Jared Keim is an emerging pop artist. His cover of “Wayfaring Stranger” won the pop category in our YouTube Battle of the Bands we hosted earlier this year. For his month of free press, Jared elected to do an interview with us. We suggest that you subscribe to his YouTube channel and keep an eye on his promising career.
1) First of all congrats on winning the pop category in our contest. Do you think of yourself as a pop artist? How do you describe your sound?
Thank you! It was a pleasure to be involved in the competition. I think of myself as more of a contemporary artist with pop influences. The music that I enjoy to play most is coffeehouse-style music, however playing today you have to be able to play music from many different genres – not just one or two. I definitely have some pop attributes in the way I carry my vocals and the rhythms I play on my guitar, but when it comes down to pen meeting the paper I am a contemporary artist at heart. Almost all of the music I write would be classified as such.
2) How did you get your start in music?
I got my start in music at my church. My mom and my sisters sang for some time at my church and my sister Brittany was actually in a band outside of church that produced one Christian album. As a kid I always wanted to play guitar and was always humming/singing a tune everywhere I went. I would sit in church and “air guitar” to the band. My first public singing experience was when I was 5 or 6 when I sang my first solo at church. I sang “Shine” by the Newsboys – it wasn’t even a karaoke track, I just sang over the song. From then on, I sang specials at church quite often. I also got my first guitar when I was 10 for my birthday after years of begging my parents for one. It was a Wal-Mart First Act guitar that was super hard to play on, but I didn’t really care! From there, I just began learning guitar and learning how to sing while playing and took off with my own thing!
3) We noticed a lot of reverb in your YouTube videos. Can you give us a little bit of an explanation as to why you style your music with that acoustic effect?
Reverb is the only thing that I use on my videos with the exception of delay sometimes. I think the reason that I always use it is because the illusion that it gives of being somewhere other than a bedroom or a recording room. Ever since I fell in love with performing live for people, my dream has been to pack out a stadium and be able to have that reverb come completely naturally. As for right now and in YouTube videos, reverb is the closest I can get to that sound/feeling.
4) Your cover of “Wayfaring Stranger” was great, both for its complexity with the loop pedal, and because your vocals were so good throughout. Can you tell us why you chose to cover that song? Do you plan to do more music with the acoustic guitar, or more with the acapella vocals?
I chose to cover “Wayfaring Stranger” because it was the first song that I ever heard Ed Sheeran do and I instantly fell in love with it. The complexity of not only the song in itself, but performing it all at once like that had me very intrigued to give it a try for myself. The cover was actually my first time going all the way through the song. I had figured out how to do each part the way I wanted to, but I just flipped on the camera and started recording before I practiced it all the way through and the video was what came from it. I plan to do more music with acoustic guitar than just a capella. I am in my comfort zone and am much more creative with my guitar in my hand than I am without it. What I do with my guitar inspires what I do with my voice. However, the acapella aspect of that song is something that I plan to use for other loop pedal songs while incorporating in some guitar with it.
5) Your original “Here Without You” has some interesting reflective lyrics. Do you mind giving us the story behind this song? You characterize it as a breakthrough in your songwriting. Have you written others like it in the past year?
I was kind of wondering if “Here Without You” was going to get brought up in this interview haha. I had a really good girl friend that I kind of fell for which was a good thing because she was falling for me as well. We “talked” for about 6 months – and might as well have been dating since we were pretty committed to the fact that we probably would be soon. Things were going great until all of a sudden she just stopped talking to me. Said she would call but she never would, wouldn’t answer text messages, and had pretty much dropped off the map. A week went by of that and then she finally tells me that she thinks we’re moving too fast and we need to slow down, which I agreed to and thought was a good idea after the last week of torture she put me through. Well, everyone knows how the “let’s be friends” thing usually works out…it doesn’t! She basically stopped talking to me all together and left me really hurt and even more confused. It literally felt like my sunshine had been taken away. The only thing I was really sure about was gone in a heartbeat. I remember sitting in my bed that night thinking “I’ve never been as sad as I am right now without you,” which transformed into “Here without you is the saddest place I know,” and from that I pretty much bled my heart out through the pen with that song and wrote the whole thing in only about 15 minutes. The reason that I characterized it as my songwriting breakthrough was because it was the first song I ever wrote that at the end, I didn’t have anything else to say. I texted her that same night when I put it on YouTube and told her it’d mean a lot if she listened to it, which she did. I think that in itself helped me cope with that situation a lot more simply because I said what I wanted to say and I knew that she heard it. In the past year I have gotten a lot of really good song ideas, but not very many full, completed songs. My only other original song that I would put on the same level as “Here Without You” is “Home.” I look back at that song and really wonder to myself how I wrote it because it is a much better song than I am a songwriter. I wrote “Home” right after I had gotten back from Hollywood week of American Idol season 11. I made it to the top 150 of about 112,000 people and it was then that I really understood that my dreams could be a reality. Not only that, but instead of worrying so much about exactly where I wanted to be – instead I realized that as long as I am truly chasing my dreams with all of my heart, that wherever I end up is where I am meant to be.
6) What is your songwriting process?
As a young songwriter, I am still trying to develop a process. With “Here Without You” and “Home” both being so spur of the moment and only taking about 15 minutes to write, I never really started out songwriting with a process. My best songwriting capability is the musical aspect. I can see words on a page, read them through, and pretty much instantly have a melody line and a chord structure to go with it. What I’m not so good at is putting my thoughts on paper; translating my feelings and emotions into something tangible. Often I catch myself getting carried away with trying to rhyme or trying to compose the song before I have the inspiration for the lyrics. If you write a song just to write it there is no internal meaning and that song, even though it may turn out well, has no special meaning to you. And if your song doesn’t have a special place in your heart or doesn’t strike a certain emotion with you every time you go to perform it, I personally don’t think it’s worth the copyright. Music is so much more than words on a page or a catchy guitar rhythm. Music is a creation. In my situation with “Here Without You,” that was my one and only chance to say everything that I wanted to say to that girl. You have to treat every song that you write as your one and only chance to get that message across. What I try to do now is always carry a pen and some sort of scratch paper with me. I think about things all the time. Certain things that may strike an emotion with me in a day, I write down. Things that strike different emotions with other people, I write down. At the end of the day unless you’ve been alone, you can pretty much guarantee that you’re going to have a lot of different things written down encompassing many different emotions. The task from that point is simply deciding which thing you wrote down gave you the strongest emotion and then decide if it is something you can translate into a meaningful song. As much as people would love to, you can’t write a song every day. But you’ll know when you get idea or an emotion that you can run with.
7) Who are your major musical influences?
My biggest musical influence when I began performing my own shows was John Mayer. The way that he can literally take any feeling he has and turn it into a hit song blows my mind. Not only that, but the way he performs live – being able to see his true musical talent and abilities is astounding. Another artist that sparked my interest in crossing contemporary with pop was Ben Rector. He has songs that are pop, contemporary, blues, and many more different styles. Ben was my first look into being a multi-genre artist. It was his style that inspired me to be able to perform more than just one genre of music without losing sight of who I really am as an artist. More recently I have looked up to Ed Sheeran a lot. He plays for thousands and thousands of people and still doesn’t use a band, truly relying on his guitar and his voice for his success. His songwriting abilities are second to none in my book…without a doubt.
8) What is your ideal gig? Who would you love to open for?
My ideal gig is being able to play for people who love my music more than they love me. Fame isn’t what I’m looking for. Recognition is. I want people to listen to my music and feel connected to it, not just be able to blast it out of their radio at a party. I enjoy coffeehouse type gigs, but I also enjoy bigger gigs as well. Again, it all depends on the crowd. I would absolutely love to open for Ed Sheeran or Ben Rector. Not only because they are two of my biggest influences, but because of the similarities in our style. The way that they view music and what music is about is very similar to my views.
9) What are your current projects? Are you working on a full album? Or tour?
My current project right now is finishing college lol! I graduate this May, and then from there I can finally take off and do/go where I want. I’ve been working on a lot of songs that I have had for a long time trying to get them exactly how I want for when I get a chance to get in the studio, hopefully very soon. I want to get an album produced that I am completely happy with before I try to do a tour so that I can actually have something to use as promotion for myself and something that I can sell at my gigs. But hopefully both a full album and a tour will be in my near future!
10) What else would you like our readers to know about your music?
I would first like to thank all of the readers that voted for me in the competition! It really means a lot. I appreciate any and all support that they have given me. But most of all, I just want them to know that I am chasing a dream just like they are. Their dream might not be music – but instead to be a business owner, a nurse, a basketball player, or anything else. It is hard to chase your dream not knowing where it will take you, but you will only get out of it what you put in. I’m a 19 year old going to college full-time, working full-time, and still trying to chase down this dream I’ve always had of being a musician. I have much more in store for my music career and I don’t plan on giving up on it until I’m where I want to be. I hope to meet all of you in the future! If I can’t meet you in person at a show, maybe you’ll have my album on your iPod and I’ll be able to share my songs and my story with you in that way. Thanks, and God bless!