Band of the Week: James McKeivier

Band of the Week: James McKeivier

MEET THE BAND: James McKeivier (vocals, guitar)

BACK AFTER A BREAK: McKeivier grew up in the Canton area and started writing songs back then. He moved out of town and then back to the area in 2003. He began writing songs once again and really started taking the craft seriously in 2008. "I met up with some old friends then, and we started a band," he says when asked about what drew him back to singing and songwriting. "I always wanted to be a songwriter. I was influenced by the Beatles and Bob Dylan. [The 1967 documentary film] Don't Look Back was a big influence on me." Another local singer-songwriter, Bill Fox, encouraged McKeivier along the way. He was roommates with a friend and when Fox got back into playing out again, McKeivier played alongside him in 2008 and 2009. He recorded his first album in Fox's basement. "We used anything we had around," he says of that album. "We had friends stop in and they would end up on the record. It was a lot of fun putting that together and getting it out there. Releasing it was just a document of what we had been doing. It was really an afterthought. We recorded about 20 songs but only 10 songs made the album."

A PROPER LP: On The Lucky Ones, his second full-length album and first proper LP, McKeivier shows off his supple voice on sparse songs that recall Dylan, the Byrds and Leonard Cohen. Local guitarist Stelianos Simantriris (Charles Hill Jr) and Cleveland multi-instrumentalist BillMike (Forgotten Souls of Antiquity) back him on the disc. The tracks "Because of You" and "Only in Dreams" have an alt-country feel, but the album also includes pop ("If We Are Set Free") and jazz ("How We Wonder"). McKeivier says he started writing the songs for it about two or three years ago. The rest were written in the past year. He's been recording for about a year. "I wrote them by myself in my room, and worked with BillMike on the recording," he says. "The recording was smooth. We recorded my vocals and guitar in one-take tracks. In two short sessions, we had the basis for all the songs and then layered on everything else. BillMike can play anything. He was able to put bass and piano on some songs. Whatever it needed, he was right there with it. It was just a 'let's figure it out as we go' type of thing. Some of the songs came really quickly. Once the base tracks were done, it was easy to go from there."

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR HIM: A song like "See Them Move" has a classic folk sound and features baritone vocals and some intricate guitar work. It possesses a distinct, quiet intensity. McKeivier says he's already started writing songs for a followup album. "I have some ideas and I've been writing more of late," he says. "We've been done with the recording part since May, so I want to be ready to record another one."


WHERE YOU CAN SEE HIM: James McKeivier performs with Bill Fox and the Rogue Scholars at 9 p.m. on Saturday, November 19, at the 5 O'Clock Lounge.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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