23-year-old singer and songwriter Keir is going to give you chills. His debut track ‘Squeeze Me’ is an atmospheric, emotional romp that has seen him perform for BBC Introducing at Maida Vale, support The Drums on their recent tour, and play at many major festivals including Glastonbury and Secret Garden Party. He’s recently played his first ever headline shows in the UK, and we caught up with him to talk his whirlwind ride this year, and the making of his eclectic pop sound.
Tell me a bit about how you started writing music.
Um… That’s a good one! It’s really hard to explain, I think. I think I was basically a singer from a really early age and didn’t wanna sing covers and so, obviously, you just end up kind of falling into it. I don’t think it was a decision. [But] I started writing [properly] when I was about fifteen years old. I was heartbroken and it just spilled out of me. I couldn’t really play guitar at the time, but it felt so good to write how I was feeling.
Yeah! Do you remember the first song that you wrote that you felt really proud of? Do you remember when you wrote that?
I remember the first song I ever wrote, which I think was terrible! It was like absolute heartbreak at its worst. I think I was like fifteen, and this girl had really, really… kind of broken my heart, I guess.
But the song is awful, but the feeling, and the, I dunno, being able to get that emotion out that way was a really, really important way of doing things, I think.
Yeah, definitely. What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
I mean, all sorts! I mean, for most people your music taste is constantly evolving and changing every day, every time someone shows you something or, I don’t know, you feel in a different mood… What do you mean, like when I was really young, or…?
Yeah! When you were really young – what are your first memories of music, I suppose?
I’m trying to think… I mean, I love Amy Winehouse. I mean at the moment I love, I don’t know if you know Princess Nokia?
I’m absolutely in love with Princess Nokia’s records.
Yeah, she’s amazing!
Yeah but other than that… I am a huge fan of Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, Prince and Bowie. I am also a huge admirer of Frida Kahlo from a creative stand point.
‘Squeeze Me’ is such an atmospheric track, I always think…
Oh, cool! Thanks!
No problem! Tell us a bit about how you wrote it.
I think… That day in the studio, I hadn’t gone in with any conscious ideas or any lyric or anything, which is often how I prefer to do things. But [Laughs] one thing I do really remember is I was just like, again, really not in a good state of mind. I was deeply falling for someone – just, you know, things had happened and I was upset, and it was just not the right time to go to the studio, but I ended up having a really good time and… suddenly it just started to get to a really good place.
I wanted it to be about intimacy, for me, and kind of went from there. This was a song about saying fuck everyone else… I want you to hold me. But there was a lot of pent-up aggravation and annoyance, but having not been able to speak to said person about anything, or feeling that it wasn’t possible or that it was futile – it was kind of a perfect way to get it out, I think, in that one song.
Yeah, definitely – I think sometimes the more difficult you find something, the better it comes out at the end.
Yeah! And it is such a cliché, it really is, but until it actually happens to you – like someone does something to you, or something bad happens, you’re probably upset about the end of some kind of connection with somebody, and then you manage to actually begin the cliché of getting it out into a lyric or song or, I dunno, some kind of art form and you understand why the cliché’s a cliché. That really happened on that song. I think for the first time, maybe, that actually happened to me.
It must be very satisfying as well that it’s a single now!
[Laughs] It was, yeah! Absolutely, ‘cause, I mean, being able to perform it live, as well – it’s a song that’s incredibly close to my heart. It’s wild, as well – I really enjoy the wildness of it, I really enjoy how, yeah, you get lost.
You’ve played some incredible places live – you’ve done Glastonbury, Shepherd’s Bush Empire… What do you think is the most important thing that you try to remember when you’re trying to deliver a really great live show?
I mean, it’s gotta be really real, I think – as real as it [can be], [even] if you’re playing in the rehearsal room, [play] like it’s the last time you’ll ever play.
And you’ve gotta be there for your own sake. As well as for every single person in the room, it has to be the best thing you’ve ever done, I think, you have to really exhaust yourself, have to really give it your best.
You’ve been on tour with The Drums, which is amazing – what were your highlights from touring?
It was the Shepherd’s Bush [Empire]! It was just insane! I just walked out in such a beautiful room and thought, ‘That’s just beautiful!’ And the show was amazing, and the reception was really good – it’s a really odd experience playing to people who don’t know who you are, so they have no expectation. So you have nothing to lose. And that’s something that I really enjoy.
It’s a really odd experience playing to people who don’t know who you are… You have nothing to lose. And that’s something I really enjoy.
Yeah – I think it could probably feel like you have so much to prove in those situations, but I guess it’s also quite freeing because you can just go out and try and show them the best that you can do.
Yeah! I mean, I really enjoyed that, as a performer who nobody knows – that’s a really, really beautiful thing to make some kind of impression, to have the chance, the opportunity to make some kind of impression is fantastic, I really loved that.
Yeah, definitely! And to be in the crowd in that situation, and to have that first response to someone you’ve never heard anything from and really like something they’re doing, I think both people involved – the person watching and the person performing – it’s really amazing.
Yeah! Yeah, yeah.
If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who do you think you’d want to collaborate with?
God… That’s insane! I don’t know – David Bowie? Is that mental? I mean that is mental, but he’s one of my heroes, so, it’s probably David Bowie, yeah.
I think that’s a really good answer. So what’s next for you – what are your hopes for the next year? Are you writing more or are you going to try to do more touring or both?
I’ve been in the studio all week… It’s just been completely wild, just day by day, writing relentlessly and really enjoying getting into different new songs, looking for them. We have a couple of headline shows coming up actually, which I can’t wait [for], like I’ve said – I’ve gotten so used to playing for people who don’t know who [I am], it’s a new experience… We have some headline shows coming up which I can’t wait for, and the chance to play new songs as well – that’s what I’m most excited for. For me, I can’t stress enough how important it is, for moving this forward, to [play] new songs and build up what you already have. It’s really important.
One more question – what’s the best piece of advice that anyone’s given you so far in your career, do you think?
That’s really good! That’s a really good question. It’s always to be yourself, it’s always that, it has to be, otherwise it’s untrue. It has to be really enjoyable for you, first, always. And to do what feels right. Yeah.
Thanks so much for talking with me, Keir!
Be entranced by the video for Keir’s track ‘Squeeze Me’ below.
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