Interview with Musical artist Eunice Keitan
Today on What On What’s Good with Host Jovin Tardif, I am here with musical artist Eunice Keitan. Eunice released a new track, “Standing With You” – written 5 days after the death of George Floyd. Today in our interview, we discuss being in a punk band growing up, her current sound and musical style, themes in her songs, her latest track “Standing with You” and much more.
1. When did you first start writing music?
I started writing music when I was a teenager, moving around with my family. It allowed me to process the constant changes in my life and gave me a sense of stability while adapting to different environments and cultures. Being part of a band, performing live, and putting out music followed suit, though my punk origins do seem strikingly different from my current idiom.
2. Could you describe a few topics you wrote about, growing up?
Like many songwriters, I drew mainly from my own experiences, emotions and environment. This led me to explore issues such as mental health, income and gender inequality; as well as broader societal issues like addiction, abuse, poverty, gun violence and corruption. The songs I wrote growing up are similar in content to what I do now, though the musical style has evolved. And I like to think that the perspective has matured too!
3. What it was like being in a punk band?
I was pretty young when I was in a punk band. At the time it served to let out some teenage angst, and to experiment and to learn how to play in front of an audience. In hindsight, rather than musical aspects, I think it was the presence of similar ideologies of non-conformity, humanitarianism, anti-consumerism, and the DIY ethic that drew me to Punk. Truly, I was always writing songs that were maybe a little too melodic and “soulful” for punk rock, even if I did try to make up for it by screaming every lyric.
4. How would you describe your current sound and musical style?
I would describe my sound as organic, smooth, and soulful with a bit of a bite. I love the intimacy, energy, and timbre of traditional (acoustic) instruments and the unique qualities that only a real person with their own personal struggles and experiences can express. My songs are usually based on vocal arrangements with rich layers of harmony. The soundscape and emotional range that the voice is able to capture can go from something light and delicate, to primal and visceral in the same phrase. Since the topics I write about are so multifaceted, I tend to gravitate towards a Soul/R&B sound because the range of stylistic elements allows me to fully embody the message of the story I am telling.
5. Some of your musical influences include Jeff Buckley, D’Angelo, Pura Fe, and Anna Wise. Can you tell us one particular song you like from each artist and why?
Jeff Buckley’s album was gifted to me when I was a teenager by one of my mentors. I still get goosebumps every time I listen to “Mojo Pin” or “Grace” because of the honesty and raw emotional quality of his writing and delivery. It influenced the kind of music I wanted to write and the way I felt about authenticity.
D’Angelo and Pura Fe both inspired me to explore vocal arrangements and its possibilities. I admit that I have a hard time just choosing one song from D’Angelo. Every track he has released has his signature dense harmonies and evocative melodic phrases. I love how each vocal line has its own vital role in weaving together the rich sonic tapestry of neo-soul!
Pura Fe has a different approach to harmony and a valuable perspective as an Indigenous blues/folk artist. I love the song “Mohomoneh” for its intimacy and organic beauty when the voices are front and center while the instrumentation is sparse and secondary. The way that Pura Fe plays with phrasing and emotion is something that I’m still learning, and always appreciating.
“Self On Fire” is one of my favourites from Anna Wise. I love how Anna is unapologetically herself as a person and as an artist. She makes music with a statement that doesn’t always fit nicely inside the R&B box. Her music always inspires me to experiment with different sounds and arrangements without boundaries, and to take stock on the too-often archaic notions of a woman’s place in the world and in the music industry.
6. Themes in your songs include mental health, social inequality, and social change. What can we learn about these topics? How can we help?
This is a difficult question and I don’t know if I have any concrete answers just yet. I sing about these topics as a way to address issues and to pose difficult conversations that will hopefully lead to real change. I believe that it starts with having an honest dialogue and being willing to listen to each other with greater empathy.
With each of my releases, I’ve tried to include ways that listeners can contribute and give back, be it through donations or community building and awareness events. There is a responsibility I feel as an artist to be a voice by dual definition. Whether my music stems from sharing something personal in hopes that others can relate, artistically acknowledging injustices, or simply expressing emotion for my own catharsis, I will never shy away from the real and raw. This is what makes us human, and what makes art so important.
7. What can you tell us about your latest track, “Standing With You”?
The track was written 5 days after the death of George Floyd during the protests and the social unrest that followed. During those days I read a pamphlet that was circulated immediately after the lynching of Emmett Till. It felt eerily like it was written yesterday. It got me thinking and asking a lot of questions about what really needed to happen so that we could stop repeating this same cycle of hate and injustice over and over. All of these things combined sowed the seeds of what would become “Standing With You”. The message of the song is one of empathy and solidarity. It is a promise to do better. The hope that if we can move forward together as one we can see real changes.
8. Describe working with producer Kevin Howley.
My friend, collaborator/producer Kevin Howley and I produced this track together. We kept the arrangement/production very organic and intimate with most of the focus on the voice and message. We wanted to create a feeling that was sombre and honest in recognizing the lives senselessly taken by police brutality. Simultaneously, we wanted the feeling to be uplifting in the hope that we can give listeners a sense of urgency to shake complacency, to listen to each other more empathetically. To get up and actively oppose corruption within the institutions who are supposed to serve and protect its citizens.
9. What was it like creating the track from home?
Because of social distancing measures, everyone recorded their parts in their own home. Kevin laid down the bass and drum tracks in his own studio. I asked my friends and other musicians of colour, Kristin Fung, Faith Amour, Johanna Lyn, and Vanessa Hernandez to lend their voices on the recording. Neo-Soul/Gospel Fusion Pianist Desarae Dee also shared her talent on the keys. Even down to the mixing and mastering by Jong Lee and Michael Friedman, the contributions to the track made it a true offering by a diverse community. Recording at home also allowed me to capture my raw emotions in a way I probably wouldn’t have been able to with someone else in the room. The voice is such a sensitive thing. It reflects the state of mind you’re in. There is a melancholy and tone that is entirely unique to that moment.
Another track by Eunice Keitan is “Hope Is A Bird”
The song touches on the isolation, thought processes, and fears of a person struggling with their mental health, to the blossoming of hope through the loving support of a community.
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