In addition to his accomplished songwriting and film score composition skills, Keegan DeWitt's résumé includes stints as an aspiring playwright and actor, and he's studied under the guidance of one of our greatest contemporary performers, Philip Seymour Hoffman. DeWitt has even recently started DJing under the alias Wild Cub and, perhaps more impressively, remixed his own song "Say La La" for a collection that includes notable locals Jensen Sportag and Uncle Skeleton, among others. But is DeWitt a Renaissance man or the more common "master of none"? Sure, there's a romance associated with spreading one's talents as thin as they can go, but doing so typically inhibits one's creative potential. Just ask Jared Leto.
DeWitt's turntable skills may be up for argument, but everything else — his alternately sweeping and danceable pop songs, his plaintive, critically acclaimed film scores and even his Balearic, self-reflecting remix — suggests he may indeed hold the enviable position of being adept at nearly everything he does. As a songwriter, DeWitt has shown in just a few years a vitality missing from much of what typically percolates out of Nashville. On his 2009 debut Islands, DeWitt's filmic sensibilities were married to a folksy, sober earnestness. Accompanied by chamber orchestration, lap steel, mandolin, organs and horns, DeWitt nodded to contemporaries like M. Ward and Sufjan Stevens, brandishing a competency and vision that singled him out from his less inventive peers. But it wasn't just the familiarity of his voice or the quality of his compositions that impressed his growing fan base and Paste, the latter of which dubbed DeWitt this year with its "Best of What's Next" tag. DeWitt also expressed a literary brio in his lyrics that didn't come off as contrived or overly highbrow. Instead, they painted a picture of a young man just as lovesick as his friends, but capable of articulating those fixations more thoughtfully than most.
That bookish thirst next took him to Paris, where for one month last winter DeWitt wrote the seven songs that comprise Nothing Shows, an EP thematically informed by the poetry of Philip Larkin. Exploring "the passion of youth, the cynicism of disappointment and the balance of idealism versus reality," DeWitt built the new collection around specific people and places in his life that reflected Larkin's overarching narratives — ultimately sounding a more solemn tone than on Islands. Impressively, the music, as on the tropical pop gem "Say La La" and the Whitest Boy Alive-esque "Hearts Beat Loud," took on a vibrant, propulsive character, but not at the expense of DeWitt's chamber pop M.O. The Madi Diaz-featuring "Michel Bizot," in particular, was clearly written by the same wistful crooner who penned Islands, though it nonetheless marked a new milestone in his development.
When Nothing Shows reached the public this summer, DeWitt hit the road with a full band, and the new material, featured on a new 7-inch record from Theory 8, seems to have grown in new ways as a result: "Two Hearts" recalls Phoenix's penchant for indelibly warm, taut guitar pop — "Hearts Beat Loud" had traces of this shift, but was slightly more subdued — while B-side "Reluctance" is a shimmering, reverb-drenched duet with Isaaca Byrd of The Bridges, who plays in his live band. A mutual rawness, or pluck, permeates both songs — as if DeWitt happened upon a confidence this year that matches his ambition. Indeed, it's not that these songs are necessarily more accomplished than anything on Islands or Nothing Shows. Rather, they herald the sound of a writer growing into his own, leveraging the rich framework of his past to inform the inspired promise of his future. Given his intriguing story, it'd be a shame if it were any other way.
I know people in their 70s who are day laborers and on their feet all…
in Burdon's defense, touring can be a bit rougher when you're 72. Charles "Wigg" Walker…
Touring is hard work. NOT!!
Thanks for the song clip. I signed up for Third Man Records' Vault Package for…
I remember Don I knew his parents and brothers