Contemporary blues icon Keb’ Mo’ is going old-school. On Tuesday (Nov. 11), the performer released BLUESAmericana, his latest musical project, on vinyl. Originally released on disc and in digital form earlier this year, he tells Billboard that he is enjoying listening to his music the old-fashioned way.
“We’ve been listening to the record on vinyl and are loving getting to check it out,” he says. “It sounds so cool.”
The performer admits there is just something special about the vinyl experience. “They have never been able to improve on that sound. What’s interesting is putting something digital on vinyl, because we cut it digitally. It was recorded in a modern way, but when you go back and put it on vinyl, and even then you still get that warm feeling.”
The mood for the disc is set from the opening track “The Worst Is Yet to Come,” which he insists is not nearly as ominous as the title makes it sound. “It’s the understory of a day not going right. But, as it works out, those doors that are closing actually open up new doors.”
BLUESAmericana is Keb’ Mo’s first release in three years. Some artists might not want to take such a long period between records, but he doesn’t try to rush the artistic process. “It’s hard to believe it was three years. I kind of make a record when I’m ready. I don’t really look at the clock.’ Even when I’m not making a record, I am,” he admits. ‘I’m living my life, and I feel then that I have something to say. As time goes by, you keep pulling back the layers on yourself, and you dig deeper into who you are. When you get older, life gets really real. I just turned 63, and I like getting older. I don’t want to be 23 again,” he admits.
In a career that has endured for three decades, the singer says that he never gets tired of hearing his fans’ thoughts on his music and how it has affected them. “When someone tells me about a song and how it had an impact on their lives, I think I’m doing my job. It feels like, at least for that moment, you’ve got a little bit of job security. I’ve never used that word in an interview before, and probably never will again, but that’s the best I can describe it as.”
Despite all of the success and critical acclaim, even Keb’ Mo’ still worries about his place in the business. “When I’m not on the road, I’ll sit at home and wonder if anyone will come out to my next show. I wonder if anyone cares. I never take it for granted. I never think of it like ‘Oh, I’ve got this.’ I still feel like I’ve got to work for it. I feel like I’ve gotta deliver.”
A Nashville resident, he’s also made a few appearances on the stage of the Grand Ole Opryas of late, playing on last month’s 89th Birthday Celebration. He loves the vibe he gets when he plays there. “It’s a great American tradition in music. In my youth, I always looked at it like, ‘Oh, that’s country. That’s a white thing.’ But that was how the times were. Now, as things have changed, I see it as a strong American tradition that you get to be a part of. When you play it, you’ve been invited to something really special. I wish blues had something ongoing like that, where you can educate and inform people and bring the music forward,” he says.
He was introduced to the Opryby Vince Gill. “When you’re around Vince Gill, you have to raise your game. He’s just extraordinary. He is the epitome of a great person first, and then a musician. His musicianship really highlights his humanity. I don’t think it gets any better. He’s up there with Ray Charles and all the greats.”
As a bonus for fans who purchase the vinyl edition, his Christmas EP Spirit of the Holidays is also included. One of the tracks on the album that is definitely first-person is “Shopping on Christmas Eve.” In fact, that’s a pretty good day to see the singer at the store. “That’s the procrastinator’s anthem,” he says. “Wait until the last minute until there’s no more time left and you have to take care of business on Christmas Eve at the store because there is no more time. You have to make quick decisions. That’s what the song is all about. Some like to shop early in the summertime when Santa ain’t around or on Black Friday, but I like to do my shopping on Christmas Eve at the dollar store,” he notes.