Updated: May 12
There's no doubt that when you hear music, it takes you away, away to a place of healing and good vibes.
Music is an art form that transcends time and it brings people together. Despite th
e world being overtaken by a pandemic and many people losing hope in not only themselves but their art, Nick Keena was and still is able to keep the faith, keep the love and most of all, keep the music alive.
Keena's entering into the music industry began at a young age under the guidance, teachings, expertise, and most of all inspiration of his father.
Being under his father's musical wings gave Keena the start of a career into not only the business of music but a passion and livelihood that would last forever.
"My father and his brothers are all musicians. I came up around musicians. Going to my fathers gigs and helping to run sound when I was 13 showed me the ropes. It showed me that this is work, work that I wanted to do."
Inspiration is everywhere, in all art forms, and Keena was able to absorb inspiration not only through his father but from musical greats that came before him. It paved a way for him to create musical greatness too.
"Led Zeppelin and Willie Dixon were two of my earliest and biggest musical influences. Dixon’s work with Chess Records was very influential in building the bridge from blues to rock. Zeppelin was the result. They weren’t rock. They weren’t metal," Keena said. "They were electric blues! Raw and dirty, unapologetic and inviting! As time went on, I found inspiration in poets and songwriters from Joan Baez to Wu-Tang."
Creativity was applied to the max for musicians and artists across the aisle. Audiences' vibes and energy is what keep performers in business and without being able to perform in person, boredom and impatience eventually sets in.
Keena was able to soothe troubled minds with his lyrics during live stream, so things weren't so bad.
"The boredom and the lack of audience started to get to me. So I started a Facebook live show (Uncle Nick’s Happy Fun Time Show)," Keena said. "Streaming for an hour or so a couple times a week, and folks were kind. I even made a few bucks in tips."
Social media was the main tool for artists and musicians to use in order to reach audiences worldwide.
Keena took advantage of social media by making use of open spaces, plugging in his guitar and belting out tunes for his listeners, no matter how big or small.
"Folks were kind! Lots of people tossed me tips, which was great since I wasn’t getting any help from unemployment. It’s a weird thing, though," Keena expressed. "Performing alone in a room... isolated. It can’t compete with a live audience. No contest."
That personal connection between people and music was hanging in the balance but luckily Keena was able to prevail, think quickly on his feet, and keep his music alive for those that would continue to listen.
"This was the first time in years that I haven’t been working 6-7 nights a week. So I took advantage of being stuck in my girlfriend's apartment," Keena said. "I turned her pantry into a makeshift sound booth and recorded vocal and instrument tracks using my phone."
Business didn't waver and Keena made use of his extended time by birthing a new EP.
"I sent them to my friend/producer Victor Phillips and he started mixing. When we were able to leave her apartment, I went straight into the studios at Original Music School of Morristown and we finished my EP (I’ve Been Called Worse)."
Being an independent artist can have it's ups and downs especially in times like this where there is no security put in place for musicians and artists to survive. You're on your own and perhaps struggling to figure out when the next gig is going to happen.
Keena, being independent, has remained positive. He is able to continue his work despite lockdowns and doesn't have to worry about the hassle of a label dictating his next move.
"The labels don’t do anything for you anymore. You have to have over a million followers before they’ll even sniff your socks," Keena insisted. "So do the work yourself. Be your promotion and your management."
Being a musician is for free expression and no one can put a price on talent. Be in the game for the right reasons, be in it for the love of the craft otherwise it all seems meaningless.
"If you want to work, work. If you want to be famous, you’re in it for the wrong reasons," Keena continued. " Take some business classes because this business is filled with people who will try and rob you blind."
Replaying in venues when places started opening back up, did the atmosphere and
vibes while working change for you? Did it seem less personal, less fun and invitin
g since we have to be careful due to the virus?
"It’s definitely a different vibe. No hugs, no carousing around a room full of weirdos shoulder to shoulder... but getting back out has been cathartic for me. And certainly helped my friends who come to my open mic jams."
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