Sarah Beth Keeley - A Story of Inspiring Devotion to Music
Last month’s Backyard Jam at Legends was a blast, and I think it’s safe to say that everyone had a great time – both bands and audience members alike. I thoroughly enjoyed taking in all of the acts that made their way across the stage that night, but there was one artist that really struck a chord with me (see what I did there?) amongst an evening full of truly stand-out musicians. It was during a performance near the end of the night, when Sarah Beth Keeley (or SBK, as she’s known by her fans) was invited onstage to perform a song or two. The ballad that Keeley delivered when she stepped up to the mic left me with chills: a song about heartache and loss, grief and remembrance, accompanied beautifully by Keeley’s mournful guitar and longing timbre. I hadn’t expected to hear anything quite like it in such an incidental fashion as the evening closed out, and I let her know as much when I had the opportunity to chat with her later on.
“It’s called How Much Time – that’s the ballad that I sang that night. It’s about my personal life, and some things that I’d been going through for the last couple of years,” she confided to me. “I went to Nashville, I was doing a showcase there. I also did some writing with a friend, Ron McNeill. He was sort of my chauffer while I was there for the week. We broke out into this writing session, and it was probably the most emotional writing session I’ve ever been a part of. He pushed a lot of emotion out of me, and it was very therapeutic, and I ended up writing what I think is one of the best songs – from a deep, emotional level – that I’ve ever written to date. It was a good six months until I was able to perform it without breaking down.” Keeley also performed a handful of additional songs that night, and they were barn-burners to be sure – full of astonishing energy, extraordinary musicianship, and burgeoning talent just aching to be let loose.
To provide a bit of background, Keeley is no stranger to the music business. With two full-length albums under her belt, SBK has also opened for and played alongside acts such as Rascal Flatts, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson, and more. Following one particularly fantastic set, country music legend Neal McCoy took some time before starting his show to give a shout-out to Keeley, letting everyone know how impressed he was with her performance, and that she was definitely an artist worth paying attention to. “It was pretty much the highlight of my career up to that point!” Keeley enthused, while telling me about the moment. As she was poised on the cusp of stardom, however, life got the in the way, as it often does. “I played all these shows, and I was getting watched by labels, but my life was in a bit of chaos.” Keeley reflected. “I parted ways in my marriage, I parted ways with my management, I was in a bad contract. But that was all years ago. Now, I’m releasing a new single, getting ready to head out on tour…it’s all pretty exciting. SBK is back!”
The tour that Keeley mentioned there isn’t just a quick jaunt around southern Alberta, either. This May, she’s heading all the way across the Atlantic to play the Vamos Music Festival in Perth, Scotland, where she’ll be sharing her brand of country music on the main stage, during the show’s primetime slot on Saturday evening. She’ll also be playing another half-dozen concerts across the pond, all in support of a new single that should help to build excitement for her upcoming album to a fever-pitch, both in Europe and back here in Canada. It goes without saying that this tour is a big deal, and really, truly marks the return of SBK to the country music scene she loves so much.
“Everybody’s got a story,” she told me. “Mine might be a bit different. I’m a bit of a more seasoned artist. I play high-energy shows with incredibly talented musicians, and I can’t imagine devoting my time or energy towards anything else. I’d love to show women that you don’t have to stop following your dreams – I started at 28! I want my story to be inspiring to women of all ages, that you can really do it, if you want to.” I don’t think many would argue that Keeley’s story is anything short of inspirational – and she’s clearly only just getting started!
If you’re keen to take in the country stylings and poignant lyricism of Sarah Beth Keeley before her UK tour, be sure to stop by Legends in Strathmore on April 14, where she’ll be headlining the 2nd Backyard Jam Local Music Showcase. As was mentioned earlier in this article, Keeley has spent some time dealing with a restrictive contract that really limited her ability to raise funds or organize a tour like the one she’s about embark on – so we’ll be helping her out a bit, with a portion of the proceeds generated during the Backyard Jam going to support her tour. So come on out and support local music – it’s going to be a fantastic evening!