My favorite part of doing this blog with Jess is getting to interview country music singers. It makes me feel like I’m a bigger part of the country music industry. Chatting it up with people who were previously inaccessible is kind of a dream come true.
This particular interview took place on a Saturday afternoon. Jess and I were sitting in the back seat of her sister and brother-in-law's car when we got the call from Raleigh Keegan. Rather than being disappointed that we were leaving our beach vacation, we were happy and listening to Raleigh’s songs anticipating the interview. After all, I don't often get the opportunity to interview an established country singer who has millions of streams, and tens of thousands of social media followers.
While talking with Raleigh, we asked him to tell us a little bit about his family, and how life was growing up. He explained that he was born in prison and adopted by awesome parents just a few days later. When talking about his parents, Raleigh said, “they’re just awesome people, man. They would sacrifice the world for us, you know, and they have.”
Growing up, Raleigh and his brother were involved in everything from Boy Scouts to sports.
When it comes to the musical side of his life, Raleigh said that his parents realized he was musically inclined when he was about five years old. “My kindergarten teacher told them that I would go over to his piano and start playing things a kindergartner shouldn’t know how to play. They kind of took that as a hint, and they found this free piano and drove 7 hours to go get it, and that's kind of how music started for me.”
In doing my research and listening to Raleigh’s music, it was obvious he has strong faith in God. Raleigh became a believer when he was 21, which was life changing for him. After college, he was a little aimless, raising money to serve on campus outreach staff. It was a difficult time, and after a bit of a breakdown, Raleigh decided to change direction. He became a personal trainer. It was around that same time that his friend (now wife) Shelby introduced him to Zac Brown Band. Raleigh told us, “I always played music, and I was in jazz band. But she introduced me to one of Zac Brown Band’s early records, and I was smitten. I listened to it for a year straight, and I was like ‘I want to make music that makes people feel the way this makes me feel’.”
Raleigh started writing songs on his lunch breaks while he was a personal trainer. Soon after he started writing, he recorded six songs and threw them out there for people to hear. Raleigh claimed they weren't good, but they built him an online fanbase. He quit his job and did what he described as going all in: “So I was hustling man. I am very much an ‘all or nothing’ person. So after being on the road for a little bit, I caught the bug even more, and my wife and I sold our house in Lexington, KY to pay for my first record in Nashville and to move.”
Raleigh could tell I was pretty stunned on the other end of the phone and said, “I’m not sure if my friend said ‘Should I sell my house?’, I don’t know if I would tell my friend the same thing, but it worked out ya know.”
After hearing this story, I quickly thought about his wife and how supportive she must be of her husband. I said to Raleigh, “it sounds like you found yourself a real ride or die.” Raleigh replied, “Oh my gosh, yeah dude. I mean she’s gone through a lot with this whole thing. For the first year or two I was doing this.. I did over 150 shows a year. So I was gone a lot, man. And then the pandemic hit, and we kind of reset and it was really nice in some ways. We just got to reconnect and take a break from the grind, and that was nice. But yeah, you’re right. I don’t think about that enough; she’s really carried a lot of the weight you know.”
After getting an introduction to Raleigh’s early life, we went through a quick back and forth of some questions. I asked Raleigh who would be the first few artists on his country playlist. After a few seconds, he replied: “Ooh that’s hard.. Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Brothers Osborne.”
Before the interview, my sister in law commented that Raleigh Keegan had some Brothers Osborne twang to him, while still sounding super unique. I told Raleigh this, mentioning how his music sounds so blues and jazzy, while still being genuine country. Raleigh responded, “It’s country soul almost. It’s like a different version of Chris Stapleton. Like you know, I'm not raspy. And I appreciate the TJ Osborne reference because I think he’s one of my favorite country voices because of what you kind of just described. There's a little soul in there.. It's definitely country, but you can tell like, ‘I bet that dude grew up listening to a lot of different things.’ And thank you also for saying that I don’t sound like anybody else. I don’t know if you’ve ever taken an enneagram test.. I’m a number 4- it’s called The Individualist- so when you say I don’t sound like anyone else, that’s like my butter. You know what I’m saying? That’s what gets me going, trying to do something unique.”
I asked Raleigh if there was one show or venue that really stuck out to him, one that he absolutely loved, or thought “this is so cool, this is why I’m doing this”. Raleigh told us about going on tour while also playing some solo shows: “Well, there was a couple times that I opened for Brothers Osborne and then Eric Church was after them. And that was kind of funny, man. I played that show in front of thousands of people and then the next day I played for 50 people at this bar. I was like, ‘Man I'm in a weird spot in my career where last night everyone thought I was famous, and tonight no one cares.” He laughed while telling us about the experience of two completely different shows back to back.
We also threw out some This or That questions for fun:
Dog guy or cat guy: “Dog. We have a dog named Huckleberry. He’s a hound mix. He’s great.”
Favorite sport: “To play, basketball. Even though I was better at football; I played football in college. I love bowling. I’m 30, so bowling is a nice sport where I don’t tear my ACL.”
Outdoor hobby: “I like hiking a lot. I used to fish a lot as a kid.. I’ve been watching this show called Alone. That show is insane. It’s very inspiring. I’m an Eagle Scout, but I would bet that I am the worst Eagle Scout in America.. There’s no Eagle Scout that knows less than me. I would love to learn how to hunt because of the Alone show. Man, it’s so inspiring; those dudes and girls that can shoot a bow and arrow and kill their own food.”
Beach or mountains: “I would say my heart is in the mountains, but my wife loves the beach, so you know, we go to the beach. But when it comes to songwriting, it’s mountains all day. That’s the sauce.”
When talking about songwriting, I asked him a little about his process for making a song. He has gone through the songwriting process many ways: “It happens different every time. Like for me, it often is me sitting over the piano or guitar. And I honestly am just playing stuff. And most of the time, it is an accident. It’s like, ‘that caught my ear’ and I'll sing a melody over it with no words; I'll make dummy lyrics over it. And I'll make the lyric fit the song, so it’s really an interesting thing.. On music row, we typically start with a lyric idea like a song title or a lyrical hook. But I started researching how guys like James Taylor, the Eagles, the Beatles, and Tom Petty and how those guys would write. And it was very different. They would start with the music and the melody, and then do the lyric later. So I started to try to do that over the pandemic. And I was like, ‘Man I’m getting some gold here.’ Sometimes I’ll write a poem, cause i’m a 6 foot 4 sensitive ex football player. And I'll write a poem and put music to it later. But most of the time, it's music first.”
To wrap up our time together, we asked Raleigh about what the future holds for him. He told us, “I have my first full length album coming out in October. Drink For That, Long Line of Lovers, all the ones I've released this year are kind of singles from that. And I'm really excited about that because I think people will really know me after that. My adoption story is going to be in one of the songs, a story about my birth father; Love it or hate it, they’re going to know me. So that’s exciting to me. I appreciate your time. And man, thanks for what you do! It’s pretty neat that you just love music and love country music.”
We loved getting to chat with Raleigh, and we hope you will check out his music! You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @raleighkeegan
Jack & Jess