John Keathley
John Keathley Music Nashville HOME.jpg

Mover & Shaker Music Man

Multi-instrumentalist John Keathley taps, strums, kicks, and whistles his way through the town, and he means business.

Guitar, harmonica, a little bit of bass, piano, and drums are among some of the instruments that homie John Keathley primarily plays.

Basically, he plays a little bit of everything. Given his multi-talent, John formulated a one man band, sitting perched on a cajón, maybe a kick drum for his right foot, a jangling tambourine on his left foot, his trusty acoustic guitar in his hands, and an old school harmonica almost floating in front of his bearded face, secured around his neck by one of those cyborg-looking holder things. Think along the lines of Shaky Graves, not so much Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins; John sits down during his sets and never ties huge cymbals around his knees.

His solo super act sort of started out of necessity;

John would play live acoustic sets with his guitar, but his true musical genius lies behind a drum kit. One day while working at Guitar Center, boredom crept into John’s head. To fight the bore monster, he began to experiment in the percussion section at Guitar Center, sitting with a kit and aimlessly plucking at some guitar’s strings; and voila, a one-man band was born. John’s preference, though, is to play and perform with other guitarists and the whole band shebang. While he has fun playing all sorts of instruments at once,

John admits that it is difficult to fully concentrate, since he’s constantly multitasking.

To write out John’s “performed in” city résumé for his recent music career, John has rocked in Little Rock, jammed in Memphis, and fiddled throughout Florida. According to him, the crowds differ from spot to spot. Memphis has a heavy rock tourist scene that is light on local rock acts. Florida has plentiful local dives with lots of talented, artsy, and creative kids, but John perceived as though he was on a different page than the Floridians. With one band in Florida John took part in, he felt ahead mentally and tactically in business, strongly seeking to take his act to a professional level.

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Before arriving in Nashville, John debated between moving either here or Austin, two cities thoroughly saturated in music and music culture.

However, John had no connections in Austin, whereas he already knew a few fellow folk here. Additionally, Logan hooked him up with a job, so John even had a steady support start already in place, which we all know is vital.

John had met Logan back in their home state of Arkansas playing gigs around town. Consequently, John was one of the first official members of HOME. He enlisted as a member for networking purposes. Having now been in Nashville for about two years, after a while John grew tired of going out to bars and spending money trying to randomly meet industry people. Also, the utilities and recording spaces at HOME attract him, since he needs them to further his music career.

During his adolescence, John started playing the drums on account of his cousin, who played in a band in High School. His cousin owned a drum kit in a shed and John would go over there after “finishing” his dinner to bang on it. Oddly enough, John’s cousin primarily played sax, so John eventually bought the kit from his cousin around age 14 or 15.

The guitar came in the picture near college graduation, when he realized he had not performed with a band in over a year. In that moment, John decided that he wanted to learn guitar, so with the aid of website tutorials, he taught himself. Today, John appreciates his decision to learn guitar. He finds it useful for writing songs, plus it adds variety when he craves a change from banging on drums sans accompaniment. 

Now, John seeks to expand his repertoire to include the dobro, slide guitar, or steel guitar, to get that sweet, swampy sound.

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His childhood influences include classic rock from his dad such as the notorious “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction),” Peter Frampton, and Led Zeppelin; whereas his mom dug more pop music like Elton John and Whitney Houston.

John vividly remembers riding in his mom’s van during the summer driving to the pool and listening to her pop hits.

His first big concert he attended, when he was 12 or 13, resulted from his friend’s mom having an extra ticket to see Shania Twain; ironically, John didn’t listen to country until he was older. His first rock concert, though, was seeing Aerosmith at The Pyramid in Memphis before they stopped using it as an event venue.

In regards to his current career, John is still trying to figure out exactly what his sound is. He loves all music and writes all genres of songs, but other people would agree that his music is Southern rock/blues-y/Americana-ish. He believes that, while America gave everyone jazz, that jazz music came from the blues, which is the true foundation of modern music. What a lot of people don’t realize is that a lot of iconic 60s/70s rock groups used old and underrated blues songs without accrediting the original blues artists. While learning more about the history of modern music, John realized today’s rock heroes weren’t exactly superhuman and did not recreate the music wheel.

Songwriters today also face the issue of not receiving credit for their work.

The reality is that what an artist listens to shapes the music they create; so, John spends time carefully researching how to navigate songwriting and song production in order to rightfully receive credit for his hard work. John is among many in the same boat, so those of you who can relate or possibly help out, reach out!

Also, John starts recording for his new music project this month!! The plan is to record and release one song each month for a full year. Stay tuned!


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Written and interviewed by Andra Ingram