Ken Fox Interview
SBS: Ken! My man! Can you believe it’s nearly been five years since we did our first interview? The anniversary of that first encounter is comin’ up on November 10th this year. I suppose the obvious question is how come I keep getting older and everyone else seems to be aging in reverse? I’ve seen your brand-new video “Go It Alone” from your upcoming EP and you’re lookin’ mighty healthy & well my friend – it’s good to see. And great to hear ya back in action too, of course! In preppin’ this interview and doin’ my usual research here & there throughout the internet…Ken…dude – you’ve kept incredibly busy over these past five years eh? You’ve got your album Echoes from 2017…and it looks like you went on a creative rampage in 2018 with a whole bunch of singles released in that following year. I could go on & on and continue to mine the internet for all this info…but that seems like it would be a bit of a strange route to go considering you’re right there to answer any questions we might have for ya…so let’s start at the beginning of the middle my friend – catch us up a bit! How has the career of Ken Fox been rollin’ along since we last talked…what’s changed for you as an artist & for your music over the years? Any memorable highlights that we’ve missed out on? Pull up a chair Ken…tell us a story or two.
Ken: Jer! Great to hear from you my friend! Thank you for your kind words and I hope you are doing well! I can’t believe it’s been 5 years already. Where to start.. I experienced a lot of life in the time since our last interview. I put Echoes out in 2017 and really felt that was my best work at the time. And initially, I was intending on playing that record everywhere I could. I couldn’t get time away from my 9-5’s at that time, and as anyone knows, that will put a damper on touring or even playing one-offs. Battling depression put me in a weird space as well. I was going to quit making music altogether. But then during the lock down here in the U.S I discovered some truths about my life. I realized how much I loved music. I realized how much time I bartered for the apartment, the car, the stuff that you are told you need. And time I spent on those who never believed in me. I literally woke up one day and made changes and planned out my journey. The one I’m on now. I heard a quote from a mixing engineer that went “ if you want to be something, just be it. Don’t explain it and don’t ask for permission”. That hit me different. I went right to work. I wrote all of my new EP in two months and I love it.
SBS: In the middle of this month, you dropped a video onto your social media sites to announce the upcoming EP coming out officially on October 30th this year. Stoked to hear it’s arriving just around the corner Ken – you’ve got a quality record there my brother. That being said…you’ve made some pretty big promises and bold statements you’re gonna have to live up to ain’t ya? Country, Folk, and Soul – I know from personal experience listening to ya that you’ve got that part locked-down tight and I know after listening that the people out there are gonna love what you’ve come up with this time around. Later in that same video though, you mention these being some of the best songs you’ve written to-date – and that’s saying quite a lot my friend, you’ve already put out quite a few tunes into this world. So tell us what you can about the new EP coming out…and from your perspective Ken, what was it that stood out to you about this set-list of five tunes that have you feeling like you got your best onto this record?
Ken: Thank you man, and thank you for watching & listening. The elements of country, Americana whatever they want to call it. have been there since my first songs I ever wrote and recorded. (I am rereleasing my first two EP’s 2007-2009 very soon) I feel like the more honest I am, the better the song. I wrote this EP without fear and it turned out the way I wanted it to. The song “I do” was the first thing I wrote for it and we were listening to it on repeat for the whole damn day. I knew I had something good there. “Go it alone” was next. Although they are two completely different sounding songs, they still fit the narrative of the record and were born out of the roots of that particular music. To the best of my ability.
SBS: Personally I like the boldness of declaring up front that these are some of the best songs of your career to-date. I’ve said a million times on these pages of ours that any artist or band out there should be excited as it gets about their new material and feel like it’s reached the maximum potential it all could have in the results. I’m equally fine with people telling me it’s their best record over and over and over and over again every time they make a new one…because I truly believe that you SHOULD feel that way when it comes to putting out a new album full of new tunes. It’s more than fine if hindsight later on proves the facts to be otherwise…maybe a record from a couple years back actually IS better than the current one kind of thing…you can only tell for real long after a whole body of work is out there. At the time though, when it’s hot off the press and ready to be put out into the world, in my heart of hearts, I can only hope that most artists & bands feel like you do Ken…that this is some of, if not THE best they’ve got for us. And then I can secretly hope they use that motivation and inspiration to outdo their own selves later on…because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? It’s been said many times that ‘an artist’s current work should be their best work’ – and while I don’t always know that this ends up being true, I do fully believe that when it’s time to put out a brand-new record, you really should feel this way about it all. How do you see it Ken? Should an artist’s current work always be their best? Is it important to focus on improving somehow from the last time out in the studio, or building on the catalog with a new dimension of sound, or challenge yourself as an artist in some other way shape or form when heading into a new recording session? What made these tunes as great as they came out for you my friend – is it as simple as time + more experience = better quality, or is there more the whole equation than that?
Ken: I like that perspective. I would agree completely that your work each time should be an attempt at making a better statement than your last. I feel that these are some of my best songs to date because I keep getting closer to the truth. I’ve always admired conviction. The same kind that Ray Charles, George Jones, Buck Owens, Sam Cooke all those guys have. And believe me there is a long list that I love. Some of the newer folks like Charley Crockett, Sierra Ferrell. I think they have it too. Recording is almost as important as singing and playing to me. I was able to use some nice acoustic guitars and nice microphones for this EP. The Slate digital ML-1 is wonderful. I’ve been recording myself and mixing for my whole career. Each time I produce something I want to get closer to the sound in my head. I love the recordings by guys like T bone Burnett, Mark Neill, Rick Rubin. I am amazed at what these guys do and the sounds they get. I want to work with someone like that.
SBS: Lots of questions about your new video “Go It Alone” there my brother. First of all…what made this the choice as the lead-single from the new EP – why choose this one over the rest, and were there any other tunes in the lineup you considered for the honor of being put out there as the gateway in? Video-wise…call me crazy…but the lack of people around ya here seems like both a perfect fit for the sentiment of the heart of the meaning in “Go It Alone,” and also seems like…it uh…hmm – there’s not exactly a whole lot of people out there on the street eh Ken? I’m assuming this was filmed during the ol’ pandemic? Those are some empty streets bud! Seems like a city with a ton of character though. What can you tell us about the new video & single?
Ken: For “Go It Alone” we were in Nashville TN. And I knew I wanted to film a video there. What I didn’t anticipate was the difficulty of filming and playing in public streets. So that took a lot of tactical planning. I don’t know how many people have filmed in Printers Alley in Nashville, but I bet you the ones that did can tell you it’s not easy. We filmed in the early hours on a week day so we would beat the crowd. We were very happy with the way it turned out. “Go It Alone” was my choice for the first video because the energy of the song. I actually have another video that will be out in November that we filmed first. But I wanted to set the tone with “Go It Alone.” I’m still working on the videos side of things. I kind of go off of the cuff with visual stuff.
SBS: Probably best that I do ask some kind of Covid question of some kind, now that I’ve brought it up. How has the pandemic affected the local music-scene where you live, and how has it affected your own music personally? I’m assuming it must have thrown in an obstacle or two in the way of getting your new self-titled EP out there into the world this year…what challenges did it create that you had to overcome and how did ya do it? As far as putting it all back together goes…are you seeing any kind of path forward for the music-scene overall, or are empty bars and venues the new normal for a while? Music & art always find a way to thrive and always has throughout history…it’s just as important in serving as documentation of what the time was like as it is something to lean on to get us through the toughest parts of life…ultimately, there would have to be some kind of path forward, wouldn’t there be?
Ken: Long before the Covid and shutdown the music scene where I live in Pennsylvania was halted or at least it felt like it. I love PA and I have lived there for the last 7 years. I moved there because of the music that was happening compared to New York, where there wasn’t anything happening at the time. I just wish that art would remain a focus for such a creative town. As I said before, I wasn’t planning on making music before Covid hit. It wasn’t until after, in isolation that I felt like I needed to make a statement. It was like time was stolen from me for years because of work. And I had that awakening. I think that we are still too close to the events of this year to say where this will land in history, but it will change things as far as I can see, forever. I am hoping for things to become safe and open back up so I can travel and find the people that want to hear this music. My plan for now is to continue recording and preparing for shows.
SBS: How about from a fan’s perspective Ken? I know you listen to a ton of great music yourself – and you have the good fortune of being able to see things from both sides of the stage, know what I mean? I’m certain that you’d miss playing live like any artist would during a time of isolation & lockdown like we’ve been in – but do you think in the rebound from the Covid-era, that this could lead to the people out there in the audience maybe appreciating the music-scene a bit more than they did before it was gone? They say absence makes the heart grow fonder…and I suspect that’s true. I know the first chance I can get to go to a show, assuming it’s safe and it makes sense, I’m back to being in the front row where I belong, cheering at the top of my lungs, ready to let any artist or band in front of me just how much I appreciate what they bring to the entire human experience brother-man! You feelin’ that or what? I’m just saying…I think we all pretty much take things for granted naturally, not out of any kind of malice, it’s just the way most lives are led really…and I doubt there’s a single one of us on earth that feels like we didn’t take something for granted during such crazy times like we’re in now. From my perspective, in general, the music-scene at-large has always been taken for granted…and I’d be willing to bet there are a lot of people out there really missing their concert & festival days right now. I suppose what I’m asking ya Ken, is…well…are you missing shows as a fan as well? No. Strike that, dumb question – of course you are. How about this…is it at least possible, somehow, some way…that the comeback could be greater than the setback? Like maybe this leads to a deeper appreciation for bands, artists, & music overall?
Ken: hmm…I can only hope that people will appreciate live music and music in general again. This should be a reminder that music is art and art is special. It’s been around since our beginnings. As far as a scene is concerned. I never subscribed to a particular scene. I was the guy coming out in plaid shirts and jeans with a acoustic guitar playing my best story telling songs I could come up with. I played shows with Metal bands, punk bands and At The Drive-in/Mars Volta ripoffs. I was never into that stuff. Those bands don’t exist anymore. The guys are working jobs and armchair quarter backing telling their associates about their 1 ep they recorded in ‘09.
SBS: The versatility in the new record makes it a fantastic experience to listen to brother, that I can tell ya. Blues, Soul, Rock, Pop, Country, Folk, R&B…I mean, short of Electro & Metal, you’ve pretty much got it all in there somewhere in the five tunes on your new self-titled EP – which in itself is impressive. Did you set out to go that multidirectional route, or was this the natural result of what the songs simply sounded like once everything was said & done? With such diversity between the tunes, what would you say bonds the set cohesively – what makes these songs belong together in a set in your opinion Ken?
Ken: Thank you, I had a pretty straight forward direction with this EP, the sound of my acoustic guitar with upright bass and some light drums and a pedal steel from time to time is what I like to do. Country at its roots is American music. It’s storytelling in distinct voices and conviction. R&B and soul, beautiful sounds and conviction. Folk music changed the dictionary in the U.S and opened up conversations that we hadn’t had & still need more of.
SBS: Incredible job on the microphone this time as well my friend…I gotta give ya kudos for that and a massively socially-distanced high-five from all the way over here in Canada, you sound spectacular and sing with so much soul dude! I’m probably partial to “I Do” myself for that very reason…well – YOU being the reason Ken. You put in a remarkable performance there that practically stops time around us as we listen my friend…”I Do” is a magical moment on your new EP without question & a huge highlight, as subtle as it is. What can you tell us about the inspiration behind this beautiful tune you got here bro?
Ken: I appreciate that a lot man. “I do” was a song that I needed to write for a long time. Sing it like you mean it! Right? I wish I could go into the story of it but I think it’s better to let the folks decide what that tune means to them. I can tell you this much. That’s my favorite song I’ve written.
SBS: My friend…thank-you so much for comin’ on back to us here at SBS and taking another timeout to catch us up on everything between then & now…and as always, best wishes for the future to come Ken. Looking forward to hearing how that new record of yours gets received out there in the world, and continuing to watch your success from afar while listening to your latest tunes my brother. You’ve got that new EP sparkling and sounding fantastic with all its warm glowing tones and inviting melodies – and for what it’s worth Ken, it’s clear to me way over here in Canada that you’ve definitely dialed right into the style of music you’re making more than ever these days…you keep on that path you’re on my friend. We’re still doin’ the ol’ open-floor around these parts of the ol’ interview…you’ve been here before, it’s like you’re back home where you belong brother – so feel free to tell us a final tale or leave us with some final thoughts…whatever you’d like to say to the people out there Ken, the floor is yours sir. Always a pleasure to talk with ya my brother – thank-you again, keep in touch, & all the best to you Ken!
Ken: I appreciate you guys talking to me and I hope people take a quick 14 minutes to check out the EP. I think they’ll really dig it. I have my new website up at www.kenfoxmusic.com and I hope to see yall soon! Jer you guys at SBS take care and I’ll see you next time.
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