Carmen Keigans remembers seeing an unfamiliar number flash on her phone one day while riding a bus with her band, I Nine. If ever a phone call was fateful, it was that one: Cameron Crowe was calling,Carmen Keigans remembers seeing an unfamiliar number flash on her phone one day while riding a bus with her band, I Nine. If ever a phone call was fateful, it was that one: Cameron Crowe was calling, looking for a contribution to the "Elizabethtown" soundtrack.
"It had to be a little bit of fate and a little bit of luck," says vocalist Keigans. Her demos with I Nine had been on the iPod of Don van Cleave, president of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, which was where Crowe caught a listen.
The director and his wife, Nancy Wilson of the band Heart, penned a song, "Same in Any Language," which I Nine recorded for the 2005 soundtrack.
That opened doors, but so did steady work. The rock quartet had left its hometown of Orangeburg, S.C., to do open mic nights in Columbia, S.C., and then Atlanta, where it scored frequent gigs at Eddie's Attic and Smith's Olde Bar. The group recorded a live EP, burned copies and circulated it before getting signed to J Records. The Sony BMG label is putting out the group's studio debut, "Heavy Weighs the King," early next year, led by the single "Seven Days of Lonely" which bowed at No. 32 on the Adult Top 40 chart last week.
The single was produced by rock act Hinder and Daughtry producer Brian Howes, and in addition to radio has gotten on MTV's "The Hills." Keigans, who writes lyrics to music by the other group members, says the single has drawn comparisons to Avril Lavigne.
"I'm cool with having an army of young ladies out there in the audience. I think this song has a lot of the catchy potential that the album tracks don't have," she says.
What gives most of I Nine's rock a bittersweet voice, besides Keigans' rueful lyrics, is the use of cello played by Bryan Gibson.
"I wish we played cello in every song. We didn't have a lot of background singers in the band, so the cello becomes that second voice," says Keigans.
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback produced two other I Nine songs, "Black Hole" and "If This Room Could Move." Touring is a big part of spreading the word in the runup to the album's release. A monthlong tour beginning Oct. 18 will take the group to such venues as Chicago's House of Blues and New York's Webster Hall.
"One of my biggest concerns is that we get to show the diversity of the band," says Keigans. "I want the mass audience to know how crazy and how deep this gets."