Catch up with singer-songwriter Keith Cullen, listen to his latest single "Say Something" and look for his album Dear Future Me to be released Spring 2017.
What first got you interested in music and in songwriting?
Keith: Since a very young age, my first reoccurring thought was that I should be a singer and I tried to ignore it for as long as I could, just because the whole industry - fame, singing on stage and vulnerable - terrified me. I ignored the call for quite a long time but then, after that, it just wouldn't go away so I decided it would have to be looked at and addressed and so, for me, it was kind of like my purpose; that's what I was supposed to do. I've always been really interested in music and in song and how it can resonate so well with a person and change a person's state - like when you listen to a great song you can be moved to tears or to joy or to smile, whatever the case may be - so I was really fascinated by how music still is the universal language.
Do you remember the first concert you went to?
My dad was such a big fan of music, so we were always at live shows everywhere. I remember him bringing me to see U2 when they were only literally performing in a car park and it was like, I think, a pound in or something and there was not even 20 people there, so that was one of my first memories. And it's funny, now I work with a gentleman who launched U2 in America, so I think that was, universally, a little bit epic, just because I only had that conversation with him recently about their first shows and the live aspect of when a new artist is only coming out and having to perform to 20 people and do your best with that and, now look at them, selling out world tours worldwide. That was my first memory.
Which musicians would you say you've been influenced by?
I think growing up our house was always very musical, so it was everybody. When we were driving through Vegas right now, my mum was very ecstatic because she saw Frank Sinatra Drive and we listened to him growing up. My dad was big into Sting & The Police, America, Bread, and Chicago. My mum loved Motown. Mum loved all the divas, so I grew up being able to hit some of the big diva notes, so I [laughs] I thought that was normal for a male voice to be able to sing those big notes, but I learned when I grew up it wasn't quite as normal as I thought it was. My influences are far and wide. I don't think there's been more an individual person that's influenced me, I kind of draw inspiration from everything around me: life, people, friends, the stuff I listen to, the stuff I watch, art, traveling, that type of thing.
Is there someone that you're hooked on now or planning to see while you're in Vegas?
The last time I was in Vegas, I did have the opportunity to see Celine Dion and she was absolutely incredible, like it was a 40-odd piece orchestra and she was incredible. I'm hooked right now, in terms of male voices, I'm hooked on OneRepublic's new album, just 'cause it's so up my street and him as a singer-songwriter and having a career of his own is incredible. From a female voice, I've been listening to Rebecca Ferguson; she is an English artist, she was on one of the talent shows and didn't make it, but she's actually come out with an incredible new album which I have had on repeat [laughs] called Superwoman. And obviously there's been a couple of really good albums just released: Emeli Sandé just released Long Live The Angels and Alicia Keys just released Here. I'm into new music and I listen to a lot of the new stuff that gets released just to stay current. There's albums that resonate with me and then albums I'm like, "oh, why did they waste their time?" [laughs].
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard your music?
I think, being Irish, we get a pass, because we're known as storytellers and lyricists and people who really draw from inspiration. I think my music can be described as honest pop and I like that term just because it signifies depth and being authentic as well. I wanted to write an album that was really reflective of who I am and the journey that I've had. I think honest pop best describes the sound, because I think people have a preconceived notion [about pop]. Like, even in Vegas right now, I'm literally sitting in the Mandarin Oriental and I'm looking out and I can see Britney's billboard; my music's - as much as it's pop - it's very different to a Britney pop or the Rihanna pop or the Lady Gaga pop. I really wanted to just write an album that I was immensely proud of but also that could resonate with people worldwide, to connect with them.
What were your inspirations behind your single "Say Something"?
"Say Something" specifically was one of the first songs that I did when I arrived to America. I think, given everything that's been happening in America and given current day politics and all of that stuff, in "Say Something", the real message was, 'say something that's real and give me something to feel' is one of the lyrics. I think in such a big, vast country where there's so much communication, from we're always on Facebook or Snapchat or Twitter or Instagram and I'm sitting here and we're bombarded with advertisements and shiny, flashy things everywhere, I think sometimes we forget to really connect on a human level with people and that was one of the first songs I did when I arrived to America. It was just reflective of a mood; I've been placed in the music industry, I've been traveling a lot, and I arrived to a big city - the first time I've ever been based in such a huge city, I'm from a small town - and I think, for me, I always take people at face value and look for the best in humanity. So, I wanted that song to resonate with people in terms of communication and your best words are your honest ones and your most authentic.
Could you tell us more about your upcoming album Dear Future Me and if "Say Something" is indicative of what we can expect to hear?
The single was part of a movie, so it was featured in High Strung. The album has been something I've worked on for 3 years and really, with Dear Future Me, the concept was really to make sure that my past, my present, and my future all aligned and the big premise of the album is, I've always been a fan of the future, regardless of the past or your current circumstances. I think people are going to be really surprised by the album, because it has everything from up-tempo to a big ballad like "The Walls" and then you have almost a dark electronic feel to some of the bigger songs like "D.O.A." and "Believe" is very anthemic. So, I think people will be surprised and I really want people to listen to that album as an actual concept album, because it takes you on a journey. I deliberated for such a long time [laughs] trying to get the track listing right to make sure that, when people actually do sit and listen or if they're driving their cars to Vegas and they stick the album on, it makes sense to people. Each song obviously has a life of its own and we'll do singles from it - which people can buy into or they can say I like it or I don't like it - but I think Dear Future Me, as an album, I believe is quite a powerful message. I'm just excited for people to hear it.
Is there a track off that album that you would call your favorite?
That's a good question. "The Walls" has a special place in my heart, just because it was the one song that, when we started to play it live for people and when record executives or publishing houses heard it, that was the one song that everyone spoke about. It's a ballad and it will come out next year and, yeah, I think "The Walls". It holds a lot of nostalgia with me and also I've been living with that for the longest time; it's one of the first songs we wrote and it's been re-worked and remixed hundreds of times, because everyone loved it and everybody wanted their say and we just always ended up going back to the original song and just giving them what it was. I'm excited for people to hear that and there will be a couple of versions, just because it's been the one that most people have been impressed by.
How would you sum up Dear Future Me in one sentence?
A powerful mix of emotions.
I just wanted to be as truthful and honest with the album, and with myself, as I physically could have been. It was almost like therapy sessions [laughs]. I didn't, like a lot of people in America, hire a therapist; I didn't need to after doing that album, because I just wanted to be really honest with the listener.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
Definitely hope and positivity and it really is, for me, a concept album. We have a blog called The Kove and it's really where we want people who are fans of the music or fans of me or whatever the case may be to engage there as a safe haven for people to communicate; it just started with blog writing and we're definitely looking for people to interact with us there on The Kove. For me, music does incredible things, so if I could do that for one other person, I think I've done my job properly.
Is there anything you want to add?
The link to the actual Kove, because that's where people can really get to know me and what I'm writing about on a weekly basis.