In This World (Or the Next): an interview with Keith Wallen
Now that I finished focusing on RED, allow me to turn my sights onto Keith Wallen; guitarist extraordinaire currently from Breaking Benjamin, andpreviously from multiple bands including Adelitas Way. I’ve seen him with Breaking Ben a handful of times, but never solo.
I was very fortunate to catch up with him in a last-minute interview and ask him questions about his debut album This World or the Next and touring. He surprised me by answering a question I jokingly asked about politics after his comment on the subject matter. “I will say that I want to be a part of the escape from all things negative, all things politics, all things division, all things COVID. All of it. I want to make music to help people escape from all those things.”
“I want a positive message,” he continued. “There’s so much negativity in the world, so many online trolls and negativity that just… all they do is bring people down. I want to be part of the entity and part of the presence that lifts people up. That’s what I feel like my mission is to do that.”
Hearing him perform is a truly phenomenal experience, especially his strong vocal range. People laughed at his jokes, teasingly jeered him on as he tuned his guitar. But the mood he set, it settled yet added to the excitement of the crowd.
“I’m so thankful that people are still coming out, despite the health concerns, you know, obviously, we want everyone to be safe,” said Keith. “But it’s nice that people are still coming out and still wanting to see live music. I’m hoping things will get closer to normal soon.”
Keith really warmed the crowd up, starting with “All Eyes on You,” and “Blue” from his album.
“Some of the songs I had for a few years. I’m always writing. I’ve had a few songs laying around. A few of the songs were newer and just wrote pretty much when we were recording. ‘Dream Away,’ that was the last one that me and my producer, Joe Rickard, wrote,” he explained.
At the mention of the mega-talented drummer/producer/engineer, Keith enthusiastically continued to share the collaborative effort placed in the making of This World or the Next. “[Joe] came to Tennessee and we just hung out and drank whiskey and recorded. It was fun. We recorded the guitars and the vocals in two weeks then we went to Nashville. He recorded drums for a day… maybe a day or two. I had a tour starting right after that and then I got Aaron from Breaking Benjamin, our bass player, to play bass. So, he played bass on all the songs. It was cool.”
While on stage, Keith announced he lost his setlist sometime during the show. Yet he didn’t let that stop him from rocking the hell out of the Canal Club as he covered The Roxette’s “The Look,” and one of my favorite songs by him, “It Finds Us All.”
When asked about a difficult song on his album, Keith referred to the song his answer. “I can tell you the most difficult one to sing and that was ‘It Finds Us All.’ It was really hard; it was really hard to sing,” he laughed. “I’m super proud of it.”
“I have people asking me, ‘why do you do the solo stuff when you’re playing in Breaking Benjamin?’ said Keith. “I just tell them, ‘I don’t want to get to the age where I’m so old I can’t play guitar or sing anymore, I don’t want to regret and look back and be like, man I wish I had played more music and wrote more music, done more shows.’” So that’s it, that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to live. Live while I’m living.”
Keith showed his passion tenfold as he continued his set with “Crows,” an apocalyptic-inspired song. “I’m a huge sci-fi fan. I love Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, all those movies. All those movies that just scramble your mind in watching [them],” explained Keith when I asked him about the influences behind his album. “I liked that whole idea of going through firsthand experiences with making more of an overall dystopian, sci-fi feel to it. That’s pretty much it. Just write about what I’m feeling.”
He ended his set with “Dream Away,” a strong finishing note to his exceptional performance.
I can continue to rave and crow (get it?) about how awesome Keith’s show is. But I don’t think I have the adequate words to express it. I will just say this; if Keith ever happens to play a show in your area, especially on this tour, sprint and buy a ticket. He puts on a show you don’t want to miss, and one I would love to see again plugged in.