“Mistakes” included in Rolling Stone – Best New Music Releases from Country and Americana Artists for this Week
Backed by Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo on guitar, singer-songwriter Jim Keller whips up a moonlit tune about regret with “Mistakes,” from the upcoming album By No Means (out February 12th). Mixing Dr. John’s New Orleans shuffle with the eerie openness of Kiko-era Lobos, it’s a shadowy environment perfect for surveying one’s psychic damage and trying to purge a few demons.
Who wrote “867-5309 (Jenny, Jenny)?” Hint: it wasn’t Tommy Tutone. Jim Keller was co-founder of Tommy Tutone with Tommy Heath. Jim was the primary songwriter, and lead guitarist.
We’ve been fans of Jim’s solo work since his first release, “Sunshine In My Pocket.” Now, his fourth album is out called “By No Means,” and our love for Jim’s songs just keeps growing. And the title of the new record? Have a listen and find out more.
Just by reading those seven digits, the tune is in your head. The 1981 song by San Francisco band Tommy Tutone is legendarily catchy, making its title arguably the most well-known phone number in the United States. The song remains well-loved enough to have been a joke on “Family Guy” 40 years after its release, and not for the first time.
Like taking a ride on PCH with the top down, that’s how you might describe Jim Keller’s latest album. Although he has worn many hats over his long, varied career, Keller now focuses on his own personal style of singing and songwriting and recently released a new album called By No Means.
When you study music for any amount of time, you realize that it’s not just “rock stars” that contribute to making music that’s recognizable. Jim Keller may not have the name recognition of Mick Jagger, but as a co-writer of “867-5309,” he has put his stamp on music. By phone, he discussed how the pandemic has affected creative process, the making of his latest album By No Means, and the importance of the right producer. Beneath the interview, Americana Highways is also exclusively premiering Jim Keller’s video today for “Laying on the Tracks.”
The impressive By No Means is only Keller’s fourth album since his 2009 debut and first in seven years. At just over a half hour with only two tracks breaking three minutes, it’s short too. Regardless, each tune takes just enough time unwinding with a subtle J.J. Cale/Mark Knopfler lope that perfectly frames these melodic slices of swampy folk/rock. It’s an understated, almost hypnotic and at times mildly driving disc featuring rhythms that bubble and boil. Legendary bassist Bob Glaub’s sturdy bottom end intertwines with Michael Urbano’s shuffling drums as Keller’s deep voice talk/sings of travelling through life on “Easy Rider” (Don’t matter where I’m going/Don’t matter where I go) and digs a thumping soulful hole with the ominous music yet humorous lyrics of “Don’t Get Me Started” (The whole damn world is going insane/So don’t get me started).
Achieving success in the music industry isn’t easy under the best circumstances. Carving out a successful niche over the course of 40 years is immeasurably difficult.
For singer, songwriter, guitarist, manager and publisher Jim Keller, the key to survival was born out of desperation, the result of a willingness to learn from his experiences and an ability to adapt.
If fans lost track of Jim Keller after his days in Tommy Tutone, for whom he co-wrote the immortal ’80s hit “867-5309/Jenny,” they’ve missed out on a string of effortlessly engaging solo records released over the last dozen years. His latest, By No Means, comes out this week, and Keller thinks he can corral those New Wave fans from back in the day with the easygoing slices of life found on this latest collection.
Jim Keller bops his way into The Marinade! Keller has lived a fascinating creative life. As a member of the 80s band Tommy Tutone he co-wrote the #1 hit “867-5309/Jenny.” Keller went on manage legendary composer Philip Glass’s career and publishing company all the while making his own gorgeous solo records.
We talk about the making of his new record, balancing creativity and business, and much more.
Together with American Songwriter, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Keller over Zoom video!
Jim Keller has shared “Find My Shadow,” a brand new song and video from his upcoming album By No Means (February 12). While each song on the new album features Los Lobos frontman David Hidalgo on guitar, this new offering is particularly special for the legend’s work accentuating Keller’s rich bass notes on vocal duties. The pair are joined on “Find My Shadow,” and throughout the new album, by the top-notch rhythm section of Michael Urbano (Todd Rundgren, John Hiatt) and Bob Glaub (Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon), as well as by producer Mitchell Froom (Randy Newman, Crowded House) – who also hosted the recording sessions in his Los Angeles home studio as seen in the accompanying “Find My Shadow” visual. Keller adds: “what I love about the song is the melody is upbeat and happy, like a Roger Miller tune, but the lyrics are really about being lost.”
“[Keller] has a knack for making seemingly simple lines like those sink a little deeper, especially when you add them all up in connection with the world-weary gravitas of his rumbling voice…Keller’s songwriting, wry and understated, yet always gently stirring, holds center court.”
The new single from By No Means is “Mistakes,” a dark and smoky number about guilt — “one of my favorite song topics,” says Jim, adding it’s “A never-ending flow of material coming from that river.”
Maybe the band Tommy Tutone was a one-hit wonder, but for a time in the early 80s, this song, written by band founder Jim Keller, was inescapable.
PREMIERE: Jim Keller’s New Song Benefits The Sweet Relief Musicians Fund – on WNYC’s New Sounds Weekly Music Roundup
Video Premiere in New Sounds’ Weekly Music Roundup, which features Jim and “Easy Rider” as the lead story.
Song of the Month
Jim Keller, “Don’t Get Me Started.” What is a musician supposed to do for fun when much of their life was put on pause when the pandemic really took over and so many things were shut down? For Jim Keller, it was time to go deep and use whatever technology was available to record a song he felt had to be done. With Byron Issacs, Keller wrote “Don’t Get Me Started,” part lament and part anthem, to raise a fist to all that was changing right beneath his feet, and make a stand that they wouldn’t disappear too easily. Working with producer Mitchell Froom, the song is a hot-blooded look at what’s been lost, but also an examination on what is still possible. It’s tough as nails and just angry enough, and the kind of song that could live well beyond the present time as an ode to stick-to-it-ness. It has that menacing kick of the best rock and roll, with Keller’s midnight voice and slinky guitar. And just to keep the fires burning, he enlisted a strong set of musicians to add their own contribution to the song’s outro for a virtual collection of a walk on the wild side. Included are Nels Cline, Marc Ribot, David Hidalgo, Phillip Glass, Val McCullum and more. For Keller, the man who co-wrote the mega-hit “867-5309/Jenny” for his band Tommy Tutone and unleashed it on the world in the early ’80s, it all shows there is no end to the music.
Click here to view original review.
Watch a video of Jim and Thad DeBrock on Radio Woodstock (100.1 WDST).
Hear Jim, Adam Minkoff, Tony Mason, Teddy Kumpel and Jim Cowherd play songs from “Heaven Can Wait” on WFMU.
Read the review by Bill Bentley here.
Listen to Jim being interviewed by Scott Simon on NPR Weekend Edition, discussing Heaven Can Wait, working with the famous minimalist composer and — yes — the legacy of “Jenny.”