11 Questions with Keb’ MO’
The Grammy award-winning musician sat down with the Opry to chat about making music, life during a pandemic, and much more.
His friends and family know him as Kevin Roosevelt Moore, but fans and fellow musicians know him as the great Keb’ Mo’. This five-time Grammy winning artist slides through musical genres as smoothly as he plays the guitar, and if you get 15 minutes of his time to chat, you’ll get a glimpse of the deep soul that has many more stories to tell.
Keb’ Mo’ recently won a Grammy for Best Americana Album in January 2020, and has taken home awards for his work in blues music, as well as many nominations including Best Country Song in 2005 for “I Hope.” We sat down with him for our questions series before he goes on the Opry stage to get a deeper look into what he’s been up to.
We’re honored to have you on the Opry stage again this weekend. Tell us about your experience with the Opry.
It’s been nothing but friendly and nothing but cool — the first time I went on, Vince Gill performed with me, the band was great, and the audience was great. It’s just always been really cool.
What was it like to be asked to be on the Opry for the first time?
If you would’ve told me I would be playing on the Grand Ole Opry before that, I would’ve laughed like, really? If I knew the Opry and people in Nashville were so awesome, the country music business, the labels, artists, that it was such a cool thing, I might’ve made myself a country album.
What does it mean to you to keep the music playing and the circle unbroken during these times?
It’s not what I think about all the time — there’s a huge community of people, artists that are keeping things going and the music going. The music is going to keep going with or without me. I’m grateful to be a part of it. How you show up is very important and the way we show up as people is important, not just as an artist but as a person, and whatever light you can bring to the situation.
Do you have any hints on what fans can expect to hear on Saturday’s show?
Still making my song list and picking them. But, I like it to be a really intimate experience. I like to be kind of homegrown… kind of porchy. It’s important to still have the Opry and still perform for people at home. And Brad [Paisley] is such a good person, such a forward-thinking and courageous man — he’s just really, really cool. I’m really looking forward to hanging with Brad. I’m going to call Brad and tell him I’m coming over to make sure we make this really cool.
How have you been during this pandemic and everything else?
Well, I got my bicycle fixed, I went and got takeout a couple of times. I’ve been writing songs for lots of projects with people: Eric Gale from Memphis; Joe Bonamassa for his record; writing songs for a new record — that’s fun; writing with blues artists Samantha Fish and Josh Kelley — I did the “Mike & Molly” theme song with Josh.
I’m really enjoying my family and I’m watching the world. I am enjoying and experiencing the world, I always enjoy the world, warts and all, it’s never perfect.
I want to bring some of that to the Opry, it’s a musically safe place and a musically open place, it’s different. When I moved to Nashville, I found that the artistic community is awesome and the musical diversity is super cool. I’m enjoying the opportunity in Nashville — and engaging in that in an open-minded, compassionate way.
You took home a Grammy for your album Oklahoma in January — what did that mean for you as a musician?
Just to be nominated to be in the Americana category, and then to win. I thought, ‘Wow, I got people to notice me in another genre — that means I can be more across-the-board and open.‘
I was just making music, that’s all. Now what’s coming out of me, I’m much more open-minded and courageous. But the next time I try that I might not be so lucky, I have been not so lucky before. I’m going to keep pushing for the freedom to create the best I can with the abilities I have.
How do you approach creating music and do you still have influences in your music?
My influencers: my mother gave me the grit, my father gave me the gentleness and compassion. They were great influencers, and they were very opposite. I had the perfect parents to become who I am, whatever this is. They were both really exceptional human beings. They moved out to L.A. and had a couple of kids and 68 years later here I am.
I feel very ambitious right now and I feel very excited about music. When I was younger, I was worried about a bunch of things. I would hitchhike with my guitar — my car would be broken down — and then hitchhike back late at night. I was crazy, but I didn’t know I was crazy.
I was past 40 when I realized how distracted I was by other things in life. I finally woke up and got really fortunate to live here in Nashville and have a platform to sing and have friends like Brad Paisley to play with in my life.
I’m just passionate. I just love to play music and hang out with my friends.
Can you give us a peek at what you’re working on right now?
No sneak peeks yet. I have so many things I’m working on right now. I like to just dig into my catalog and sing things and hang out at the Opry and play some music. That’s all I want to do, that’s my focus this weekend. One thing at a time.
You’re known as a great communicator and songwriter, and you tackle a lot of deep subjects. How do you approach new stories you want to tell?
I just look at what’s right in front of me. Whatever it is at the time that resonates with me and what makes an impact, probably resonates with a lot of people. Everyone’s stories intertwine, like depression, pollution, anything — like with “Don’t Throw It Away” and “I Remember You.”
You live here in Nashville — what’s your favorite summer pastime that you enjoy in the city?
I like being home — I’m not much of a person that goes out all the time. This is actually my first summer here in Nashville because I’m usually on tour.
I like the simple stuff, there’s no big story about me. I love to just have my guitar and to sing my songs.
What advice would you give to your fans to stay inspired and keep pushing for greatness?
I think, trust your deepest self. Just be open-minded and embrace life as it comes to you and be with love.
See Keb’ Mo’ live on the Saturday Night Grand Ole Opry with Brad Paisley and host Bobby Bones, live on Circle Network.