Steven Keen | Songwriting Routine | Them & UsSteven Keene says his songwriting routine has never resembled work. To the contrary, he’s always written in the moment and as inspiration strikes. Yet he’s had a consistent and prolific songwriting career.

Steven grew up in Brooklyn New York, and honed his skills in the Greenwich Village scene of the late 80s, early 90s alongside Beck and other noteworthies.

The day we spoke, he had a new single out. That single was called “Cause I Can’t Have You.” Since then, the full album “Them & Us” has been released.

Steven toured regularly for years, but in 2019 decided to focus on writing and recording. He says he’s had the pleasure and good fortune of doing so with players who have worked with the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Bon Jovi, and Springsteen.

He told me that Dylan his #1 influence. Steven has actually played with a few of members of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review tour and backing band.

I had to ask Steven about playing at CBGB. He did not disappoint, sharing stories of gigs at there and The Bottom Line in the 90’s, alongside Beck.

We talk about his songwriting methods and routines, as well as his sentiments on the state of music amidst the pandemic. Yet Steven is thrilled to be recording and like all of us, he looks forward to a time when the music business has reshaped itself.

Please enjoy…

Mentioned in this Episode

StevenKeene.com

‘Them and Us’ (video)

TrueFire Guitar Review – The Giant of Online Lessons (Review)

Kid Andersen On TrueFire TV and His Forthcoming Album (Ep 110)

Robonzo 0:02
This is the Unstarving Musician podcast. I’m your host Robonzo. The podcast features conversations with me, indie music artists and industry professionals. And it’s all intended to help other indie music artists be better at marketing business, the creative process and all the other things that empower us to do more of what we love. Make Music.

Robonzo 0:27
Hello. Thank you for joining me for another episode. It is my honor to be in your earbuds or on your speakers today. I really appreciate you. So I hope you’re doing well. I’m I think I found out that one of my friends lost most of his January to the COVID virus. I think I found that out this afternoon. This is, I say I think because it was over a somewhat cryptic mention of COVID in January in an email exchange, but I’m going to clarify that. He wouldn’t be the first of my friends to succumb to the virus. Fortunately, my of my close friends, my close circle, nobody has died from it. But anyway, hopefully that’s true for you too. I want you all to be very careful. That’s why I’m telling you this. Stay safe, stay well. I don’t want you to get sick. And I sure as heck don’t want you to die yet.

Robonzo 1:24
My guest for this episode is Steven Keene. He’s a songwriter, musician in the Americana folk genre, I guess is where I will genrefy him. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York and honed his skills in the Greenwich Village. Did I say that right? Green Greenwich or is it Green Greenwich, Greenwich, Greenwich, Greenwich Village, a scene of the late 80s early 90s alongside Beck and other noteworthies. At the time we spoke for this conversation, his new album, Them & Us was about to drop. The day we spoke Steven had a new single out. That single was called, Cause I Can’t Have You. That was released on the 16th of October last year 2020. Since then, the full album, Them & Us was has been released. Steven, he used to tour a lot he told me, but in 2019 he decided to focus on writing and recording. And he has had the pleasure and good fortune of doing so with players who’ve worked with the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Bon Jovi and Springsteen. All Jersey guys is what he said. That’s really cool.

Robonzo 2:37
Real quick, some housekeeping or kind of quick, some housekeeping things, a few things that keep the podcast going, if you will. In the last episode, I mentioned that Bandzoogle has added integration for Printful print-on-demand, drop shipping services. So Bandzoogle in case you haven’t heard me rave about them before, they’re that all-in-one web platform for musicians and bands. So now they made it, with this new integration, they made it easier for musicians to create and sell custom merchandise directly to fans on our websites commission free using Bandzoogle. If this is intriguing, if you need to upgrade your website, if you need to put together your first website as an artist, musician or band go to Bandzoogle.com. And guess what? You can get a 15% off your first year of any subscription deal with the promo code Robonzo, ROBONZO. So please check that out. You will be doing yourself a favor and supporting the podcast in the process.

Robonzo 3:40
And in another bit of housekeeping Jennifer, an editor at Happy DIY Home.com sent me a nice note about an episode of the Unstarving Musician that featured Kid Anderson in which Kid and I talked about his contribution to the truefire.com library of music lessons. In this case, it was Kid giving guitar lessons to for that library, for its subscribers. Jennifer wanted me to know that their sister site Beginner Guitar HQ.com just published a comprehensive review of truefire that she thinks you’ll be interested in. So I perused their review and it looks pretty informative. So I placed a link in the show notes in case you want to check it out. I think you should. I also have a link in the show notes for the Unstarving Musician episode with Kid Anderson that talks about his contributions to the truefire library. So definitely check that out Kids quite a guy. Thanks, Jennifer! Happy DIY Home and Beginner Guitar HQ for that!

Robonzo 4:48
Okay, and lastly, before I get on with my guest some more about my guest, Steven Keene. If you love the podcast, do me a favor. Subscribe wherever you get your favorite audio and tell a friend, and or you can join the Unstarving Musician community by going to UnstarvingMusician.com. That community is one in which members get tips and insights from me, but they’re not just from me. It’s not just my insights from my years of experience as a gigging musician, but tons of stuff I’m learning from artists that I talk to, now hundreds of music artists and industry pros, that I’ve spoken to as part of the Unstarving Musician podcast. So it’s curated knowledge, all for you. And I’m rolling out some new stuff for members soon. It’s a new bonus. So currently, you’ll get a free copy of The UnstarvingMusician.com Guide To Getting Paid Gigs, a book I wrote, the official ebook copy of that book. You get that for joining too. So check it out, it’s free to join. You’ll get an occasional email from me with those tips and insights I mentioned. And you can unsubscribe at any time. So it’s easy. It’s an easy way to support this podcast. And if you really, really love the podcast, consider pledging support on our crowd sponsor page at UnstarvingMusician.com forward slash crowd sponsor, there are lots of options for you to show your monetary love to this Unstarving Musician project, and it is much appreciated.

Robonzo 6:28
So Steven told me that Dylan is his number one influence, has been his number one influence. He has actually played with a few members of Dylan’s bands, band from from Rolling Thunder and with members of his backing band. I don’t know as much about those people as I should. But it sounds really cool. On top of all the other stuff that I mentioned at the outset of setting up my guest for this episode, the whole Bon Jovi and Lenny Kravitz, people that he’s jammed with. And I get this, I had to ask him about his performances at cbgb. And Steven did not disappoint. He shared stories about gigs there and at the bottom line in the 90s, he did alongside Beck. It’s pretty cool stories. We talked about his songwriting methods and routines, as well as his sentiments on the state of the music biz, amidst the pandemic. But there’s not a lot of somber conversation between us. He sounds thrilled to be recording. And like all of us looks forward to a time when the music business has reshaped itself and sort of restarted. You can find all things Stephen King… Ha Stephen King, not the author, Steven Keene, at StevenKeene.com. It’s s t e v e n k e e n e.com. It’ll be in the show notes. But you know, in case you got your phone handy, and you want to go find him right now, but you can go to the shownotes for that. All right. Please enjoy my conversation with Steven Keene.

Robonzo 8:07
You have an album that just dropped today.

Steven Keene 8:11
We do, we have a single that came up called ‘Cause I Can’t Have You’ just came out today on all the digital platforms. Next week a week from today will be the video that follows it like a little little lyric video that they put together. So

Robonzo 8:25
Ah cool. And so I might have had it backwards. Then what about the album is the full album out today as well or not till later.

Steven Keene 8:30
Not till later that comes out in November. The full album eight tracks for the title of the album is called ‘Them & Us’. We did one single called ‘Save Yourself’ a few months ago, and then another single ‘Them & Us’ last month. And the third single is the one that comes out today ‘Cause I Can’t Have You’ with the full length album coming out next month.

Robonzo 8:53
Cool. All right. Well, you know, it’s funny, I, I read two different things. And I went with the first one. Or at least what I thought I read first, which was the album’s come out today. But I did see it was coming out in November and I’m like, Hmm, maybe he’s doing it early on. So I was all like gonna say, Hey man, congratulations coming out ahead of schedule, but congratulations on the new single.

Steven Keene 9:15
Thank you very much. Yep. Thanks. The I think the CD comes out 11/12 November 12. And yeah, this single came out, you know, this morning. It’s funny how it drops 12 o’clock at night. And we’re excited about I’ve been really fortunate to work with some great musicians in the studio out here in Jersey in long branch called Shore Fire recording studio. Some really great musicians backup singers, and we’re working actually on the next one for March or April. We’ve got three songs done already. So we’re just we’re just you know, now with COVID it we’re just knocking them out and just trying to do a lot of writing and, and recording since we can’t play live gigs.

Robonzo 9:58
Nice where you touring? Well, so I noticed that you have toured a lot in the past and you’ve traveled around. And I did want to ask if you were touring much up until this occurred was that I couldn’t tell just in the short time I was checking out all the things he had going on.

Steven Keene 10:16
Oh, thanks. No, I played a lot in the past. The last, I would say within the last year before COVID, I’ve been mostly writing and recording. It’s a new band that I started playing with and really great musicians. They, they’re some of them are work with Lenny Kravitz, and Bon Jovi and Springsteen, a lot of New Jersey guys, so really, really great musicians, great ears. A lot of the songs when we produce them are collaborations. Everybody’s input so very, very chill and easy. Yeah, really good.

Robonzo 10:51
That’s nice. I had wondered when I was looking at some of your past performing and in recording, you know, the body of your work. And and your EP K, you know, there were people mentioned as your contemporaries and my, I didn’t have this down as a question or anything, you know, but at when I was looking, I was like, gonna ask you Hey, did did you actually rub elbows with any of these any these folks who are playing around like in his late 90s, or whatever? But anyway it sounds like regardless, you are hanging out with some really cool folks now with some of those musicians you just mentioned. Have you worked with shore fire studio before?

Steven Keene 11:29
I did my, I did the, I took a break from recording and really playing out. And then I just started again, last year in 2019. So I did one album there in 2019. Really released 2020 on January. And we did another album which is releasing in November. So we’re, we’re lucky we were able to put out two albums this year. So yeah, I’ve just did the two albums at Shore Fire great, great studio, really cool vibe. And easy to work work there. The guy who owns it and runs it is Joe DeMaio, great, great guy, great engineer, great player also, guitar player.

Robonzo 12:09
Nice, I saw his name. And I saw a lot of nice studio pictures that you’ve it looks like you’ve taken over the years. And speaking of breaks that you took, when I just kind of look at the discography right now, and some of your things that you’ve been throwing out on social in recent months, it looks like you had a really long break from recording. Like, I was like, I could see I don’t always see the whole picture unless I spend a lot of time but it looked like you did some stuff in the 90s. And then in 2000, and then now

Steven Keene 12:42
Yeah, exactly, yeah, I had a bit of a break. You know, sometimes life gets in the way. And but throughout those years of bits and pieces of writing, and that kind of thing, but never really going back into the studio, and recording or or touring, I took quite a break. And just all of a sudden, the inspiration hit again, I just started working again. And you know, sometimes sometimes life gets in the way, you know what I mean?

Robonzo 13:09
Yeah, yeah. So what, what was the inspiration? Or what was the motivation to start back up?

Steven Keene 13:18
You know, I mean, I always enjoyed writing. And, and it’s weird for me how sometimes these songs, lyrically, or musically, a lot of time, a lot of times musically wake me up in the middle of the night, or I hear a melody early in the morning. And you know, you got to sort of catch it and get it down or you forget it right away. And that was happening more and more and more and more over the last two years, more than I actually, you know, when I was really writing a lot and touring a lot, even more than that in the 90s and 2000s. So I just said, You know, I started researching, I hooked up with my manager, Jason Jordan. And he pointed me in the right direction for the studio, introduced me to the studio, and then I just, we just started, you know, recording, and I’ve been doing a lot of writing, especially with COVID, you know, you know, before touring and playing live gigs were great was great. But you know, you’re so limited now. And the streaming isn’t one of my, you know, the, you know, from my living room, it’s not exactly one of my things that I enjoy. I’d rather just write in and perform live. So we got back into it pretty heavily. And we got a lot of stuff ahead of us to record for the next album.

Robonzo 14:35
I’ve heard a lot of people say that about streaming that it’s just for one reason or another different reasons. It’s just not they’re not their thing. So you’re you’re definitely not alone. I meant to ask this at the top of the conversation, but since you meant mentioned your manager. I had a couple of people here listed from the team, I would presume and just wanted to ask you how’s it been working with Music City media staff, Emma or Jess or whichever one of them or whoever whomever you work with, and how long have you been with them?

Steven Keene 15:02
I been with them for this album, so it’s several months. And it’s working out really nice. We’ve gotten a lot of interviews and some good action. And they’ve done a nice job. Before that I had another PR firm, but they closed when COVID happened, they should shut down, which was really unfortunate. Yeah. And that’s happened to a lot of businesses. You know, I mean, I think a lot of people, a lot of PR firms that are sort of gig oriented, you know, promoting shows, there’s nothing to promote anymore. So a lot of them had real difficulty. I’m sure people will start up again, as this thing passes, but it was definitely a blow to the industry.

Robonzo 15:42
Yeah, for sure. So I was listening to, ‘Cause I Can’t Have You’ a short while before a call and kind of browsing some of your other stuff. So a couple things, it seems you’ve stayed true to a core sound that you do and do well. And I wanted to ask, though, about your writing about present day things. And also about keeping things open for interpretation if that’s if that’s accurate. And also to say as you as you think about that for a second, alo to say that the song is nice, I it’s funny, when I first listened to it, I kind of was thinking of the harmonica style struck me first, it was a little unexpected, from what I was listening to, and it sounds great. And then I was like, oh reminds me a little of a Billy Joel and then I was kind of looking at not so not specifically the harmonica just kind of the feel it gets into it at a certain point. And then as I listened more and kind of looked at some of the work you’ve done, I hear this, these influences from Dylan, and possibly Springsteen in there. And I thought it was cool that you’ve you have sort of stuck with what you’ve, you know, you’ve been doing what you do melodically I guess for a while, which is cool. But yeah, how about writing? Tell me a little bit about, and I hope I’m, I’m, you know, kind of painting, you’re one of the things about your writing accurately, that you enjoy writing about present day things, and you also sort of leave a little open to interpretation.

Steven Keene 17:18
Yeah, I mean, that’s totally true. I mean, you know, I can’t avoid my influences. I guess you can hear him. I mean, Dylan is my number one influence. I mean, when you have a mentor like that, from an early age, and you adapt, I guess, certain kind of styles. I mean, he’s in a different, you know, you know, world you know, the guys like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, these are the type of songwriters that I’ve always followed, and that I loved to because of the richness of, of their, of the words and the way they sing them as well, all of them, you know, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits, Dylan, really stylistic types of singers, the way they deliver the, the melody and the and the lyrics. But those were the kind of writers that always, you know, influenced me in a big way. And namely, Dylan, and I was lucky enough to play with a few of his band members and studio musicians. So Howie Wyeth and Rob Stoner from rolling thunder. We did an album. My first album actually was with them called Kenan on Dylan was like, half covers half originals. And then I later played with his touring band, John Jackson, Tony Garnier and Bucky Baxter. I was very lucky to play with the musicians that he was using. And it was actually quite quite fun just to get in there and do it. But those have been my influences and, and it’s totally affected my writing style. And a lot of stuff that I write, especially recently, is particularly about, you know, what’s happening in in current times, and ‘Them & Us’ was the last single that we dropped, and there was a video to it, as well. And that was really about discrimination in America. And

Robonzo 19:12
Wonderful video, by the way.

Steven Keene 19:12
I’m doing really, yeah, thank you, that guy did a great job. That’s string theory. They, they’re incredible. They got exactly what I was trying to write. They really did a great job of it. They pulled in a lot of stock photography and stuff, namely the fact that things have not changed. Civil Rights, we’re still going through the same conflicts unfortunately. And and mindset of thinking, you know, unfortunately, things have not changed enough. But um, it’s funny that tune I wrote specifically about I wrote it wait before the Floyd incident. And I wrote it like two months before the Floyd incident, because I always wanted to write a song about you know, um really divisiveness in America. Two sides of a fence ‘Them & Us’ and everyone thinking about non inclusion really non inclusion to them and us whether it’s Republicans, Democrats, religion, race, sexual preference, all of that is so embedded in our culture, you know, we’re almost we look at the other person is, as a foreigner, somebody different than us when we’re really all obviously the same, you know. And I wrote that the first six verses of that song, and then the Floyd incident happened. And I felt kind of compelled to put in something that related to that in the last two verses. And then we just cut the cookie, a song. And then string theory did the video, which I thought came out good too. Yeah. It’s on YouTube now and Vevo.

Robonzo 20:47
Yeah. I saw it on YouTube. And I was like, wow, that’s I mean, I didn’t even have to see much of it to see it was striking it. Yeah, I saw the thumbnail, but just as soon as it starts, and you see, you know, these images passing by, it’s like, wow, that’s, that’s cool. Very nice. Heavy. How did you find yourself getting? Playing with those great musicians that you mentioned from Dylan’s band? How’d you find yourself getting connected with those people?

Steven Keene 21:13
Well, I mean, the odd thing was that Rob Stoner was the bass player for a couple of albums, I think he was he was on Desire, and Street Legal. And also his tour for like two or three years when he toured with the Rolling Thunder review. And he ironically, I lived in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. And ironically, I lived around the corner from the guy. And I think, because it’s quite a while ago, I think I bumped into him in the street, or in a club downtown because he was playing out live to doing his solo thing. And so was I, and I was just like, Hey, you want to? You want to work on a new album? It was my first album, you know, I was very young. And he said, Sure. And then I asked him, I said, you know, do you think you can get Howie Wyeth, he goes, Yeah, he’s a friend of mine who lives in the village. And then I said, you think you can get Scarlett Rivera. Now she was the violin player. She lived in New Jersey, but she was out of town. So she couldn’t do it. But those two guys came up to my studio, I had a studio in my building, my drummer had a studio in his, in his, in the building that I was living in. And we just went down there and we cut it over a couple of days. I mean, I think we did 50 songs, you know, we just kept them playing more and more covers of Dylan, and also Woody and some traditional stuff. And so that was just by bumping into the street, really with him. And then in the 90s. Later in the 90s. I met John Jackson, I think I met the guitar player for Dylan, back back then. And he just he says, Yeah, I’ll bring the whole band down. No problem, you know. Okay, let’s record. So we did that over a couple of days. Really good guys. great players.

Robonzo 22:47
Yeah. Well, that’s nice. That’s nice. I meant to ask you, you’ve been doing more recording, you mentioned earlier, are you set up at home? Or do you still have a drummer nearby and it’s got a studio or what are you doing most of it

Steven Keene 23:00
I don’t have a studio at home, I have that Shore Fire recording studio, I live not far from that, from Long Branch, and I’m, you know, in and out all the time, like, bro, like, he’s only 15 or 20 minutes from me. So every time you know, the process is basically I’ll I’ll finish a tune, I’ll just record it on my piano or guitar at home, send it to the band, they learn it, chart it. And then we just come in and knock it out relatively fast, a few few takes, and it’s done. And then then I’ll layer on background vocals, with a couple of different singers that I have that are really, really good. And sometimes we’ll throw in strings or a banjo or, you know, we layer on outside of the core of the band, different instrumentation.

Robonzo 23:47
I apologize in advance if this is kind of a lame question, but it looks like you may have played at cbgb once upon a time, is that right?

Steven Keene 23:55
Oh, yeah, I used to play there quite a bit.

Robonzo 23:57
How was that?

Steven Keene 23:59
Well, it was different. I’ll tell you that. There were two clubs when I was playing in the city that were really, really great. You know, I mean, historical places you know, really good listening rooms one was The Bottom Line which was, realized Springsteen started there with born to Run like, you know, before it came out and made his mark there and tons I mean, everybody’s played, Tom Waits, Everybody’s played at that club. I love that club. I used to go there all the time. And then I started playing there which was incredible you know? I think I opened for a few, I open for a few different different bands but anyway uh that room and then the cbgb’s obviously the whole the whole punk you know 70s late 70s thing I mean, I played there in the 90s I didn’t play there then obviously but that was legendary you know that place what it was like playing there was like playing in a sewer really, to be quite honest. The I don’t even think in the in the bathroom, there was a toilet on there, it was just like a hole in the ground. And it was just like, it was about as raw as, as you can imagine, you know, had a pretty good sound system actually. But hilly, I think it was Hilly Michaels that owned the place. He was a nice guy, older gentlemen. And it was it was great. I mean, he’d be like, you know, four to six bands shuffled on and off that stage every night, you know, seven nights a week, practically, but it was dark and dingy and smelled like, you know, the sewer. That’s the kind of club it was.

Robonzo 25:35
It was at the time in the 90s. Because, yeah, I I know, you know, late 70s, early 80s. They have maybe the bulk of their legendary time, but in the 90s was. I’m sure that still lingered. But was there a lot? Were there things going on there or at bottom line? The bottom line that that we’re like, wow, you know, what a trip to be part of this.

Steven Keene 26:00
You know, when I started playing back then, it was basically because of because of where I was coming from. I was just playing sort of, I just started out playing covers of Dylan and Guthrie, Leonard Cohn. I just started playing covers. And then like people would be saying, you know, you’re going to continue to play cover, you’re going to start doing originals and that some of my other friends that were sort of singer songwriters would push me and say, why don’t you start writing. And then I slowly started writing. But back then you would, you would play an open mic and an open mic was or hootenanny they called it also, which is basically you take a number and you just wait online and you you know, out of a hat, and you get your number of where you’re slotted for the night, and we had throughout Manhattan. In New York City, there were tons of these places, places called sun mountain, speakeasy, that was really where I played a lot of speakeasy, chameleon, nightingales, there were all these clubs, where every night, there was one night a week at that club had an open mind. So the same crowd shuffle from club to club Mondays, we were here, Tuesdays, we were there, Wednesdays were there. And we would play these open mics. And that’s sort of how you learned how to play and play live. And, you know, in front of an audience, whether there were three or 30 people there. And that’s where I met Beck, you know, I used to, Beck was part of that, you know, when you say what was it like back then, Back was one of the singer songwriters, he that we we played together in the street in those clubs continually and other people like they were already Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, they were already sort of made by the time I came in, you know, as a, you know, as a newbie, but Beck and I were probably from the same generation core of starting out, and I just remember playing with him at all those clubs, many times.

Robonzo 27:59
Wow. That’s funny. I, I saw that you did some performing in London, maybe a lot. But it’s just kind of curious if you had any particular memories that still stand out some of the photos that I checked out on your socials look pretty cool. And just kind of curious, and do you have intention to go back there some day to play?

Steven Keene 28:23
I would love to go back there. I mean, who knows what’s going to be in the next six months to a year. I’m hoping we all get a vaccine in arm relatively soon. But it doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen till spring or summer. But yeah, I mean, I miss playing out live, I used to love just, you know, playing with my band and, and, and playing in different countries was fun. Canada, I used to play a lot too. And we used to travel a lot, but you know, things are going, things are so different now that I don’t know what’s going to come back. I actually miss going to shows and seeing shows just as much as I, you know, Miss playing out, because as a huge part of my life, if you’re into music, and you like live music, I mean, I was seeing shows three nights a week, I would just check out different bands. And still I would, you know, go out and see the people that I love, you know, like Dylan, or tons of other bands, you know, I mean, I just there’s so many great bands out there. But it’s it’s hard, you know, you almost go through withdrawal as a musician or as a, as a lover of music when you can’t see a live gig anymore. You know, it’s it and being you know, in the city, you know, places like the Beacon Theater, which is legendary, you know, Irving Plaza, so many good venues in Manhattan, to see great shows that, you know, every night there was something happening somewhere, you know, and that’s all done with it’s it’s kind of like it’s a weird Twilight Zone moment. You know?

Robonzo 30:00
It is well, smart to just go ahead and kick out all the creative stuff you’ve got going on in your mind at the moment, given the weird world we’re in. What are your thoughts on songwriting? What are your current kind of practices around it? Are the things you know, anything that helps you do what you do within songwriting and have have those have any of those things changed over the years?

Steven Keene 30:30
Well, I mean, I missed the first part, you just you kind of I kind of lost you there. Maybe because it’s pouring out here in the East Coast. Did you say? Can you can you repeat the first part?

Robonzo 30:41
Yeah, of course. I was curious to know what kind of practices or maybe like routines, you have that revolve around your songwriting? And has it, you know, evolved or changed from years past?

Steven Keene 30:54
Oh, yeah, it’s most most you know, it’s funny, I have been doing a lot of these interviews and, and a lot of people I guess songwriters. Some and I know, some songwriters. When I first started, there was another guy called Dave David Masco really, really good songwriter back in the day more for more folky. And I remember him in particular, and a few others that would say to me that their writing skill was, you know, almost like a job where they would sit down and commit to two hours a day to write. And, you know, from nine to 11, in the morning, I write, or from five to seven at night I write, but that’s never worked for me, you know, for me, it’s really, it’s really, a lot of it is marination. And percolation. And, and what I mean by that is, sometimes an idea of a song creeps into your brain. For me, for example, and you sit with it, a lot of times my best writing is just sitting with it, and letting it sort of organically grow in my brain. And in the direction that I’m going to go on a song. And, and I’ll write it through sort of waves or bits and pieces, down and down. And then then I’ll just keep on chiseling at it. I mean, it’s like, you know, you know, it’s like sculpting or painting, I guess you just got to, for me, I come back to it, come back to it, I come back to it. There’s no set agenda. It just happens in you know, constantly revising it, and playing it, you know, so that the words and the melodies are sort of fitting, you know, the way I interpreted it. So a lot of a lot of a lot of it is just, you know, percolation, you know, marination you know, it’s letting letting it sit for a while. Fermentation, there’s a lot of that. The thing also is, yeah, I mean, the also the thing is, what usually happens for me is, it’s weird how these melodies come, the melody will come not from just sitting down or playing just because I hear and this is really weird for me but it’s true. And in the middle of the night, a lot of times a melody will come. And in my dream, I’m hearing it on the radio, or I’m hearing somebody else sing it. And I imagine that song is somebody else’s song. And then I wake up and realize that that’s nobody. So that’s your song. And then I go down to the piano, like four o’clock in the morning, six o’clock in the morning, three o’clock in the morning, and I record it, the melody that popped into my head, it’s so weird how this happens. And it sounds like bizarro, but and it is. And sometimes these melodies come as they come as somebody else’s song. And in my dream is weird as that sounds like I’m listening to it on the radio or in my car. And, and I’ll put it down. So the inspiration is always kind of different. And the writing my writing is just, you know, in the moment, I guess, you know, bits and pieces, ideas, that just string along to become a song from the core of, of really the chorus or the core of what the song was about, if that makes any sense.

Robonzo 34:12
Yeah. And it’s a good reminder that everybody’s process is different. I know, it’s popular, and I’m fond of telling, you know, coaching people with you know, set aside some time commit to yourself, you know, to write and, and do what you can, don’t freak out, the great ideas don’t come out all at once, but it’s nice to talk about, I actually had one of these moments yesterday, I had a melody, and I have this new app on my my phone called Trackd. And I thought I’m gonna I’m gonna run upstairs. I need to start carrying my phone with me all the time. But I’m gonna run upstairs and just sing this in there real quick and hang on to it. But what what are your favorite ways of capturing ideas? If maybe, So you mentioned that you go down, playing on the piano and record. Can you maybe describe what that technically looks like? And then are there, Are there favorite methods for capturing ideas when you’re, you know, you’re not at home?

Steven Keene 35:04
Yeah, I’m always, to be honest with you, it’s like when it comes to the lyrics, or when it comes to the idea of a song, or when I’m marinating, that idea of the song and different sort of sentences come out, I’m writing constantly, you know, on scraps of paper, or even on my hand, until I can get to a place to put it into, you know, I’ll work on a composition book. The composition book is like, every every song is a book, you know, like a little, little notebook, you know what I mean? And I’ll just wait till I can get it down in there, the ideas, the phrases, the lines, into that book, and then the melody, and my girlfriend is not too crazy about this, because sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, as I said, and I’ll get it into my phone, and I’ll hum it, just like you said earlier, on the track in my phone. And sometimes I get the whole track, you know, the chorus and the melody, or sometimes it’s just the, you know, the just the chorus. And then I’ll sort of make my way down to the piano or guitar. To figure out what the hell note is this, you know, is this what key is this? And I have no idea. But normally I can find it. And, and then I’ll then from there, I’ll put it on my phone, and the guitar and piano and, and sometimes I’ll just make up words or hum along, because I have the idea for what it is. And then then that’s it from there. It’s hard work. You know, it’s just writing and revisions, writing and revisions, writing and revisions. So similar to I’m sure how everybody works, you know, nothing. I don’t think anything comes out pure. Everything always just noodled left and right here and there. Some stuff comes out pure than others, I would say, you know what I mean?

Robonzo 36:45
Sure. I mean, I was instantly thinking of, you know, a couple stories of john lennon or George Harrison, that one song that just sort of spilled out. It’s kind of done. Although if you think about it, I’m sure when when it makes its way to the studio, then it it sort of gets re crafted a bit. But yeah, I’m sure. My most recent effort was. Yeah, it was it was kind of put together over a little time because I had a melodic a melody idea first, and then you know, some lyrics that came together a little more slowly, I think. But yeah, comes in pieces. That’s cool. Well, hey, man,

Steven Keene 37:20
Interesting outcomes. Every artist is different, you know, how it comes.

Robonzo 37:25
Yeah, well, Hey, man, thank you so much for spending time with me today. I wish you all the best with ‘Them & Us’ and also with ‘Cause I Can’t Have You.’ It all sounds great. Love the sound. And this is actually very enjoyable talking with you, too. You mentioned doing a lot of interviews. And you come across like you’ve done this before, and I appreciate it.

Steven Keene 37:47
Well, thank you, you’re a pro and I appreciate the time and thank you for the interview today.

Robonzo 37:52
For sure man, we’ll reconnect soon.

Robonzo 37:55
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Robonzo 38:53
This episode was powered by Convert Kit. I have been a ConvertKit users since early 2This episode was powered by ConvertKit. As a creator you’re at the mercy of social media algorithms to connect with your audience, but with ConvertKit’s  Free Plan, you can manage up to 1,000 email subscribers to reach your fans directly in their inbox. Build meaningful relationships with your followers by sharing your ideas and projects, and offering value, with custom landing pages and free downloads. ConvertKit’s beautifully designed (but extremely simple) templates give you a great email writing experience. As a creator, you deserve to be paid for your work, and ConvertKit has a simple and streamlined system to help launch digital products your fans are excited to buy. Learn how ConverKit can help you connect with your audience, so that you can make a living doing work you love. Go to UnstarvingMusician .com / Convert or the show notes for this episode.

Robonzo 39:45
Did you know you can help other independent artists find this podcast by subscribing on Apple podcast or wherever you are listening to your podcasts these days. It really does help so I hope you will consider it. The Unstarving Musician podcast is made possible through the support and generosity of listeners like you. One of the easiest ways to support the podcast if you’re a musician is to join the Unstarving Musician community which you can do at, you guessed it Unstarving musician.com. In joining the community, you get tips and insights you can use in your music journey that comes not only from me and my years of experience, but also from the hundreds of other musicians that I speak to as part of the Unstarving, Musician, project and podcast. Plus, you’ll get a free copy of my Unstarving Musician’s Guide to Getting Paid Gigs ebook, the official version. And that’s all for free just for being part of the community. You can learn about other ways of offering support by visiting the Unstarving Musician crowd sponsor page at Unstarving musician.com. forward slash crowdsponsor. And if you have feedback, please go to Unstarvingmusician.com. To get all my contact info, you can text me, call me email me leave a voice message right there on that page, just go down to the bottom of the page and you’ll find everything you need to know I really would love to hear any of your comments, suggestions, questions, whatever you’ve got. And you can find links to just about everything talked about in this episode at Unstarving musician.com forward slash podcast. All right, I’m peacing out. Thank you for listening, and sharing with your musician friends and fellow indie music, fans. Peace, gratitude and a whole lot of love.

Robonzo 41:20
Hey, folks, please check out my new single ‘On Top Of The World’ at Robonzo.com. From there, you can stream it on your favorite platform of choice. You can download it for free, you can buy it, most of all, you can hear it again. That’s Robonzo.com and the song is called ‘On Top Of The World’. That was my Marc Maron impersonation. How’d I do? Love you long time. Ciao.

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