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Byron Shire
May 19, 2021

Interview with Kevin Roosevelt Moore, aka Keb Mo

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Keb Mo comes back to Bluesfest

Mo about blues 

American blues musician and four-time Grammy award winner Kevin Roosevelt Moore, aka Keb Mo, is coming back to Bluesfest. The singer, guitarist, and songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee, reflects on what got him started.

‘It was my Uncle Herman. I went on a trip to Cupertino, California, and my Uncle Herman said, ‘Here, I’ll teach your to play the guitar’. He put it in my hands and just started teaching me’. He laughs, ‘I was hooked from day two – once my fingers stopped hurting! 

I knew my C and my G7 and my F chord. I thought, ‘Hey, man, this might be working well,’ so then I went home from that trip and begged my father for a guitar.’

It was a red acoustic guitar from Sears and Roebuck. Somehow Keb Mo has ended up with red guitars ever since. ‘Maybe it’s a subconscious thing,’ he jokes. 

Keb Mo loves his guitars. For Bluesfest’s 30th anniversary he is bringing out ‘my Sunburst, a Gibson acoustic, a Martin acoustic, a National Reso-Phonic, and a Republic travel guitar’.

Keb Mo is bringing out his acoustic guitars because this Easter he will be playing solo, giving audiences something very special.

‘The audience like it better than when I play with the band because they can hear me and they can hear all the words the way I’m accompanying myself. There is no outside interpretation of the message I am trying to deliver. I can make the songs longer, shorter. I can add sections to them. I can change the chords.’

For a four-time Grammy winner you’d think Keb Mo was someone who was full of self-belief about his work. But no. He’s actually very modest and has gone through some of the deep questioning that most artists go through.

‘For a long time I was very sceptical about what I was doing,’ says Keb Mo. ‘I would do it because I enjoyed it but I thought, ‘Man, I don’t know. I’m gonna do this for another three years, okay?’ You know? And then when I got to be thirty I said, ‘Oh I should have quit by now. Good Lord, I’m thirty years old, man.’  Then when I started to approach forty, I started to really think, ‘Okay, this is getting bad now. You gotta go forward or you gotta quit right now.’ ‘

But he just kept going. And after forty he laughs, ‘I just gave up. I went fine, this is what life is this is, okay, and then I started making money.

‘I learned a valuable lesson. Being committed, cuz once you’re over the hill, that’s powerful, and I work hard to maintain that attitude. That kinda like… fearlessness.’

Live performance is where Keb Mo shines… for him walking onstage in a new place and inspiring other emerging artists who might be in the crowd…

‘You’re walking in and you’re showing your face, you know? You’re being present with them, and when they see you and when they see somebody who has “excelled” a little bit it opens their mind up to what’s possible. Then they see you and they see themselves. So I don’t get to really do anything or say anything profound. But to be there, do what you do, give them respect and show them that this is possible by your presence.’

Keb Mo – performing at Bluesfest this Easter for the 30th anniversary! Tix and program info at bluesfest.com.au.

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