Ethan Keller shines solo with "Face Light"
Oddly enough, ever since Milwaukee musician Ethan Keller officially went solo, his music's been more collaborative than ever.
Some might remember him from his days in jam outfit Greenscene -- a band he started at age 16 and fronted through 2003. Others may have caught a glimpse of his freestyle at Linneman's open mic nights in between pizza deliveries in Riverwest, or even his occasional sit-in in with The Estate jazz staple, The Erotic Adventures of the Static Chicken.
Now, at age 27, Keller is diving head first into new musical territory, but not without taking some of his talented friends along for the ride.
"Honestly, I do love to team up with other writers -- it's exhilarating and beats writing alone," he says. "When I play a show, I hire players for their unique gifts. I love to see how people interpret some shell of a song structure I throw at them; in fact, I live for it. My infatuation with jazz lets me enjoy the rawness of improvisation and spur of the moment ideas. The real difference between now and then is that Greenscene wasn't the right storefront to display new emotions, lyrics and ideas. I consciously chose to take a new road."
His solo debut, "Face Light," is an optimistic and funk-filled ride through poetic exploration, religious inquiry and meandering guitars, and although his immediate influences are obvious -- Steely Dan, G. Love & Special Sauce, Yes, even sounding a bit like Lenny Kravitz on "Christopher's Sister" -- there is no way to commit the collection of 12 tracks to any specific genre of music.
Teaming up with a pool of local talent, including The Westfall's Kris Crow on organ and electric piano, Jeremy Kuzniar on drums, Jesse Sheehan on saxophone and Matt Turner on electric and upright base, "Face Light" flows fluidly from groovy, scat tracks to soulful rock songs, never faltering or losing sight of Keller's inherent sense of his own style.
"I think I've gotten more sophisticated with music and lyrics. Not only digging deeper into music theory and jazz, but also deeper into real poetry and raw emotion. However, I'm always looking back to when I first started writing. I always try and revisit my old mentality when it was more about simplicity. I'm even going to try and record a bunch of old songs of mine, because I still think there's something good and genuine about those youthful ideas."
Keller says that there were several things about his childhood that have influenced his songwriting evolution, a major one being that his father was a Catholic priest and his mother a nun, both of whom left their respective orders to start a family -- so it's not surprising that his music is dotted with religious references, and when he pens songs like, "Papa, Please Write Me a Sermon," he's not being metaphorical in the least.
"I was the apple that fell furthest from the tree, but now I've come back to the church," he says. "I even sing in the choir with my dad. It was a slow, careful, logical journey back. 'Face Light' has songs written at the beginning of that journey through last year, and has a general 'awakening' theme."
"Face Light" is out now and available via his Web site (see link below). Keller plays a show with Momentary at Maharaja, 1550 N. Farwell Ave., Friday, Oct. 13 at 9 p.m. It's $7 at the door.
e said: such nice comments from everyone!
Jim Keller said: As Ethan's Dad, I get to enjoy vicariously what is in the heart and soul of this man. It is creativity at its best.
Laura said: Thanks for highlighting Ethan in this article, I know first hand how hard he works, but his talent flows effortlessly. Hope to see many out at his show Friday!!
El Capitan said: The Static Chicken is to jazz what chicken soup is to holandaise sauce.
Rebecca said: Ethan's talent, stage prescence, and love for music is admirable and I am grateful to have the chance to follow his music since I was 16. Keep rockin' Ethan and to everyone else...buy the album...it's great!
Show me the other Talkback
6 comments about this article.
Post a comment / write a review.
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.