Q+A

Q+A with Thomas Keating

Brooding and enigmatic, Thomas Keating‘s new single, Cold Night, tells a story inspired by distance, a cold Melbourne winter, and dreary early mornings, Cold Night is an exciting addition to Thomas’s glowing discography.  The track is also accompanied by a stunning clip, directed by Kieran Gilfeather. We caught up with Thomas to learn a bit more about him

H2Z: Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat with Hear 2 Zen, what have you been up to today?
TK: Today I am in the studio, recording some vocals for my new album, due for release next year!

H2Z: Tell us about yourself, how long have you been performing/creating music for?  
TK: I have been making music now for about 15 years! I played in bands for many years and in 2016 I started this solo project. I am currently living in Sydney where I have my studio that I work out of. 

H2Z: Who are your greatest inspirations?  Why?
TK: My greatest inspirations are songwriters and performers like – Nick Cave, Nina Simone, Elliot Smith and Conor Oberst. These artists are all such prolific writers and performers. There catalogues of work and there approach to making music is definitely something that I aspire to. 

H2Z: How do you create music?  Are you lyrics/story driven, or does the music/melody come first?  Explain your process. 
TK: It’s often lyrics first for me but they may only be a few lines you know? My approach to music is that I come up with a story and there is an emotion/feeling attached to that story. From there I see the music like the score in a film. The melody/key/arrangements/harmony are there to enhance and express the emotions and meaning behind the story. 

H2Z: What has been your greatest challenge so far in performing/creating music?
TK: The biggest challenge for me is not to get bogged down in focusing on where I’m going. I am far more productive as an artist when I just focus on what’s in front of me at the time instead of focusing on where I would like to be. 

H2Z: Tell us about your new release, how did it come about?
TK: I wrote Cold Night a couple of years ago when I was living in Melbourne. I had just moved there and it was the middle of winter, I could not believe how cold it was compared to Sydney! I was feeling really lonely and sorry for myself in a cold city with very few friends. 

H2Z: What advice do you have to artists who are just starting out?
TK: Take your time, learn as much as you can and always stay open minded. 

H2Z: Tell us your favourite Zen practice.
TK: My favourite  practice and the thing that tends to calm me the most is running. Though I have really let the practice go lately I am building myself back up again now as it helps my mental health so much. 

MORE ABOUT THOMAS KEATING

Evocative of Elliot Smith, Phoebe Bridgers and Angie McMahon, Cold Night is a broody rambler, made for grey mornings and stomping through puddles in the rain.  Thomas’s gentle voice wraps around a slow, steady beat as delicate strings float around the arrangement, like the silver lining on a cloud.  The track was mixed by Thomas himself, produced by Gordon Burke and mastered by Nick Franklin, and reflects a deep sense of yearning, of wanting, as Thomas explains, “A few years ago, I moved to Melbourne for the year.  I moved in the middle of winter, I was living in Fitzroy and I was feeling pretty down and lonely since I hardly knew anyone in this new city,  and I could not believe how cold it was!  I was working at this café at the time and I would start at 6 in the morning and walk to work.  I came up with lyric for the chorus as I was walking to work one morning.”

Directed by Kieran Gilfeather, the video for Cold Night is dark and intimate, as Thomas is silhouetted both seated at the piano and beside another figure in a car, driving the streets in the glowing night.  It’s mysterious, almost incomplete, and keeps the viewer on their toes as the story progresses.  Wordless frustrations peak between the couple in the car, until the only thing left in sight is the rear window.  “Kieran and I came up with the concept together. I wanted to do something with the video clip that expressed the yearning and lonely feeling I was experiencing when I wrote the song,” says Thomas. “I wanted to use the video to express the difficulties that can be experienced in a relationship, how love can be beautiful but also complicated at the same time”.  Cold Night is a highlight for Thomas in what has been a challenging year, as he explains, “It’s been a really interesting time.  It has pretty much taken touring and performing off the table for me.  I moved into a new studio though, with a bunch of other musicians, so I have actually really enjoyed the time writing and collaborating.”

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