Keeney swaps hard rock for acoustic approach

October 29, 2009 

A hard rocker turning acoustic isn't something you see too often.

It did work for Staind's Aaron Lewis, and Fresno's Michael Keeney hopes it works for him too.

Keeney has played in local bands such as Sik, Six Ounce Gloves and Park Layne, but these days he's making more personal, mellow music.

His solo debut CD, "Paperdoll," will be released at a Nov. 6 show at Starline, 831 E. Fern Ave. Medium, This Midnight Scene and The Disconnectors are among the other acts on the bill. (8 p.m. $6).

We talked to Keeney, 36, about his rock beginnings, his acoustic turn and the new CD.

Tell us how you got started playing music. My dad's side of the family were all country musicians, and when I was 8, I began taking guitar lessons, and at the age of 10 I did my first show at my school talent show. I performed "House of the Rising Sun" in E-minor, which is the first song that I teach all of my students these days.

Describe your style and influences. I'm a very deep and passionate writer, and almost selfish in a sense because I only write music these days that I enjoy. I would never write a song for a top 10 spot. If it means nothing to me, it doesn't belong on my CD. My influences are Aaron Lewis, Tori Amos, old school Elton John and Gavin Rossdale.

Having spent time in rock bands like Sik, Six Ounce Gloves and Park Layne, what made you take a solo turn? It was time for me to quit trying to be a rock star and start doing the type of music that I've always wanted to do my whole life. With other bands that I've been in our writing was always done to elevate crowd response and mosh pits. There's nothing wrong with that, but these days I care more about the emotions and feelings that I personally get when I'm playing or writing music. How is what you're doing now different from what you were doing in the bands? In this project I'm doing all of the writing, singing and guitar work. I have nobody to argue with, which has its pros and cons. It's nice to make all of the decisions, but it's bad to have to pay all of the bills. Also, in this project I'm playing stuff that most musicians wouldn't do even if they wanted to, because it shows a much more softer side. It gets kind of weird when I play my stuff right in the middle of hard-core and heavy metal shows like I usually do. But people seem to dig it.

Tell us about "Paperdoll," your new CD. What stands out about it? This CD is the one that I've wanted to make all of my life. Honestly, I'm so happy with it that if I never step into a recording studio again, I'll still be proud of my musical career. I picked the 13 songs on this CD out of over 100, and there's even a song called "Pretend I'm With You" that I wrote when I was 17 -- almost 20 years ago.

What should people expect at your CD release show? My CD release party is going to be amazing. I have been doing my acoustic shows for over a year now, and for the first time I'm going to be playing with my new drummer Brandon Hart and my new bass player Shane Cheselske who are both from my former band Park Layne. Also, violinist Dalisay Richter will be there performing a couple of songs with me. And the biggest news is that I will be recording a live DVD that night, and it will be available for purchase really soon.

For music and more: Go to www.myspace.com/michael keeneymusic.

Know a local musician that more people should be familiar with? Send details to mosegueda@fresnobee.com.

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