Keith Moody’s guitar is essentially a part of him, an extra appendage, if you will. He and his Paul Reed Smith McCarty have been through some hard times, and some good times. Keith is proud of every knick and scrape his axe has taken up ‘til now.
“I have a real relationship with that guitar,” explains Keith. “Most PRS’ you see are very nice, and kept pristine in cases, and mine has been played in about every dive bar across the Southeast…it smells, and it has pieces rubbed off of it and knicks out of it. Give me about 20 more years, and hopefully it will be beaten like Willie’s. That thing is like a part of me.”
Just how close Moody is with his instrument is revealed immediately the minute he launches into one of his soul-searing solos. The two become one as the 27-year-old morphs easily as he plays among the strings: one minute he’s channeling the heart of a 60-year-old bluesman in a number that will melt the house and your heart, the next he’s calling up the ghosts of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn in a full-tilt, scorching rocker. Oh, he also knows his way around a Texas-tinged tear-jerker, too, in case those weren’t enough to pique your interest and get your toes tapping. Moody possesses a maturity and depth that belies his young age, and that depth no doubt seeps into every note of his music. A triple threat, he not only can sing and tear it up on the guitar, he also writes on a level far above most of his pop peers. His new album is evidence of just how far the singer/songwriter has come in such a short time, and of the places he will go if talent has anything to do with it.
Born in Opelika, AL and raised in Valley, AL, Keith grew up in a two-parent working family. As a result Keith stayed with his grandparents while his parents worked, exposing him early on to his granddad’s rich record collection. “He had a huge collection,” recalls Keith, “and just a ton of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams records. I remember when I was old enough to start playing them I got in trouble because I scratched one of the Johnny Cash records. My granddad went to Wal-Mart and bought me a plastic guitar when I was about five and then gave my first real guitar for Christmas when I was 17. I also remember him listening to the Grand Ole Opry on Friday and Saturday nights and he loved to go to local gospel and country performances. My grandmamma sang in her church choir while her sister played the piano in gospel groups. My Dad has told me many times about The Whites eating dinner at his house when they came through town; it was a big event for the family. My Dad has pictures of himself with Roy Acuff and loved Marty Robbins. He is a huge country music fan.
Keith moved to Montgomery with his parents when he was six. At the age of 17, Keith decided to form a band with a buddy from high school, and they played in youth group shows and church shows. Several of their songs even received some local airplay. He continued to hone his musical chops throughout college by observing other artist as he worked in a local music store and played in local venues with his band. By 21, word of his talent was already spreading, and he was receiving write-ups in local papers wherever he and his band would play. Keith gained a significant reputation among local musicians for his guitar skills and performing antics. He supported local artists by holding his own showcase for local talent. As a result he will always have an appreciation for his friends and supporters in the Montgomery and surrounding area.
With some good advice from a local musician, Keith was able to foster his abilities even further with pursuit of writing and performing his original music instead of focusing his efforts on cover music.
“Basically I had gotten a job at a guitar store in Montgomery and met a guy named Roland “Lucky” Jackson, said Keith. “He was an old school funk, jazz, and blues player and also a songwriter and arranger himself. I learned a lot about music from him as far as theory and how things are put together as well as the business side of it. The big temptation in Montgomery is to play covers because of the money, and he recognized something in me early on as I was trying to get another band together. He told me I was a natural songwriter, and that I didn’t need to give up on the original thing. And magically one day, these two younger kids came into the store, and we ended up forming a new band and calling ourselves The TaxiCab Armada.”
Hailing from the same Chattahoochee River Valley as John Mayer and Alan Jackson, Keith admits there must be something in the water around his childhood home. “Still to this day I’m very into that sort of glassy, essentially quintessential Southern sound. John Mayer is from Phenix City/ Columbus area, which is 30 miles south, right on the Chattahoochee River, and Alan Jackson and the Black Crowes are from 60 miles northeast on the same river, so there must be something in the water. I’ve always thought that was kind of interesting.”
In 2005, the Armada had just finished playing Jubilee and had a couple more shows on the books, and Keith was graduating and contemplating the future. Desperately in love and planning on getting married, he had taken a sales job in the cell phone industry, and was envisioning a re-entry into normal life and pushing music to the side, when the bottom fell out. His girl decided she was in love with someone else, and his boss went bankrupt, hard on the heart, for sure, but definitely fuel for some great tunes.
I thought I was going to give up music, but her leaving, coupled with my paychecks bouncing, changed my plans quite a bit. And my mom had gotten a job in Nashville and was living in a hotel while my dad was still in Montgomery waiting for the house to sell. And she said why don’t you come up here and give it a try.
Keith began writing furiously, and attending various lectures and performances given by Nashville heavy hitters like songwriters: Hank Cochran, Matraca Berg, and Tony Arata. Once his catalogue was rounded out, Keith was ready to enter the studio and lay some of the tracks down, he decided to swing for the bleachers when soliciting a co-producer to help nail the exact sound he was going for. “In high school I was a big Collective Soul fan, and one of my friends made this record with producer Jason Elgin in Birmingham and I found out he had engineered the Dosage album, which I thought was Collective Soul’s best album. So I decided now was the time to do it, and I booked the studio seven months out. Jason assembled a great band to back me up and bring my ideas to fruition. We hit it off professionally and just really clicked. Jason did a great job of conveying the emotion and giving me some ideas I hadn’t thought of to bring it all together and sort of be the concrete between the bricks, and I think it came out great.”
Keith’s myriad of influences are evident in the material on his first solo CD, from the straight-up soul of Ray Charles, to the bluesy grooves of John Mayer and the quirky, clever lyrics of Texas treasure Lyle Lovett, it’s all in there, as the Prego commercial likes to tout. He not only creates a song’s lyrics, but also arranges it completely in his head as well before he ever sets foot into a studio.
“Like my song ‘Press Gas and Go’ for instance,” Keith explains. “From the minute it was done, I knew exactly what it would sound like. To the point where even if I’m not going to play on it, I know exactly what I want the studio guys to play. Sometimes I go too far with it but I’m big into the arrangement and I think I have a knack for it. I would be totally open to producing other acts in the future. To me you have to set the mood with a song…every horror movie has its background sounds, and it’s the same kind of thing in songs, with what you bring in and how you produce it sets the mood.”
From tunes like the happy “Think,” that starts off rolling like a Texas highway and feels a touch nostalgic and retro, to the haunting, familiar ache of the beautifully wistful “Trail Of Tears,” and the reaffirming optimism and faith of the clever “Coins,” (which was inspired by his friends struggles with drug addiction and depression) Moody takes the listener on a compelling audio ride, full of ups and downs and smiles and tears, much like life itself. On the raucous “Some Things Get Better With Age,” he screams his way through a barn-burner of a sexual awakening, then turns around and comforts and soothes on the catchy “Angels,” reminding that God always offers relief in one way or another if we just hang on and keep our eyes open. Many of the songs on the album, while not always overtly religious, convey Keith’s strong faith in God, which is something that is very important to him. He even adds a political note among the collection with “Only God Knows,” a tune he penned about the current conflict from the point of view of the soldier and the family he leaves behind in such turbulent times.
Only 27 years old, Keith has come a long way musically in a short time…and proves he has picked up plenty from the miles he has traveled so far. The wisdom and maturity of his debut project should separate him from the pack and with writing chops and musicianship like his, there’s no doubt he’ll one day be propelled into a stratosphere with stars much like the ones he idolized growing up…and will soon become one of them himself. Just don’t try to separate him from that McCarty.