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Love, compassion and how music can save your life. A candid chat with Keturah Allgood

30 May 2023

As always, can we start with a bit of background? Can you tell me about the musical journey that brought you to where you are today?

Keturah: I was born in the small town of Brevard, in Western North Carolina. This area is rich in its musical heritage. I came from a family of musicians and was raised singing in the church, on porches, at family reunions, and in community centers, pretty much anywhere I could find a stage. I apparently used to round up my preschool class and sing to them; it’s just always felt like something I had to do. I felt called to it. I started rhyming and forming songs before I could even write. When I was in high school, I had a few incredible teachers who really saw a gift inside of me and encouraged me to pursue music.

I had an amazing vocal teacher who noticed that I was attempting to sing classical and Broadway music like the other kids in the school, and she told me to meet her on a Saturday night instead of my regular lesson time. She took me to a jazz club in Asheville and introduced me to a blues singer who was a friend of hers. She told me that I had to find my own voice, and that was the encouragement I needed to start down the path to find my voice, my soul, and my words. Many back roads, bars, and basement dives later; I think I may be getting close.

And perhaps you can tell me about some of the musical, and maybe even non-musical, inspirations that have helped shape you and your music?

Keturah: My first huge musical influences were my grandmother and her sisters. There were seven sisters, and it was like a choir of angels; I was hooked right away. Then a woman named Joan Bell formed a gospel choir in Brevard. I must’ve been three or four years old when they came to our church. I had never heard anything like that. They had souls, and I wanted them. I discovered people like Mahalia Jackson and Vestel Goodman, huge voices, so much spirit.

Growing up in the mountains, old-time, bluegrass, and country music was a constant staple, and then I found my dad’s rock and roll records. He was going through some sort of spiritual reckoning, and he didn’t go so far as to burn his records, thank goodness, but he hid them in the basement. I used to sneak down there and get one record at a time. When I heard the Beatles record Let it Be, my mind was blown!

I figured out I was queer in high school. I was, to my knowledge, the first kid who ever actually dared to utter the words, “I am gay,” in my then super conservative, dirt road town. Around that same time, I was discovering artists like Tori Amos and Ani Difranco, amazing strong female songwriters and killer musicians. Those artists were my refuge; through them, I felt like there were people in the world who understood me. I suppose in some crazy mix of all these early influences, I found the inspiration that helped form my own music.

I must confess that the upcoming album, Shine, is my first taste of your music. Is its restrained and wonderfully understated sound typical of your music in general?

Keturah: My boss at the job that I took when Covid hit calls me “soft plucker” and means it in the most loving way. I can get very drawn into a deep place inside of me and others, the places that are sometimes hard to touch, the places that hide. I think that informs a lot of my writing. I do have a big voice, though, and sometimes I really enjoy letting it loose.

That’s where side projects come in. I believe in constantly expanding and being as open as I can to the possibilities of what can be. So I have another band called The Tuesday Collective, where I delve into an entirely different side of myself and get to rock out. I believe this is the essence of art and creativity. For me, it’s about constant exploration and experimenting with the ever-expanding universe that is art.

Love and compassion are common themes throughout Shine; how important do you think songs promoting such properties are, and how much can they affect the world around us?

Keturah: Now, this is something I love to talk about. Love, Kindness, and Compassion. I feel like it is insanely important, especially in today’s toxic and divisive climate, to promote as much love as you can. We are in a dangerous place in our world, and sometimes it seems like we are going to boil over with negativity and hate. I feel like anyone with a platform, big or small, should be doing their part to remind people that we are actually not as different as the media would like to portray us to be.

The majority of people I come across at my shows or in my travels want peace and love, and diversity and to just be kind, period. I feel like we have two choices in this world, to live in fear or live in love. I am going to choose love every time. Positive, hopeful, kind, compassionate, loving energy certainly has the power to change the world, and I, for one, am ready to see that shift.

“Radio” is a glorious song, one celebrating that other world that music allows us to visit, if only temporarily. Is music radio still crucial in this multi-media and on-demand world?

Keturah: I think it is still an extremely relevant and important outlet, especially in areas of the country where many people still don’t have access to things like high-speed Internet. I know it’s hard to believe, but this was highlighted in my own geographical area when we were quarantined. They found out very quickly that a large percentage of kids in our county had limited or no access to the Internet. Local and regional radio stations are still highly relevant in these areas of the country.

I also believe that even in urban areas, radio is still a much-needed and viable artistic source. Radio stations, especially college, underground and local stations, provide a much-needed connection to the community that you can’t find on streaming platforms. Community, that’s what radio essentially gives us, and it is something that we are in desperate need of. It gives us a sense of connection and belonging. So yeah, crank it up. Radio is a good thing!

Another song from the album, “Sing Baby Sing”, really stood out for me, as it told us that no matter who you are or what anyone thinks about you, singing is its own reward. How important has such an attitude been to you?

Keturah: It has saved my life. I have sung through the deepest depths of despair. In my greatest darkness, there was always a song. I have been homeless, struggled with lack of self-love, seen and been in some pretty horrific situations, and yet always a song. Singing has saved and continues to save my life.

And finally, where next for you, musically and otherwise?

Keturah: I am excited to get this record out into the world. We have been working on it steadily since 2020, and I am so thrilled to be able to finally able to share it with everyone. It has been a soul journey and one that I am extremely proud of. I already have another set of tunes that I am ready to get into the studio and record.

I have my side project, The Tuesday Collective. We are consistently writing and exploring the great expansive world of fascinating creativity. And in my personal life, I am engaged. I am blessed to be entering into this new phase of my life with an amazing soulmate. It’s all pretty surreal and beautiful and full of so much love. I am a very happy woman; thank you for taking the time to ask such thoughtful questions. Rock on!

And thank you for taking the time to answer them.

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