Category Archives: Interviews

Flashback : An interview with Keywest’s Andy Kavanagh (March, 2011).

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Keywest recently played in NUIG as part of the SU Sessions.
After the gig, I got a chance to speak with lead singer and co-songwriter of
the band, Andrew (Andy) Kavanagh.

Katy: This is not Keywest’s first time playing in NUIG.
Andy: No, it isn’t. We were down in Galway one day for a gig, a year and a
half ago I’d say, and while we were there two of the lads in the band went
busking. They didn’t do very well on their own, and so we started playing
with them that day and got a great response. That’s why we’ve been asked to
NUIG so many times I guess, just from busking.

K: You seem to have a very loyal (and large) fan base here in Galway too.
A: Certainly. We were absolutely shocked to see anybody here. We’ve
played in NUIG three times in total, the first time it was pretty empty, the
second one was moderately full, and then today it was amazing! It’s
brilliant. We’re delighted.

K: To go back to the Keywest roots for a minute, was music a big deal in
your families growing up?
A: Yeah, with everyone in the band. I’m from an entire family of singers,
my grandmother and her seven sisters. They were all kind of somewhat famous
on the cabaret scene back in the day so I’m the first one to sort of take
that up as the male in the family. With the rest of the boys it’s the same
thing. I’ve been to Performing Arts and Glover (Andrew Glover) was one of
the top classical piano players in the country so we kind of stole him! For
a long time his mother actually hated me, it’s a true story, for taking him
away from classical piano. He was the number one guy, he finished all his
piano grades at twelve and he had started at six years old. He’s a monster
of a musician! It’s absolutely staggering what he can do. But yeah, his mom
for a very long time, until she kind of came around to the idea, really
didn’t like me. She saw us on The Late Late Show and that won her over.

K: To go from practicing music as a child, to having a producer like Mark
Needham, who is responsible for The Killers’ ‘Mr. Brightside’, taking an
interest in working with the band. It must have been quite the change for all
of you!
A: It’s phenomenal, yeah. You know, Mark does that, he develops bands.
There’s a new band out at the moment called Neon Trees, and they have a
massive song on the radio called ‘Animal’ right now. He set them up the same
way he did with us. They went to him, he helped develop them, he helped
get them working with people. So we spent the last two years developing,
taking trips over, and recording this album. This particular album we’re
putting out here is only going to be put out in Ireland. It’s not going to
see the light of day anywhere else because it’s what we’ve been writing over
the course of the last two years. The album in the US is a bunch of
co-writes so that will be album two in Ireland. We’re excited about this
first one because we’ve written it for so long and we feel it’s brilliant.
It’s a real personal expression of what we had to do, so we’re putting it out
anyway.

K: And it was after meeting Mark that you released your first single,
‘Miss You Most’.
A: Yeah, we were a completely different band back then. We had R ‘n’ B
elements and because we were songwriters first, we didn’t know what we
wanted to do. We’re from very different backgrounds in music and we had this
one song ‘Miss You Most’. Mark said that he loved that and that he didn’t
really like the other avenue so his input started to develop us and re-route
our direction. I started listening to U2 and Snow Patrol and Kings of Leon
because I’ve always traditionally listened to soul and R’ n ‘B acts and
because myself and Glover would be the primary writers in the band, I had to
get out and make some different kind of music. So now the album has that,
it’s a mixture of all those bands!

K: And the busking, where does that come in?
A: It was a necessity initially. Sam (Marder) and James (Lock) had moved
over from England and at that time everything was pretty bad. We were trying
to just get by and pay the rent while still devoting enough time to keep the
momentum of the band going. They were trying to busk as a two piece in
Dublin and, as I said, we just happened to busk one day in Galway and we got
such a good response that we’ve been busking ever since. Gigging as well. We
don’t want to do pub gigs and become known as a cover band, so we’re trying
to limit that down. That’s why on the street we get to tell our side of the
story and explain we’re not a cover band, but we don’t mind playing them for
your entertainment.

K: So then what was it like to go from busking on the street to making an
album in an L.A. studio?
A: It was ridiculous, such a contrast. Mind-blowing. We were taking limos
and we had a house with a Jacuzzi and a pool. Mind you, all those kind of
extras weren’t paid by the busking, obviously, that was all to do with the
publishing companies and the labels we were dealing with. Busking paid for
the flights, living expenses and that kind of stuff for the month. It was
absolutely amazing. And the people we got to meet and work with too. One
particular time I found myself out at a party, and we were amongst all these
people and I was chatting away to this guy called Quentin or something like
that. Then, as I got drunker I was like, “Are you Taio Cruz?” And the man
was like, “Yeah”. Embarrassing. I think he’s great so I was like, “Oh.
Howya!” That happened more than once! The lads got to rehearse with all
sorts of bands in the rehearsal studios and you know, got to jam with them.
Some being the big rock stars of our days like Bon Jovi and New York Dolls.
It was just amazing.

K: On the subject of famous musicians, you recently met Paulo Nutini.
A: He’s a bit mad. He’s just wired from the moment you meet him to the
moment he leaves. He arrived singing, that’s no joke. In the back area he
was just mad, just ready for action! He’s great craic.

K: To focus on Keywest again, your upcoming album is called ‘The Message’
and is out in September (2011),
A: We’re going to open it with our first big headline act in Dublin.
K: Any spoilers you can give me?
A: There are twelve, possibly thirteen songs on it. We’re still debating
one. We’re definitely thinking quality, not quantity. As I’ve said, we’ve
written it for two years and have a ton of songs to choose from. There’s
sort of a religious theme going through it but it’s not about religion. It’s
more about our own personal experiences so there’s a song on there called
‘Absolute’ and one called ‘Road To Damnation’. So that runs through it. It’s
great, I’m delighted with how it’s turned out and as I said it’s the perfect
expression of the experiences we’ve had over the many years we’ve known each
other.  So please God other people will see it that way!

K: Great. Now, a few quick questions! First CD/Tape you ever bought.
A: This is going to be embarrassing. I think the first CD I bought was
Boys II Men and I think the album was called ‘Two’. I was a huge Boys II Men
fan and they released ‘End of the Road’ over the film Boomerang in 1990 and
I was just a nipper at that point. My auntie was a big fan and it was her
influence that put me on to soul music so that was my first. I think I was
about three or four or something like that?

K: Your favorite song on the radio right now?
A: I’m trying to think what’s on the radio right now. I’d probably say
‘Animal’ by Neon Trees. I like that song, or Adele’s new song is very good.
She’s a great story, to see her talent coming through despite all the
critics initially.

K: You were writing songs yourself at a very young age. Would you have
any advice for people who want to start writing their own songs?
A: You have to start young and you have to just keep on writing. It takes
such a long time to get good at it, it really does. You look back on your
old songs and go, “What were you thinking? How did that happen?” You just
have to keep writing song after song after song and don’t expect each song
to be your hit. Just write it for the sake of writing it and then hopefully
one day you will write something that will get you where you want to go.

K: Maltesers or Minstrels?
A: Minstrels. I like dark chocolate.

K: Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to all your Galway fans?
A: Well the single’s out soon and we have the support of i102, as far as
I know, so if they want to help us out they can inundate them with requests.
That would certainly move things along!