Small mention of Richard Bennett (and Neil) in article

Boise singer/songwriter finds friends in Nashville

Dana Oland
The Idaho Statesman

Dale Keys knows a bit about serendipity. It has taken the singer and songwriter from Boise to Nashville, where he played his music in a recording studio alongside musicians he has idolized for most of his 41 years.
“It been more than wild,” Keys says in phone interview from his Nashville apartment.

He played with idols Dennis Crouch on bass and Stuart Duncan on steel guitar for his self-titled new album.

“I watched them through binoculars at the ´Down From the Mountain´ concert at the Idaho Center, playing with Emmylou Harris. Then, 11 months later, I´m sitting in a studio with those guys,” he says.

A stack of renowned roots musicians was on hand to record Keys´ album: Barry and Holly Tashian, who also produced Keys´ CD; Neil Diamond guitarist Richard Bennett; and mandolin legend Sam Bush.

Keys will open for Bush and his band tonight at the Egyptian Theatre.

“It was my dream team,” Keys says. “The whole thing has been songwriter fantasy camp.”

So how did a former technical writer and weekend musician from Boise make it to Nashville? He says he got his start as a songwriter like most people: “I got laid off.”

Keys always had played guitar and started writing songs a few years before he was laid off in March 2002. He was drawn to Americana roots music.

Keys was working with songwriter and producer Steve Eaton in Boise on a demo disc.

“When my unemployment ran out in December, Steve said, ´You´ll never make it sitting in Boise. You´ll never have another chance to do this,´ ” Keys says.

While he tried to make up his mind, he heard an interview with singer and songwriter Mary Gauthier on National Public Radio about her move to Nashville. Her album was dubbed the best independent album of 2002 by the New York Times.

“I was so inspired I went online and bought a ticket right then,” he says.

For five weeks, Nashville infused him nightly with musical inspiration. But there was one particular night when it all came together.

He went to the Station Inn to hear Steve Earle and wound up meeting Gauthier. A bit shy at heart, Keys screwed up his courage to introduce himself.

“She just pulled her card and said, ´Let´s go have coffee.´ That´s not typical Nashville. It´s an incredibly brutal town. There are artists here who have no business sense and business people who don´t know art, and they´re in a constant struggle.”

But Gauthier was able to offer Keys the advice he needed.

“Mary suggested I stop trying to sell my songs to others and just do my own record,” Keys says.

That was a turning point.

A month later, he moved to Nashville and started hanging out at music hotspots such as the legendary Bluebird Cafe. A meeting with Americana music star Tim O´Brien led him to a gig with him. Tashians and Gauthier also came on stage.

“That show was the proudest moment here,” Keys says.

He released his CD independently. You can buy it on www. It´s getting play on college radio, some independent stations and, surprisingly to Keys, in Europe. He´d like to tour there in the next year, he says.

Gauthier recorded Keys´ “Empty Spaces” on her soon-to-be released CD. And Keys is writing a book about his experiences titled “So, I Went to Nashville.”

Keys is shy about his successes. He just wants to write and sing his music, enjoy life and eventually get back to Boise and the West, he says. In the meantime, he´s in Nashville trying to work a deal and waiting to leave.

“I´m not a millionaire, but I didn´t come here for the money,” Keys says. “Not that I wouldn´t love to have George Strait record one of my songs. There are just so many ivory towers to climb. Nashville can be incredibly brutal. There´s a part of me that can´t wait to leave.”

To offer story ideas or comments, contact Dana Oland or 377-6442

Edition Date: 03-18-2004

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