of music. Sometimes I’ll just buy random CDs and see if I like them.”
CVW: Who do you most respect in the music business today and why?
MK: “Anyone who plays because they love it.”
CVW: Where do you want to be in 5 years?
MK: “Spending time with my family, playing shows and writing music.”
CVW: What do you like to do when you’re not performing?
MK: “Hanging out with my wife and kids. I love taking car trips and seeing new places.”
CVW: Tell us something nobody knows about Michael?
MK: “I’m an open book.” (flashes that famous grin)
CVW: What can fans expect at the CD release party?
MK: “A lot of fun! We’re gonna do an open jam with our desert musicians friends for the first couple of hours, drink specials, and my full band will perform the album from 9-10pm. Then a DJ plays from 10 to close!”
For more info including a complete schedule of live shows, music, lyrics and videos, please visit www.michaelkeethmusic.com.
"Beautiful Resort... And now that I have a week to think about it. I still believe this is a beautiful resort. This resort is a family friendly resort so don't expect Vegas fun. But, it is definitely a nice escape from my busy hometown. The have a restaurant that looks very nice, but we did not get to try this visit. We did however got to try the bar! Lol... They have live performance on Friday nights by MIchael Keeth. I am not sure about the other nights, but we were there this last Friday and the performance was excellent."
Cork Tree California Cuisine in Palm Desert, CA
"Wow! This was an amazing experience. Best we had in four nights of dining in the desert.
The service was impeccable. Our server was very knowledgable about food and wine. There was live music which is usually a detriment to most restaurants but here it was very tasteful. A young man named MIchael Keeth was playing acoustic guitar which was the right volume and tempo for the meal and actually heightened the enjoyment of the dining experience rather than detracting from it."
The Viceroy Hotel in Palm Springs, CA
"As my girlfriends and I were trying to plan our 3 day trip to Palm Springs for mid-May, we were so overwhelmed with the numerous hotels available to choose from. However, after a few days of researching, we ended up choosing to stay at Viceroy and I'm soooo glad we did. Everyone here is SO NICE and makes you feel very welcome! Everyone from the front desk, valet, bartenders, pool staff, and cleaning ladies always greeted us with a smile and was very accommodating...excellllllent service! One night, there was a musician named Michael Keeth set up by the pool with his guitar and singing acoustic covers of popular songs. He was really good and really added to the great ambiance. We just left our patio window open and enjoyed his singing :)"
Nominated CV Weekly’s Best Duo & Best Male Vocalist
By Lisa Morgan
Strolling through downtown La Quinta on a perfect spring night is an enchanting experience any day of the week. But should you find yourself doing so on a Sunday evening between 7 and 10 pm, you will have done yourself a great injustice if you do not stop into The Wine Bar. The beckoning sounds of Michael Keeth’s and Martin Barrera’s music streaming from the classy yet charmingly delicious and welcoming venue will envelope you and make it a night to remember. I stopped in for just a few minutes myself this past Sunday, and found that I could not pull myself away.
Keeth’s voice is a force of nature in itself. Full of rich texture, perfect pitch and tone, this voice can go from one to 100 decibels in a single, smooth, dynamic leap. Tastefully, and with absolute control, Keeth chooses to only use this near superhuman power when it suits the flavor of the song. Singing popular songs from rock to country, each song has been broken down into its most perfect acoustic form and is delivered with the kind of skill and passion that would stir envy in any of the song’s original artists. As Keeth weaves in his original songs to his captivated audience, he is constantly asked, “Is that one of yours?”. The crowd responds with absolute delight when the answer is yes. Keeth and Barrera’s audience are a loyal fan base, some of whom come from Canada and make it a point every year to be there with this duo, without fail. At the foundation of every song is an amazingly intuitive blending of acoustic and electric guitar. As Keeth plays adeptly on his acoustic, Martin Barrera (a staple guitarist for years here in the desert) plays tastefully and warmly on his electric with a combination of rhythm, lead and bass notes creating the perfect serving platter for Keeth’s stirring vocals. The end result? A musical journey the quality for which some in the industry are paid in the thousands for. Yet here these two are, grateful for every tip, CD purchase, round of applause and the fact that they are able to do what they love for an establishment full of people who appreciate them.
Michael Keeth began his melodic adventures singing in the car with his mom. “I’ve been singing pretty much since I could talk. My mom was a really good singer and she taught me harmonies. I don’t get to do it in the duo, but I love good harmonies.” Though Keeth’s vocals and guitar playing both sound very trained, he is very much self-taught. “Eagles and U2 were my two favorite bands growing up. I had my mom’s record collection with older Jackson Brown and was exposed to some very good songwriters. Now, I just really like strong songs whether they’re from Zac Brown, Pearl Jam or Tool.” Keeth got his first guitar when he was 14, started song writing at 16, was in his first band at 17 and started recording original music by the age of 18. “I am a firm believer that the song should get what it needs, even if that means less vocal and more guitar (or visa versa). It needs to be well rounded with both strong music and strong lyrics.” His first solo record, “Shed The Skin” was recorded in 2012 and exhibits just that. A prolific songwriter, two more albums are set to be released by Keeth, one this summer and his third, hopefully by the end of this year. Now 31, Keeth beams when he talks about his wife, Jody, and their 4 year old daughter. “Jody is a gigantic inspiration to me. She really helps me stay focused. We’ve been together for 9 years and our daughter is 4. My daughter is the best thing in the whole world. I am so very thankful every day for my family and to be able to work, doing what I love to do.”
Martin Barrera, Keeth’s first class wing man, is known and respected by his peers throughout the Coachella Valley. Even so, it is not an easy task to get the very understated and humble Barrera to talk about himself. When Keeth points out Barrera to the crowd for his great playing, Barrera becomes obviously uncomfortable with the spotlight. He is much more at ease singing the praises of others, especially Keeth. “Martin is an amazing guitarist,” Keeth boasts. “His ability to learn new songs on the spot and add perfectly placed leads amazes me every time we work on something new. He’s one of the most devoted musicians I’ve ever met. He plays because he loves it, more than for any other reason.” Other stellar musicians who have worked closely with Barrera echo Keeth’s accolades. “Martin is truly one of the most talented guitarists I’ve seen,” shared Linda Heinz, music educator, and keyboardist for CV Weekly’s nominee for best band, Blasting Echo. “He has an excellent ear and could easily sit in with just about any genre band and contribute something amazing. He’s also a talented songwriter. Despite his incredible talent, he has no ego. He makes whoever he plays with sound 10 times better. Martin is da man!”
“I started singing at age 3,” shared Barrera, “and began playing drums at 13. I played in my Dad’s band for a bit (traditional music) but ended up gravitating to the rock scene and bands like Kiss. I eventually picked up guitar and moved on to bands like the Allman Brothers and Def Leopard.” Martin surrounded himself with musicians and bands like Lung Cookie, who were part of the early desert rock scene, eventually playing in a desert band called B Movie Super Stars. “I’ve been playing with Michael for around 2 years. I can read him pretty well and so I pretty much know where he’s going melodically.” You see the intuitiveness of Barrera’s playing as he follows Michael by studying his face or watching his hands on the neck of his guitar. The result: musical perfection. “The people at the Wine Bar really take care of us. They treat us like family. It’s one of my favorite places to play.” The smiles and attentiveness of the patrons, staff and ownership at The Wine Bar reflect Barrera’s impression. This musical duo has brought something very special to their Sunday nights.
The Wine Bar in Old Town La Quinta is also nominated for Coachella Valley Weekly’s “Best Wine Bar”. Keeth and Barrera are nominated for “Best Duo” and Keeth is nominated for “Best Male Vocal”. All the more reason to pay them all a visit this Sunday. The Wine Bar is located at 78015 Main Street, La Quinta. You can visit them on their website: www.thewinebaratoldtown.com
By Jack St. Clare
April 11, 2012 Local Music Spotlight, Musicians Corner
Michael Keeth’s new album, Shed The Skin, is the definition of simple. It’s all him: his voice, his acoustic guitar, a second acoustic guitar to add depth to the mix and honest songwriting. There isn’t any flashiness or over production here. And that seems to be the intent. Keeth could have easily layered this record with an abundance of instruments behind him, or asked any number of local musicians to add their flavor to his compositions. The choice to be stripped down is to be applauded. He leaves the listener an open invitation to digest raw emotions without any façade to hide behind.
Keeth has spent over a decade making music in various outfits including House of Broken Promises and most recently Roads of Rome. All the while he has held fast to his greatest strengths: his voice, his acoustic guitar and his songs. As far as male singers go here in the Coachella Valley – and this means no disrespect to the many talented male singers out there that work hard and sound fantastic – but his vocals are probably the purest and strongest. Here they shine as he reveals his current state of mind.
Keeth points the microscope internally, pushing himself to not be complacent, deceptive or regretful in several tracks such as “Shed the Skin”, “Another Year”, “Everything“ and “Love or Pain.” It seems that he wants to avoid the b.s. that so much of life can bring, and he asks the listener to do the same. On the other side of things, “Purified” is an unbridled celebration of finding a love that is complete. All of these emotions a delivered with authority and sincerity, while foregoing any pretentiousness or anger. He is comfortable and confident in being who he his and who he is becoming. Certainly being a husband and father, while balancing a passion to create music, has an influence on his perspective.
Acoustic albums are wonderful in that you get to hear songs in their most basic states. Keeth’s talent makes this easy and enjoyable. Listening through the 43 minutes is as if you were just hanging out watching him play in the same room. On the flip side, I can’t help wanting to hear several songs performed with a full band. Here’s hoping that we might get that chance soon.
Michael Keeth truly is one the hardest working musicians out there, playing six nights a week. You can catch him weekly at the Cork Tree, The Viceroy Hotel and The Riviera Hotel. You can also check him out on Facebook at Michael Keeth Music.