Keaton Conrad has been writing and recording his own music since his early teens. Now 18 and a high school senior, Conrad has just released a new album, Waves, which show real growth as a songwriter, musician and singer. While Waves is purely a solo effort (he performed all the music himself), it is by no means the work of an amateur. These songs are polished and ready for airtime. We're excited to share an interview Keaton Conrad about his new music, how it was recorded and what he appreciates most about music in Kansas City. Enjoy!
Please introduce yourself. Where do you live and work?
My name is Keaton Conrad, and I'm a musician, artist, composer, and high school student. I currently live and work in Lenexa, Kansas.
Talk about the time between your debut EP, Panic & Blame, and your new full length, Waves. How did you grow as a songwriter? What influenced the new songs?
With Panic & Blame, the main focus for me was putting out the best quality and most commercially friendly songs possible. However, looking back on them now, the songs seem very structured to me. Not bad by any means, just structured. Being only 15 at the time of release, I didn't really know much about using emotion to one's advantage when writing. I thought for a while about how to make my next album really carve my own style into the industry. I eventually realized that the songs that meant the most to me were deep-rooted in emotion and had a certain weight to them - they weren't just another pop song. I toyed with writing in the months after that and eventually realized that the songs that expressed myself and my emotions were the ones that were the best, not the ones that had the most commercial viability. This idea is actually the inspiration for both the songs "Biscayne" and "Eccentric" off of Waves. It was this realization that I write what I feel that helped me to grow as a songwriter in the time between Panic & Blame and Waves. I wanted to ensure the new album felt natural and organic. The entire new album is based on me, my emotions, and my thoughts - if I didn't feel it, it didn't make it on the album, and there were several songs that I cut because they didn't meet these criteria.
Where and how was the new album recorded? What were some of the creative challenges you encountered during the recording process?
Waves was recorded in my home studio, which is also where I recorded Panic & Blame. The biggest challenge I encountered while recording was not having all the instruments at my disposal. My studio is relatively small and doesn't have room for a drum set or any big instruments like that. Virtual instruments helped a lot with this, though, and every bass track, every synth and piano track, and almost every drum and percussion track was sampled and played on a computer. I think software like this really helps people like me who don't have 24/7 access to a professional recording studio still be able to make music. Technology has kind of revolutionized the industry.
Who do you look to for inspiration? What album or artist are you currently raving about?
First and foremost, I look to myself, my current state of life, and my environment for inspiration. Then I focus on relationships, girls, and other interpersonal stuff second. To me, this is actually the hard way to do it, but it gives the best results in my opinion. Anyone can write a breakup song, but it's the details, emotions, and drama added that really make the good songs stand out from the bad ones.
I have a kind of love/hate relationship with inspiration. It doesn't really cooperate at convenient times. I have to go out and catch it sometimes, wrestle it and bring it back to my studio. And in the case of writer's block, which happens more often than not, there's really nothing I can do except wait it out. But when inspiration does finally work to my advantage, it's a very freeing feeling like no other. This struggle formed the basis for the song "Biscayne" and "Eccentric", which both took months to finish writing, as the inspiration for them would be fleeting at best.
As for other artists, I'm always raving about Bon Iver. 22, A Million is an innovative and intricate album, and I strive to someday reach that level of expressiveness.
What inspires you about music in Kansas City?
Musicians in Kansas City are very supportive of each other. It's not like some cut-throat audition in Hollywood where everyone is trying to sabotage each other. We all respect each other's craft, and are cooperative and collaborative for the most part. We're all willing to work together to put on great shows or promote albums or whatever the case may be. I think it's the "We're all in this together" vibe that inspires me the most about KC.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
AM by Arctic Monkeys
Wiped Out! by The Neighbourhood