BTD interviews Steve Keith
Written by Matt Zin on September 27, 2023
BTD interviews Steve Keith
BTD would like to welcome Steve Keith… the man with two first names and a boatload of fabulous songs!
I can’t wait to talk to you about your music but before we get started, can you let our BTD listeners know where you are from?
I was born in Lynn Mass, have lived in Allston and Nahant, but now I am in Peabody, MA
I was checking out your discography on your site Professional Music Creation and Production -Baselines Designs, along with some other music traits you have. I want to touch basis on that as well but first let’s talk about your music background and influences first. Who are or were your musical influences?
Big fan of the Beatles and Steely Dan. I also like the earlier Bruce Springsteen albums. Of course, Elton John is a big influence. I like most all great rock from the 70s. Disco not so much, but there were a few great songs in that genre.
Did you ever get a chance to meet any of them? If not, who would you like to meet and what would you say?
I did get to meet John Sebastian when we opened for him in Maine. Other than that I have not had any real interaction with others. I did happen to see Bruce Springsteen in Red Bank New Jersey when I was lucky enough to buy some tickets from a scalper, and he popped up right next to us when he came down off the stage.
I was reading in your bio that you started playing the piano at the age of seven and progressed from there. Can you share with our BTD listeners your musical background? What instruments do you play now and what is your favorite?
Well, I did start on the piano and took lessons for a couple of years. Then I came back to it when I was about 15 and had a couple more years, But my most valuable training was listening to the radio and figuring out what the popular bands were doing. My friend Eric Kaufman who played keyboard in Private Lightning had a very great ability at figuring things out exactly. I’ve known him since we were 10, and we would always be trying to figure things out.
I picked up guitar maybe around when I was 13, I can play it well enough to get by. Somewhere along the way, I was in a band and we couldn’t find a decent bass player, so I bought one and started playing that. I can pick up pretty much any string instrument and get some sound out of it – I have a Ukulele and a banjo. With a keyboard, you can get just about any sound you want with the midi plugins they have now. It takes a while in some cases to get the nuances down and make it sound like the instrument it is supposed to be. I guess I’d have to say piano is what I like playing best, but I really enjoy Bass as well.
I have to ask you; for memories sake…do you still have that first guitar you picked up some time ago for $20?
Nooo – that is long gone. I have a habit of taking things apart to try and see if I can make them better. Usually, once something is apart I never get it back together again. I tried to get the strings on that guitar to be a LOT closer to the fretboard, but it was just not to be.
There was a music store on Rt 1 in Saugus at the time called Cincottas – that is where I got a lot of my stuff in the early days.
How would you describe your music to a lady sitting on a bench next to you? Put your imagination cap on and be aware she is a hard rock music fan. Your goal is to persuade her to listen to your music.
I’d say for the most part it is well thought out and structured. It takes a lot of time usually to get everything right, and along the way I add little easter eggs that at least amuse me – I don’t know if they get noticed a lot, but sometimes people comment on them. I’d say that people who want to dig into a song and really listen to it may be more attracted to my music. I have a tendency to have a lot going on in most of the songs, perhaps too much from time to time. I like to have the song be interesting from start to end, and I try to keep them short and to the point. Rarely will I go over 3 and a half minutes. And I’m terrible at love songs. I can’t write them, so I pick other topics.
Do you write all your tunes? What is your writing process?
I have about two albums worth of originals, and two more of covers. I like doing covers that are challenging, and it is how I figure out how to do a lot of things that I can transfer to my originals. I don’t like creating new versions of existing songs…I like to get them as exact as I can. Some people don’t like to do it, but I do. I figure that I save the original ideas for the stuff I write, not for other people’s songs.
Out of all your tracks, which is your favorite and why?
I’ll pick out a couple, because as parents say, I like all my children equally. But – Lyrically I like Lies and Consequences and Horse Latitudes from the first album. Currently I am really happy with the way that Shine, Shine came out on the new album. I also like the idea and execution of Last Stop Willoughby which is about a twilight zone episode.
Your song “Enchanted Glasses” is fabulous. Can you share with our listeners what that song is all about?
Thank you – that one started out with the music first, which is how most of my songs happen. It was one of the few where I picked out a drum pattern first and then added the other instruments afterwards. Guitar first then Bass. It’s basically just a story I developed – I was going to work every day at my day job, and it was sometimes a high pressure situation. I decided to think about what would happen if I didn’t have weekends to unwind a little, so the idea of a lousy weekend came to mind – what would I do then? The rest is just a story of getting a coffee, dealing with the subway. I have a vivid image in my mind of one of those people who lie around a beg in the subways, so I gave it a twist and made the beggar a person with a deeper story – a magic type of thing. Then the chorus is the overall message of the song. You have to go through some hard times to get to the good parts, so keep lookin at things through a positive lens.
How about your track “Way Out Here”, can you describe some the insights in that song?
Well, like I said, I can’t write love songs, so this is another topic that I don’t have to worry about coming up with lyrics for. The synth parts sounded like outer space stuff, so that’s where the idea originally came from. It’s somewhat biographical in a small way. I went to school for electrical engineering, and when I went, the first year the only thing we had was slide rules, but after Christmas break, some lucky kids came back with HP or Texas Instruments calculators. $300+ for some of them back then! Now you can get them free on your phone. So the biographical part was the feelings I had when I was going to college. The rest just sort of grew out of the outer space idea, and a guy realizing that maybe he didn’t really want to be the first one on Mars or some other planet.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities of working in the music industry today?
For me, those days are pretty much over. My only goal right now is to write good stuff that I am happy with, and getting as many people as possible to hear it. I guess that is the challenge…getting people to actually listen. There are so many choices for people today. My particular style is never going to be rap or hip-hop or whatever passes for music today – that adds to the challenge of getting it out there.
I see you have been in a few bands? Can you share some of your experiences?
I followed the path that probably every other person in a rock band followed. Finding someone close by that likes the stuff I like – that was Eric Kaufman for me. Gradually finding other like minded people. I actually worked at McDonalds and met some pretty cool musicians through that. Over time, some people come, some go. You get a few free gigs, maybe a couple of paying. Once I responded to that ad in the Phoenix, that is when we became more serious about performing originals.
What do you enjoy most about being a musician? Are there any aspects of the industry that you find particularly rewarding or fulfilling?
I like always learning new tricks to put in the songs I write now. I like the whole journey of having unexpected ideas as a song is being formed. Believe it or not, I even like it when things don’t work out and the song sounds like crap. Because then it is a challenge to get it to work. Coming back to a dud after a few months really allows you to view things differently, and eventually most of those songs get fixed.
I like all the new tools that are available. I would never be able to put a vocal on a song if it weren’t for the tools that allowed me to fix things after the fact. I’ve never considered myself a vocalist – and I know that probably everybody I know agrees with that! Same goes for the in the box tools for mixing and mastering music. Some of the tools are fabulous.
Steve what obstacles have you faced as an artist and how have you overcome them?
There’s really not been a lot of downside that I can remember. When I was not doing everything myself, there were always the personality issues, but that is true for everybody. The only real obstacle I see now is the expense of the gear I want to get!
I was reading in your bio that you also have gone off and studied engineering, Mixing and Mastering music. Even on your site it looks like you offer those services. What got you interested in doing that? We have a lot of artists who submit their music to our station, any words of wisdom that you learned from your traits that you can share with them?
I just like being able to do stuff myself. Being in many studios, I picked up a lot of ideas, but until you sit down and do it yourself, you don’t really understand what is needed. To anyone who wants to get involved in recording, mixing and mastering, be prepared to have to do it for a long time before you can hear certain things. Everyone I know who does this is still learning as long as they are doing it. Same for me. There are great videos out there on YouTube that help you along. My best advise is to watch those, get the tools that you think will help you, and keep spending time actually doing it.
Another tip is to step away from the computer at regular intervals. If you spend 20 hours mixing something – it is going to sound like crap probably the next day. Work for 30 minutes then go away and do something else for a while. That’s what I think is best.
What are some of the lessons or advice that you would give to aspiring musicians or producers who want to pursue a career in music?
Be prepared for a long long road. Make sure it is really what you want to do. Connect with as many people as possible – create a site and keep it updated. Build a contact list and let those people know what is going on regularly.
We are coming to the end of our interview, are there any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re excited about and would like to share with your fans?
Visit my website: https://www.baselines.com to listen to my latest album, ‘A Second Passed’, which came out on September 15, 2023. You can also explore my Discography section, where you can find all of my available music.
It was a pleasure learning about you through your music Steve!
Be sure to check out Steve Keith on YouTube!
Last Stop Willoughbey
Also find Steve on Bandlab
Quote: I’ve heard several of the tracks on this album now, and aside from it being incredibly well produced, there is a quality of wholeness to it that really adds something special. IDK if that is intentional or if it’s random, but having recently published an album with Dan I can say that just trying to master everything to sound like it intentionally goes together was an insurmountable task that was ultimately a failure. 😅 So, bravo Steve, the cohesion on this work is absolutely fantastic, and that doesn’t even begin to touch on the quality of the actual songs. 👏👏👏