A celebrated proponent of the Texas songwriting tradition, Robert Earl Keen Jr. speaks here with the Museum’s Michael McCall about his four-decade career.
Emerging from his native Houston in the 1980s, the master songsmith followed in the provocative, distinctly personal artistic paths of fellow Lone Star singer-songwriters, including Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett, and Townes Van Zandt, all of whom he befriended and saw perform—and, with some, became a co-writer.
Here, Keen recalls his beginnings as a performer, studying at Texas A&M and hosting front-porch concerts and bluegrass jams at a rented house near campus. He discusses his longtime friendship with Lovett, a fellow A&M student, and the important advice he got from Earle. In the mid-1980s, Keen followed his songwriting friends to Nashville, he remembers. Unlike them, he failed to generate much interest while in Music City. As Willie Nelson had two decades before him, Keen returned to Austin, where his career flourished, and he gained an international following for his witty, incisive songs through recordings and highly entertaining live performances.
Keen closes the show with a solo performance of a new tune and one of his most beloved classics.
The interview and performance with Robert Earl Keen is co-hosted by the Americana Music Association, filmed during 2018’s AmericanaFest.
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