A profile of rising singer songwriter Keigh
By Craig Allan, Contributor
It can be tough being a creative person in Vancouver. With venues shutting down in every field from music, to comedy and arts, it can be hard to establish oneself as a creative person in the Lower Mainland. Even tougher when having to deal with the sky high cost of living. Despite all these factors, there are people out there defying the odds and succeeding in their creative dreams in the expensive big city. One of those people is Keigh, who after years of struggle and addiction has beaten their demons and will be releasing their debut album, In Bed With The Enemy (IBWE) on September 14.
Keigh, who is non-binary, was always fascinated by music. They grew up playing piano on their grandmother’s 100-year-old Stevenson piano, starting in classical music and later moving on to train in jazz and pop styles. Eventually, their work was noticed and they were cast on a Canadian reality competition show called Rock Camp in 2005, when they were just 14 years old. “Rock Camp was such an incredible experience. They picked 18 kids from across the country and flew us to Halifax and formed us into four bands […] Our band won and we recorded the single with Electric and Musical Industries (EMI), which was my first experience in a professional studio.” The show was often pre-empted by hockey though and the single failed to break into the mainstream.
As Keigh entered their 20s, their musical ambitions began to wane. With their musical dreams left behind Keigh entered a period of struggle. They spent years trying to keep their head above water, eventually falling into alcoholism and drug addiction. Keigh’s salvation would come in an unlikely form, by way of an alter ego named Clementine, and a job in the sex trade. “My career in sex work blossomed and gave me the financial stability and self-confidence I needed to come back to music in a real and committed way. There’s less pressure now to ‘make it’ as a musician because I already have a successful career and can support myself without worrying about losing my joy for music by tying it with financial stress.” Their job in sex work also gave them the experience of being a business manager, a skill that any self-managed musician needs to succeed. A life of music, struggles, and overcoming adversity has manifested into their first independently produced debut album IBWE.
“Some of these songs are 15 years old. They span what I like to call the ‘before time’ which was the time before I quit drinking. I started the studio process on this album when I was still in that time, and honestly don’t think I would have ever been able to finish it if I hadn’t gone sober.”
Keigh describes their musical style as “chamber pop” with their sound being a merging influence between their classical music upbringing, and Canadian indie style. “I focus on the instruments and harmonies a lot, and my music has a fuller sound.” This can be heard on their song “The Close”. The song contains imagery of passing out intoxicated in the snow, and a pursuit to a finish line that can only be achieved by leaving some undesired traits behind. Throughout, one can hear a plethora of instrumental music that form Keigh’s unique style.
Keigh’s album also contains a contribution from Canadian rock star Torquil Campbell of the band Stars. “To have Torquil come in and believe in me enough to first of all encourage me to make the album, but then also to sing along to me, is life-changing. I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I listen to it.”
IBWE is the culmination of a lifetime of success, struggles and perseverance for Keigh, and in a city like Vancouver, where living, thriving and success can seem like impossible to achieve, Keigh is an example of succeeding in the pursuit of life and happiness. Keigh’s journey to this point may not be glamourous to some, but it is that journey and those experiences that made their album what it is. It provides the flavour that drives their album to be uniquely and unabashedly Keigh. Keigh will be celebrating their album by performing it at Blue Light Studio on September 14 as part of their “Blue Light Sessions” series. Tickets can be bought at Eventbrite.