Sometimes, the loudest of personalities are shaped by the quietest of places. Objectively, Soul & Blues has long been synonymous with sonically thunderous cities in the U.S. cities like Memphis, Chicago, New Orleans, cities drenched in culture and personality. Every so often an outlier makes their way past the stern gatekeepers of the outwardly exclusive, but welcoming genre that is blues, and reminds everyone that talent can come from any nook or cranny, you just have to look.
Award-winning blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter Dave Keller can attest to the difficulty of gaining recognition in the rural area of Vermont, somewhat of an uncharted territory in the blues scene.
“Being based in Vermont, I often felt that no one would ever take me seriously. I mean, what great blues musicians have come from Vermont? But it made me work that much harder to learn my craft, and try to reach the bar set by my idols,” said Keller. “Vermont has been a very sweet place to become a better musician, performer and songwriter. The people here are really supportive and kind and they love real, heartfelt music!”
Keller has unquestionably taken the road less traveled throughout his long-running career. Prior to his eminence in the blues industry, the masterful string player didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 16, and didn’t take over as a lead vocalist until he was 20. Generally this would cause many people to develop a sense of urgency to catch up with their musical counterparts. For Keller on the other hand, it just inspired him to integrate himself deeper into the roots of blues.
“I don’t remember feeling rushed,” said Keller. “But once I fell in love with blues music, I did immerse myself as deeply as possible in it. I realized that if I was going to be a blues musician, I needed to learn as much as possible from the original sources. So for ten years or so, I wouldn’t buy a record if it wasn’t a blues record; I wouldn’t go to a show if it wasn’t a blues show; I wouldn’t listen to the radio unless it was a blues program. You could call me narrow-minded, but it was more of an obsession than anything else. Eventually I expanded into gospel and soul, but those early years were crucial, exploring all the hidden corners of blues.”
The long journey of an independent artist is not for the faint of heart. Many artists come and go and for those that give up, the hours upon hours of dream-chasing can feel like wasted effort. Keller never wavered in his diligence, after six self-released albums and years of expanding his local buzz throughout the gelid Northeast, Keller attained.
“When I won the Best Self-Released CD Award at the International Blues Challenge in 2012, I felt so happy to have created a recording with enough soul to get recognized internationally. It was a huge deal to me. Now I look back sometimes and think, ‘Why did I need an award to make me feel good enough?’ But the reality is that it is hard work being a working musician, and getting that recognition feels good. I only wish that all musicians who put their heart and soul into it would get the appreciation they deserve.”
Dave Keller will be playing at BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, Maryland at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 28th. Adult tickets range from $25-$45. For more information or to buy tickets visit http://blackrockcenter.org or call the box office at 240-912-1058.