Guitar master Phil Keaggy brings joy and a lot of musical breadth to Stargazers show
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Stargazers Theatre and Event Center, 10 S. Parkside Dr.
Tickets: $20-$25; 446-2200, stargazerstheatre.com
Guitarist and vocalist Phil Keaggy is a musical Swiss army knife. You name the genre of music and chances are Keaggy has made a record for it. Rock 'n' roll, orchestrated instrumentals, Celtic-inspired Christian albums: Keaggy has it covered.
During the course of a 30-year career and more than 50 solo albums, Keaggy has shown a wide range of musical interests but one thing has always been consistent: – the respect he has earned throughout the entertainment industry. Keaggy is a two-time Grammy nominee, a seven-time winner of the GMA Dove Award and one of his earliest bands, Glass Harp, is represented in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Cleveland Rocks exhibit. He was also inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame in 2007.
Keaggy play the Stargazers Theatre and Event Center on Thursday.
Here, he discusses balancing music and faith and the path of his long and illustrious career.
The Gazette: Despite having a wide range of musical interests you’re known primarily as a Christian artist. How do you balance being a Christian with playing genres such as rock 'n' roll?
Phil Keaggy: I have been interested in most musical genres since I was a young lad. I was playing guitar for nearly nine years by the time I became an outspoken Christian with my music in 1970. How do I balance being a Christian with playing genres such as rock 'n' roll? I do that by pursuing the "balance." By that I mean I can enjoy a variety of styles including rock, funk, a little country, a little jazz and even more meditative styles some people would call "new age." To me, if your life and musicianship is dedicated to the Lord. I believe He can use it and bless it because of the spirit of the music.
I got more flack in the early '70s for playing rock as a Christian than these days. But, also in those days, I played more with a band as today I play mostly acoustic music in concert. I prefer music with dynamics. That said, I prefer music that doesn't hurt the ears as I need them for studio work and more importantly to appreciate the gift of hearing. I haven't been sold out to rock 'n' roll since 1970 though I can play that style.
Gazette: You once said in an interview that your shows are an "exhibit of joy I find in my faith.” What can people who expect musically and as an overall experience at a Phil Keaggy concert?
Keaggy: My hope is that I display joy in my concerts. I try my best to always give it my all with each performance. Actually, I'm more dedicated to that end at my age than I was when I was younger. I suppose it is because I realize my opportunities and have a great appreciation for my life, family, abilities and my audiences of friends, brothers and sisters in faith. I don't play in churches exclusively and I feel that it is a blessing to be invited to play other venues where people may hear my music that wouldn't "darken the doors" of a church building. These past years, in fact, I have played dates with my old band, Glass Harp, in many secular venues like “B.B. King's” in Manhattan and theaters across the northeast. Our hope is to be a light and a blessing with our music wherever we land.
Gazette: How have you changed as a musician?
Keaggy: Over the course of my life and career, I have simply gotten older. But I have grown to love the Gospel even more and its impact on people – their lives, families and communities. I do my best not to take for granted all the blessings of a wonderful wife, our children, true friends and our community of faith. Musically, I have -- like a stone in a river -- been rounded off and made smoother by the currents and flow of life. I take delight in more musical styles and being given the freedom, by being an indie artist, to have more opportunity to create music outside the box. This has always been a tendency, as I like taking chances at multiple styles. I have broadened my abilities as a player through interaction with other wonderful musicians.
Gazette: You have a connection, either directly or indirectly, to some of the music industry’s legendary musicians, including Paul McCartneyand Joe Walsh. How have these artists influenced your career?
Keaggy: In 1963, I heard The Beatles' music and was knocked out. I was 12 years old and was already into the guitar big time because of Elvis, The Everly Brothers and the pop/rock and R&B of those early days. I heard the uniqueness of The Beatles' voices and their American influences.
In 1990, I had the chance to tell Paul McCartney that his music had a huge impact on my musical life. He was all smiles and gave me further encouragement. In 1967, I was in an Ohio band and we lost our guitarist/vocalist and sought out a replacement. I had heard an amazing guitarist who played with The Measles on a date with our band. He was Joe Walsh. He was the best guitarist I'd heard in our area. The guys in the band thought he'd steal the show. I was all for it. I didn't want all the work on my shoulders as a singer/guitarist anyway. Joe was amazing and more mature as a player and showman than I. I also became friends in the early days with Peter Frampton. He, like Joe and Paul were influences in my musical journey.