Kevin Welch’s Musical Meanderings
by Brett Leigh Dicks
Life is meant to be a journey, but Kevin
Welch takes this notion to its extreme. He has traveled the
honky-tonk circuit in a van named Phyllis. He created his own
record label after having worked with numerous major labels. He
maintains a head-spinning tour schedule and, when not on the road
with his guitar, splits his time between here and Norway. Along the
way, Welch crossed paths with Kieran Kane and the two have been
inseparable since. This upcoming Saturday night, Welch and Kane
return to Sings Like Hell, with first-time Hell visitors Fats
Kaplin and Lucas Kane. And though Welch is a difficult man to pin
down — both musically and for an interview — Brett Leigh Dicks
recently caught up with the singer/songwriter to share a few
Two things in your biography caught my attention. One was your
intense touring schedule and the other was a declaration about not
having a pet in your life. I suspect those two are interrelated. If
we could actually be in one place for long enough, we would have a
dog or something. My partner, Claudia Scott, is a Norwegian
musician and spends a good deal of her time recording and touring
in Norway, and so we have another house there. Between spending
time in Norway and touring, I’m not around here very much.
Given that you explore so many styles and emotions in
your music, what do you consider to be its common
denominator? It comes down to words. And the beauty is
that words aren’t a static thing. They change because the subject
matter changes all the time. I say all that even though I’ve hardly
written a word in nearly a year!
You seem to write very freely. Are you not conscious of
opening yourself to scrutiny? For me, it isn’t a matter of
editing or censoring; there’s none of that going on in my songs. I
don’t include things that the song doesn’t need, and I don’t leave
anything out that the song wants. They call the shots and they are
what they are.
You have released albums on a major label, but now
you’re making your music in-house. What led to starting your own
record label? A number of years ago I saw the business
drifting away from where I wanted it to be. I had had a pretty good
experience on a major label and felt quite well-treated by those
people. But trying to do business with mainstream radio and
corporate America was just too bogus and I didn’t want to do it
anymore. I had some friends who were of the same mind — including
Kieran Kane. He has fooled around with just about every label in
town at one time or another. So we just threw down and started
making records at home. The label is now just a vehicle for Kieran
and I, but we have a catalogue of about 23 CDs, all of which I am
really proud of.
More and more musicians seem to be taking back control
of their own musical destiny. Is music healthier as a result of
this? I would say that music in general is stronger. The
music scene in the United States is in a great state. Of course
we’re not talking about American Idol; we’re talking about musical
roots. There’s a ton of it being made and there’s some great stuff
going on right now.
And this is a direct result of people’s new-found
freedom? It has something to with the fact that music
became so constricted and so many people decided to bail out and do
it on their own. At that point, you’ve got total carte blanche and
you don’t have anyone breathing down your neck. You might not make
very much money, but you can make any kind of music you want. So
there is a trade-off.
Obviously, you think it’s a trade worth making. That’s very
true. We are constantly inventing new ways to market stuff so this
side of music is a little spongy. But we are learning from each
other and sharing ideas and that’s a great thing, too. Apart from
maybe the late ’60s and early ’70s, when there was a lot of new
musical information all the time, I have never seen the music scene
stronger or more interesting.
4•1•1 Kevin Welch returns to Sings
Like Hell at the Lobero Theatre on Saturday, October 21 at 8 p.m.
Kiernan and Lucas Kane, Fats Kaplin, and Michael Fracasso will also
perform. For more information, call 963-0761 or visit singslikehell.com.