INTERVIEW: AARON KEYLOCK – February 2017
By Shane Pinnegar
Even at only nineteen years of age, Aaron Keylock is the hottest new guitar sensation you’re likely to hear this year. Hailing from the UK, we’ve already labelled his debut album Cut Against The Grain (which was released on 20 January) as “the first truly great new album of 2017,” so it only seemed right that we pin the young axeman down for a chat.
Aaron, you’ve been playing clubs since you were 11, why did you hold off on your debut album (reviewed here) until now?
I wanted to make an album that I was happy with and to do that I had to get everything to a level I was happy with. An album stays with you forever so it has to be the statement you wanted to make at that time.
Well I guess that’s just because my music is an honest picture of who I am. I’m playing the music that is real to me: every note and every lyric on the album means something and I think that shows when it’s a real record, instead of an album that was just produced to sound like that record.
When did you start writing your own material?
I started writing as soon as I started playing really. It’s something I always love to do and it’s another expression and voice for me. I was about 15 when I was happy with what I was saying and I found my voice as a songwriter and a lot of the songs from the record go back to that time as well as recent songs which I really like, it shows a journey which I think you can hear.
Some [of the tracks on Cut Against The Grain] I’d had for three years and some were finished two months before the record. I had about thirty songs ready for the record so instead of writing for an album I had a song bank, [so] I could just pick out the eleven that showed what I wanted to say at that time.
There seems to be a real revival of the Southern American rock sound in the UK over the past few years, and there’s definitely an element of that in your sound. How did you develop an interest in that style of singing and playing?
Well, some of the earliest bands I got into were southern rock bands. I always loved The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Feat, Blackfoot, Marshall Tucker Band… so I guess that just came out in my sound because I always loved it so much. I always liked that those bands had such an honest, raw sound with amazing honest lyrics and that was a big inspiration to me. I think the first record I bought was Pronounced… by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Personally, I keep coming back to Down, Sun’s Gonna Shine, Falling Again, Just One Question – is it easy for you to pick favourites yourself, or are they all your babies?
Well they all mean something to me. Each song is a feeling I had at that time that I wanted to get out. There’s songs on the record that stand out though, Falling Again I’m really happy with because it changed so much from the demo and it has a great groove.
Whatever I’m feeling, really – I never try and think about it. There’s a little of both on the album but there’s probably more personal experience and feeling on this album. It isn’t something I think about or try and do, though, so it’s always going to change on each song I write.
The closing track, No Matter What The Cost has a real Led Zeppelin/Tesla vibe to me. Is that the sort of groove you were aiming for?
I didn’t really have a certain band in my head. I knew I wanted more of a country song as I didn’t really have one and I’ve always been a huge fan of it so it was more just thinking country rock n’ roll with a message that means something to me.
How did you come to the attention of the Mascot Label Group, which led to them releasing the album?
I finished school at 16 and started playing a lot more shows all over the place, and I got my managers about two weeks after finishing school, which was a huge thing for me. I got told a few months later they’d been talking to a few labels and Mascot was one of the names that came up and it’s a label that every artist respects. I’d always heard how great the label was plus they had some great bands that were huge influences on me. I signed with them in London and then it was just the next step to release a record I guess.
I’ve definitely had a different life, but then I’m doing something that I want to do. I guess you just have to be arrogant enough to not care what anyone else thinks and just do what you believe is right. That’s probably where that whole “sell your soul to the devil” thing came about, because you’re really just living for the two hours on stage, or the next song you write, and everything else comes in second to that.
You’ve supported the likes of Blackberry Smoke, The Answer, The Cadillac Three, The Graveltones, the legendary Wilko Johnson, Joanne Shaw-Taylor and more – are you a keen student when standing side of stage during their sets, or hanging backstage, watching and picking up tips?
Well for the first few nights I guess you’re side stage checking it out, but it depends how long the tour is! I mean, everyone does their own thing. There are bands you like to watch more than others and some you do end up watching every night. I remember the first tour with Blackberry Smoke I was in the crowd every night on the tour watching them because I was already a big fan before we played any shows together.
Is there one piece of advice you’ve received that has changed the direction of your career and made you think about things differently?
Well when I first started going to jams at 11 I met a guy called Sam Hare who’s a great guitarist/singer/songwriter. He always told me to find my own sound as an artist and to always be true to who I am, and that’s always stayed with me.
You headed to Los Angeles to record Cut Against The Grain with Fab Grossi – was that an eye opening experience for a young fella?
It was because it was a completely different experience for me. I had never been in a studio to record like that, I had done live demos and things but not a produced record so it was great to do and take away what I could from it. Fab was really cool and the band out there were great, plus I made the record I wanted to make.
Do you recall the moment you fell in love with the guitar?
It was probably the first time I picked it up I guess! I can’t really remember though, I remember always wanting to play and I remember being addicted so I guess it was when I first picked it up, it’s the instrument that connected with me.
I just want to get out and play as many shows as I can! Australia would be a dream to be able to play and I just want to see as many new places as I can and play as many shows as I can!
Cut Against The Grain is out now on Provogue/Mascot Label group.
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