The story goes that Keith, from Knoxville, Tennessee, learned to sing in church and he learned to play guitar at age ten after his dad, a truck driver, passed along a copy of Chuck Berry’s Golden Hits and The Best of B.B. King. Otherwise, he was raised on country music.
One of the members of the underappreciated 90’s roots-rock/punk/honky-tonk band called The V-Roys, Keith released his sophomore album The Man That Time Forgot in 2011, and has been on the road ever since. Produced by Fat Possum Records’ Bruce Watson, Keith and his band – the One Four Fives – mix Holly’s West Texas sound with a Doug Sahm Tex-Mex vibe, a bit of Chuck Berry guitar and Memphis organ, and hints of the almost-forgotten country/rock leanings of Foster and Lloyd.
Oh, and some Gene Vincent-ish thrashing, high-end vocals too. His solo sound evolved from bleeding-but-beautiful roots-rock to a failed stab at a slightly skewed mainstream country output, and now back to what he does best: swampy, slightly greasy rock and roll.
I caught John Paul between shows, as he geared up for a run of 11 consecutive one-nighters, with his Hoosier stop the second of those.
RN: Is this a rare trip to Indiana, or have you been through before?
JOHN PAUL KEITH: We played Lafayette a couple years back, and I played Fort Wayne just a month or two ago, but I wasn’t doing my set, I was playing guitar in Jack Oblivian band on that one.
RN: The latest album is excellent. Talk about recording it. And how is it different than your first release?
JPK: Thanks. We recorded it at Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, Mississippi, which is owned by Bruce Watson of Fat Possum Records) and he produced it. It was recorded about 75% live in the studio. I would overdub a vocal if I didn’t get it during the live take, and we overdubbed backup vocals and percussion and things like that, or we’d re-do a guitar solo or something here and there, but it’s still pretty live, which is how I prefer to cut.
The first record was recorded in a similar way in Memphis at Young Avenue Sound and Ardent and was produced by me and Kevin Cubbins, who was playing guitar in the band at the time. When we mixed it, we sent everything to tape one time and then back to the computer to try and help give it an analog sound.
RN: I saw the Sun Studio video, and love the sound of the live track Who are your live performance influences and how do they show up in your live show?
JPK: Well, the live performers I most admire are the ones who do things I can’t do at all, like young Jerry Lee Lewis or James Brown. I love the flashy guys, you know. But I’m not very flashy myself. I don’t even bother trying to emulate guys like that. I do like to make sure it’s not boring, though. I try to make sure we’ve got some good instrumentals here and there in the set, because you don’t hear that as much and people seem to enjoy it. You also have to try to make people want to dance from time to time. It’s a very important part of playing music that guys with guitars often forget or ignore.
RN: What do you like about playing a show?
JPK: It’s immediate, and it just disappears into the air forever. I like that. You never have to worry about it again, unlike a record. Sometimes sound men will ask me if I want them to record our set and give us a CD of it, and I always tell them no. I don’t want to hear it. But the best thing is seeing an audience be entertained by what we’re doing.