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Interview: Jimmy O'Keefe
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
When I was 13, I heard someone playing guitar and I immediately felt drawn to it. I honestly don't know what I would be doing if I didn't have the ability to create music. It's been one of the most defining elements of my existence.
What do you like to do when you're not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I like to walk in the woods. I think movement helps me find inspiration and gives me space to think.
How long has your band been around?
I've had the moniker Jimmy O'Keefe and Friends since I was in college. But for a long time, I played around the city of Baltimore in a psych rock band called Hollywood Blanks.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I'm based out of Baltimore, Maryland in the U.S. This city has a reputation for experimentation. At the same time, I had the most success playing more conventional folk music with a singer/songwriter leaning. As such, a lot of my music is both conventional and experimental.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
I came up with the name after giving up on coming up with names. It sort of goes along with my feeling that this music comes from a place of having nothing left to lose, assuming that I'm most likely only doing this for myself, and that no one is going to hear it anyway, so what does it matter what my name is? Ironically, I've had success, and I think that element of desperation and loss is what draws people to my music.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
Best show: 2019 New Year's Eve party at the local punk venue called The Ottobar with my band Hollywood Blanks, or a DIY show at an underground venue in Baltimore called The Bell Foundry. I also love any basement shows - those tend to be a great time for me and the bands I've been in.
Worst show: This bar outside of Philadelphia (I can't remember the name) where the only person in the audience was the bartender. It smelled like smoke, it was cold, and I had to drive back to Maryland in the middle of night so that I could work in the morning.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you haven't already?
I really love that venue, The Ottobar. It has a lot of history and sees a lot of national acts come through. There's this place in NYC on the Lower East Side called Pianos that I'd really love to play, and a place in Philadelphia called Johnny Brendas. I generally love divey, grungy, gritty venues.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Oh Man... Neil Young, Kendrick Lamar, Enya, LCD SoundSystem, Pink Floyd, Doja Cat, Nicki Minaj.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
Be nice. Be yourself. Network. Try to find something to like about every band you play with.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Study music or marketing in college. Maybe don't even go to college.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
It's a song called "The Old Days." It's a long ramby ballad that I think was the catalyst for me thinking that I could actually be a meaningful songwriter.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
My favorite songs to play are the ones that marry lyrics and arrangement in a cool way. The song that gets requested the most, I'd say, is Prescriptions. I've played it in different iterations over the years.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
I usually come up with a song idea based on a set of lyrics or a phrase. I put the phrase to music and then I build the song around it.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Right now, my band is just me. I definitely have disagreements with myself. I try to make a song out of that disagreement I may be having with myself.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that's coming up?
I just released a single called Racing Against my Fate. I'll be releasing another single in a few months. At this point, I'm just trying to gain momentum by any means possible.