Annie Keating On Her Upcoming UK and Irish Tour

By Conor O’Neill

Photography courtesy of John Morgan

Acoustic Magazine says ‘Keating will enchant anyone but a deaf shoe-gazer’, the LA Weekly calls her sound ‘Country rock with a renegade bite’ and The Irish Times describes her as ‘Radiating warmth and honesty’. Her talent was spotted early by BBC giant Bob Harris and she’s been turning heads ever since.

All I know about Annie Keating is that she can write catchy and moving tunes and she’s touring the UK and Ireland this autumn. CultureCrush NI spoke to the singer/songwriter on everything from inspiration to recording, touring without guilt, reviews, the importance of the internal compass and much, much more. Interested? Read on.

So, you picked up the guitar age 12, wrote your first song at 13-years-old, can you remember the name of that tune?

“You know, you’re so bad at writing songs when you’re 13 it’s embarrassing. I don’t remember the name but I do remember it was about a farmer, which was kinda funny at the time because we were living on this farm and it had a really big impact on me. I was at school for a time that was on the farm where we grew all our own food and stuff, so the song was about that.”

So you’re not from New York City originally?

“Originally I’m from just outside Boston, that’s where I was born and raised. Then I went to school [university to those of us on this side of the pond] in Providence, Rhode Island and my friends and I all sort of made our way to New York City from there. At first I didn’t really have the courage to do music as my career until my early 30s. So when my daughter was born and I was working in the non profit world, it was really good work but I was kind of burnt out so I realised I could stay at home with her and make records. That’s where I really started and 20 years later, 10 albums in and I have the good fortune to try and make up for lost time doing music as my full-time career. You get to it when you get to it, right?

You seem to have moved through your music career in a backwards fashion. Most people have all their musicical verve in their late teens/early 20s, and then when it doesn’t work out they get regular jobs, have kids and settle down. You worked as a teacher, for non profit organisations etc. before the music came along, how did that work out?

“I’m living out my teenage fantasies late in life, that’s how it worked out. You’re ready when you’re ready. I wish I’d started out earlier but the truth is I probably would’ve been writing shitty songs in my teen and 20s. I didn’t have the life experience or the where-with-all. Something strange happened to me, when I had kids it put a new lens on life. When my daughter was born it kind of gave me the permission to be home with her, and then when I’m home and not working so damn hard at this day job I could then focus on music and I just never looked back.

“What’s kind of fun is now my kids are old enough, my girl is 19 and at college, my son is 16, so I can actually go on tour. I have a proper booking agent to get to do these shows and it’s great because I don’t feel guilty as my kids are mostly grown up.”

I’ve always associated the blues with the southern states, what got you into the blues?

“I was lucky to have older brothers with great tastes in music. They played me all kinds of stuff, the blues, rock, Rolling Stones, I was just raised on really good music. John Prine, who is one of my all time favourites, he’s not ‘blues’ but a great storyteller and songwriter. I just grew up with that because my older brothers were always listening to good music.

“I think it kind of gets inside of you. It’s what I always wanted to do and what I always listened to. It’s kind of like Bruce Springsteen, he’s a Jersey boy but has a little southern drawl because he grew up listening to that stuff. It gets in your blood and becomes apart of you whether you’re from the south or not.”

I want to talk to you about critics and critical acclaim. The Village Voice says you are ‘a cross between Willie Nelson and John Prine, and you don’t get much better than that.’ The LA Weekly describes you as ‘Country rock with a renegade bite.’ Now, that’s the good stuff, how do you deal with the bad criticism?

“That’s a good question. One of my all-time favourite stories is about John Prine. He’s got it posted in his home, I think it’s in his bathroom and it’s a terrible review where they literally just trashed him entirely. He had it framed and keeps it there for humility. I think we all take our punches. When you take the risk of putting a lot of stuff out there into the world some people might not like it, there are some albums that do better than others, but overall, I’ve been lucky and mostly have got kind words.

“I try not to pay much attention to the reviews whether they’re good or bad. If you take too much from them you may never have the courage to write again. I try to focus on my internal compass and if it thinks it’s good and I think it’s honest and true I keep at it.”

Tell me about your bands, I believe you have a recording band and a touring band?

“The touring band is made up of Scott Warman on bass, he’s fantastic, on the electric guitar, slide guitar and acoustic is Joe Coombs, he’s a rising star, and on drums is Jamie Dawson. They are just spectacular human beings, I love the guys and they couldn’t be more talented. I have a band I record with in Brooklyn, New York City. I’ve recorded the last couple of albums with them and Teddy Kumpel, who is my producer and guitarist, they’re an incredibly talented group of folks but it’s real expensive to go on tour with them so I have the recording band and the touring band.

“With the touring band, we’ve only just started touring together in April, there was an instant connection on stage and off, and I’m fully committed to them as my touring band.”

I’m interested in your approach to song writing, especially the lyrics which I’m always interested in. I listened to one of your songs called Storm Warning. The lyric goes ‘Graffiti on the walls of the bathroom stalls says Elvis lives and Jesus saves.’ How important to you are the words to a song, are they as important as the music?

“I take lyrics really seriously. Since I’ve gotten older I see it more as a craft. Listening to people like John Prine and Bob Dylan and really aspiring and trying to get as close to as I can to that kind of song writing. Sometimes I get lucky. Some songs take three minutes to write, some 30 years. I’ve had songs that I’ve honestly worked on for a decade and others that came like lightning. What I have learnt since I’ve gotten older is to not just wait for inspiration because that can take a long time. You have to put yourself on the road to writing and keep working at it.”

You’ve finished your 10th LP, where would you put your music now as compared to maybe 10 years ago, how has it progressed?

“That’s a really good question. I guess I would say that I try to weave more in, like Prine does, more humour, more story telling and more intentionality in terms of the melodies, the lyrics and the hooks. I think more about what sort of message is the song going to deliver as a whole and how much is it going to pack. I have a lot more intention with how I approach the production and the recording of the song.”

And where do you see your music in another five years?

“I just hope that I’m lucky enough to keep doing it, you know. All I want for my birthday is another birthday, right? I would love to tour more and I’d like to do more co-writes because I’ve only ever done two of those. Song writing has always been a very solitary process and it could be fun write an album as a band. I’ve never done that. I collaborate very closely with my producer Teddy Kumpel but mostly I just want to keep at and get better and better at writing songs.”

What’s the difference to you between playing live and recording an album?

“The difference in playing live is there’s an energy you have on stage and it’s like there’s an alchemy to it. Part of the reason I’m so committed to this tour is the band I have now is it’s either there or it’s not. It’s like a love affair. The chemistry is there and you’re making magic every night and you’re trusting each other and there’s instinct and an unspoken communication. To have found that with my touring band is a gift.

“What I try to do in the studio is as much as possible approximate and imitate what happens live. I’ve recorded in Atomic Sound in Brooklyn and the brilliant thing about it, the reason I never stop recording there is they have one great room with three glass recording booths so the whole band can see each other, but you do have the good luck of isolation. Let’s say I mess up but it’s a perfect take, you’re in isolation and can capture that live energy with everyone looking at each other, that’s ideal.”

And finally, what can UK and Irish audiences expect from this latest tour?

“Well, I promise you this, if you come to a show you’re going to leave in a much better mood than when you arrived at the venue. The sound and the way we play our hearts out on stage, it’s joyous, it’s infectious, and we give it 110 per cent. There are really rocking out numbers and because I have the privilege of playing with a full-on drummer we can really raise the roof and get down and dirty and pull some Rolling Stones kind of punches. At other times we can get quiet and tell a story and reflect. We have a lot of range and have an energetic quality. We play our hearts out and we love to meet folks afterwards.

“We also have an exclusive tour EP of new songs that aren’t available online and there’s a 24 page booklet of lyrics, things about the band, behind the scenes stories about the songs. It’s a real kind of exciting package this time around.”

The Annie Keating Band will be playing Belfast’s Sunflower Bar on October 4th, 2022 and Derry/Londonderry’s Playhouse Theatre on October 9th. For tickets and full UK and Ireland tour dates visit

To read the review of The Annie Keating Band playing at The Sunflower Bar, Belfast on October 4th and for further information from CultureCrush NI simply follow the page on Facebook.


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