INTERVIEW: Keenan O’Meara

Keenan O’Meara’s duet with Lianne La Havas on Wonderful is where I first heard him play and sing.  I had the opportunity to hear Keenan O’Meara live when his tour with Lianna La Havas stopped here in Atlanta.  If you haven’t listened to his EP Awful Creature , head over to iTunes and download it today.  Mania was the first single from the EP.  Mania was recorded at the legendary Electric Lady Studios.  This is the same studio where Jimi Hendrix created his last studio recording, Slow Blues.  Mania is a haunting heartbreak song.

Keenan O’Meara took a break from the studio to share some time with me and answer a few questions.

Artist Q&A:

You moved from college life at Berklee College of Music to NYC, right?  What prompted you to make the move to NYC to start your music career?
Berklee, Boston was a resoundingly disappointing experience. I never really found a rhythm there. I felt very isolated and alien as student in juxtaposition to my peers and the general vibe of that city. I got out the second I could with a small group of friends I was in a band with. NYC was slow going at first but somewhere around 2 years in I felt like I was playing music for the first time. I was playing with fabulous musicians and writers and enjoying the company of what are now some of my best friends, colleagues who hold my utmost respect and admiration. It’s one of the best cities in the world. It chewed me up quite a bit but that’s part of the deal. There was a brief period where all the people I’ve come to know NYC were just getting to know each other, play together, and capitalize on each other’s good graces. It was a sweet time before anyone had really figured the other out. There were no rifts or bonds just the uninhibited sharing of music. People would share songs at parties in a really uncontrived way. Doesn’t really happen anymore but I can’t help but look back on that time warmly and thank the powers that be I got to New York in time to experience that. It has shaped my musical core more than anything.

What was the first album that you added to your music library?
I think the first album I ever got was a hand me down Led Zeppelin record from my brother. Hard for me to recall honestly. There was a lot of regrettable 90’s stuff that you could imagine a grade schooler might get won over by. I might have to take those with me to the grave…

What was your most recent addition to your music library?
My most recent addition has been Randy Newman’s album “Sail Away”. Specifically there is a tune called “God’s Song (that’s why I love Mankind)” that had me in tears. It’s a cover of a song originally made famous by Etta James.  Something about the picture it paints struck as particularly powerful and gloomy. It successfully invoked a feeling that one might feel when realizing their creator is indifferent or at best, malevolent. There’s a lyric “Lord if you won’t take care of us, won’t you please please let us be” Crushing stuff.

What was your first live music experience?  Which venue and which artist(s)?
My first live experience was seeing a singer and writer named Martin Sexton at D.C.s 9:30 Club. I was enamored with the one man band show he was pushing at the time. His pitch perfect falsetto and dynamic guitar playing stood out to me. I remember, even as a young kid, being refreshed by the fact that he wasn’t a particularly young or vibrant persona outside of his music. I found that inspiring. It showed me that anyone to make art that resonates with people on their own terms.

If you could cover one album in your music library which would it be?
If I could cover one record? Maybe Tom Waits “Bone Machine”. I would be treading on sacred ground no doubt. Not sure if it’s something I could take on outside the realm and safety of this question. I also day dream about a Beach House cover record, maybe “Teen Dreams” or “Bloom”. The changes and melodies are so solid and leave a lot to interpretation. Love those records.