(Way More Than) 12 Questions with Larry Keel

Features, Interviews — By on December 26, 2010 12:19 pm

By Lindsey Grossman

Alt-grass legend and flatpicking guitar genius Larry Keel has been a busy guy this year. Keel launched a new website, Fishin’ and Pickin’, as well as a facelift of LarryKeel.com, complete with new music releases and daily fishing reports.

Keel played a full summer schedule, hitting the biggest and best festivals and events across America, performing as Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, Keller and the Keels, Keel and Adam Aijala, Jeff Austin and The Keels, Magraw Gap, and other interesting and irresistible collaborations.

We caught up with the legendary Keel via email during his tour right before the holidays to talk about life on the road with his fabulous wife, collaborating with Keller, and of course, ATF’s infamous 12 questions.

How would you describe your brand of bluegrass?
Original, and from the soul.

Old and young alike flock to your shows. How do you account for such an eclectic base of both traditional and progressive bluegrass fans?
Must be because our music has soul and creates happiness… that’s our goal anyway.

We see you have some tour dates scheduled with your brother. How does it feel to share the stage with the guy who gave you your first guitar and taught you how to play?
Playing with Gary is always a true honor, and it’s always so REAL… it’s the best.

What’s it like to tour with your wife (who plays a mean upright base, by the way)? Any secrets to having a happy marriage on the road?
We always knew from the git-go that we wanted to work together, whatever the work was gonna end up being. It’s a blessing to be able to play music together, travel everywhere together. No secret to pass on to you about it all, we just want to enjoy life.

Your latest collaboration with Keller Williams, “Thief,” came out earlier this year with quite the proverbial grab bag of cover songs. How did you decide which songs to cover?
That was all Keller’s doing. We just go in there after a bit of rehearsal and hangin’ out together, and then we record what he’s arranged for us. We trust him entirely to make awesome choices… he never disappoints.

We love your beard! How long have you had it? Have you ever been tempted to shave it off?
I’ve had a full beard since I was 16, but I’ve shaved it many times, had all kinds of looks. But the beard is pretty much a trademark.

And the Infamous 12 Questions:

1. What’s for supper?
This week we’ve had large mouth bass that I caught, and a deer roast that my buddy Will Lee shared with us (plenty more of both in the freezer) along with lots of my mom’s garden vegetables and herbs from this year’s canning and freezing.

2. List five items currently in your refrigerator (or if you’re on the road: cooler, glove compartment, backpack, suitcase).
Guitar strings, sunglasses, coffee, nutritional yeast and Tums.

3. Fitzgerald or Hemingway?
Hemingway.

4. What are you listening to and reading these days?
Danny Barnes and the local paper.

5. What was your first paying job?
Carpenter’s helper.

6. What was your first paying music gig?
The Irish Brigade in Fredericksburg, VA.

7. Did you always know you wanted to be a musician? (John Prine was a mailman, you know.)
Absolutely.

8. What artist changed your life when you first heard him?
Tony Rice.

9. Prose or poetry? Favorite authors, please.
Both. I consider the following composers among the best at both forms, though they all apply their words to music: Steve McMurry, Danny Barnes, David Via.

10. What does Nashville mean to you?
Listlessness.

11. If you were voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame tomorrow, what would be the opening sentence in your acceptance speech?
“I had a dream…”

12. What’s next for Larry Keel?
Tons of surprises.

Can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next. Thanks so much, Larry!

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge live at Downtown After 5 in Asheville, NC from Jesse Hamm on Vimeo.

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