Robert Earl Keen's road goes on forever
The notable balladeer Robert Earl Keen, famous for "The Road Goes On Forever" and other songs, is playing at Pisgah Brewing Co. Friday, July 21 at 8 p.m., with Kasey Chambers opening. Tickets are $25 advance, $30 door. The Black Mountain News sent Keen some questions last week, and here are the Texas native's answers, slightly edited.
Black Mountain News: What do you think Texas taught you about songwriting? How is the Texas “sensibility” different from other places you’ve lived/visited and how does that show up in your songwriting?
Robert Earl Keen: Texas has many different landscapes with ever-changing topography. From the coastal plains to the high plains in Lubbock and Amarillo from the Piney Woods in east Texas to the Guadalupe Mountains in west Texas, Texas is every evolving. Songwriting should be the same, ever-changing with different views and descriptions of life as it happens. The Texas "sensibility" is basically comprised of hard work, being courageous and not afraid to take a chance. In my songwriting I try to emulate those same characteristics.
BMN: How has your songwriting changed over your long career? What do you see when you look back at yourself writing your first songs and what do you see in the songwriter that you are now?
REK: As you grow and experience life (and) you see more of what life has to offer, it opens all kinds of imagery that you can draw from to write songs. I see much the same person I was when I first started writing songs, maybe wiser and more open to different concepts.
BMN: You recorded (your latest album) “Live Dinner Reunion” at the legendary John T. Floore’s County Store in Helotes, Texas, 20 years after you recorded “No. 2 Live Dinner” there. Why did you want to do that, and who did you ask to help?
REK: The experience was rejuvenating and somewhat overwhelming. We just planned on playing a gig, and saying ‘This is our 20th anniversary of this record.’ But, about 10 days out, I thought it would be good to have some of my friends, so I called Bruce Robison, Lyle Lovett, Cory Morrow and Joe Ely. Reckless Kelly and Cody Canada and the Departed were already set up as far as playing the music. Everyone showed up, and it was like that old Tex Ritter song "Hillbilly Heaven" - all of a sudden, everything was just perfect. All egos were left at the door. There was no weirdness, and everyone was just there to play music. Everybody was just laughing and telling stories, which is just what I thought the whole thing was about.
BMN: We bet you’ve told the story behind the creation of “The Road Goes On Forever” a million times. But would you tell it to us, one last time? We can’t get enough of that song.
REK: The Sonny and Sherry characters are based on real characters that just couldn’t stay out of trouble. And they just, no matter what happened, no matter what fortune fell on them, would screw that up. That’s where it started from. The song has been my unofficial anthem for over 20 years and the band and I play it at almost every show. It's just something the fans expect and we want to keep them happy!