Keb’ Mo’ ready to rock Somerville
BMS chats with the blues great before his show in Somerville
Keb’ Mo’ (born Kevin Moore) has enjoyed a lengthy career, having recorded eight studio albums and a number of live releases, as well. His most recent release, Live and Mo’, was released to retailers just this past Tuesday, having been available digitally for some time before that. He is touring in support of the album, and will be playing the Somerville Theatre this Friday. We recently caught up with the man on the road and discussed the starting of his own label, the blues, being on television and more.
Boston Music Spotlight (BMS): How’s the tour been going?
Keb’ Mo’ (KM): It’s been going real well so far. We haven’t been on the road for that long, but the shows have been great. People are really coming out and having a good time. It’s just been fun, you know?
BMS: The new album is your first to be released on an independent label. What led to this?
KM: Times are changing now, y’know? We’re coming to a point where the big labels are in trouble, and it’s the independent ones who are really blazing new trails. So I could do two things: stay with Sony, or try something new. The old ways are on their way out, so it’s time to change.
Also, as a musician, it’s been a great learning process. I’ve done a lot more with the entire process than I did at Sony. And the more you can learn about what goes into creating an album, the more valuable you will be in the long run.
BMS: So have you done anything different musically now that you aren’t on a major label?
KM: Sony never really told me what to do. They stay out of your hair as long as you aren’t one of the big cash cows. But if you are, they’ll tell you how to do everything – what to wear, where to go, what songs to sing…so it’s never really been a problem for me.
BMS: “A Brand New America” is incredibly warm and heartfelt. Did the song come as easily as it sounds like it did?
KM: It really did, actually. We [myself and John Lewis Parker] just sat down and it just kind of came to us. We originally put out a version on YouTube, just acoustic guitar and me singing. There’s another version that’s going on the album that’s got more stuff going on – drums, a children’s choir…it really adds a lot to the song.
BMS: And you’re doing a cut of the song for an upcoming census video?
KM: Yeah, and I’m doing some voiceover work for it, too. I don’t really do that much voiceover work anymore, unless it’s something I think is important. See, it’s the census reports that determine how much money the government gives to communities, so the focus of the video is to get African Americans to send in their census information. It’s the only way more money will get to these communities, so it’s very important to get it in. So I agreed to do some work for that.
BMS: There’s a definite blues flavor to your music, but where the blues are expressions of melancholy, your music is generally more hopeful.
KM: Yeah, you know, I never forget about the blues, though. It’s my heart and my culture. It’s so important to understand your past and where you’ve come from, and that’s something African Americans have lost. The slaves were brought over in, you know, like the 1600s, and that separated us from our history. It’s a tragedy, losing your past, but the blues are a part of that.
BMS: And you’ve collaborated with a number of blues artists, as well. How did you and a number of blues artists end up on Sarah Silverman’s show?
KM: Yeah, me and these two great guys, Roy Gaines and Finis Tasby. They needed some blues musicians to do the show, and we all agreed to do it. It was a lot of fun, definitely. Sarah’s a pretty cool woman. She’s very warm and kind.
BMS: You’re playing the Somerville theatre this Friday – is there anything we should expect from you?
KM: We’re going to show up. We’re going to play some music. And everyone’s going to have a good time.
Keb’ Mo’ will be playing the Somerville Theatre this Friday, October 23. Tickets are $38.50 and on sale through the Somerville Theatre box office or online here.