Interview: Dave Keller

Words by Kiera Magnetti.

The Dave Keller Band performed inside Halvorson’s Upstreet Café on Tuesday, June 2nd as part of Burlington’s Discover Jazz Festival. While a summertime thunderstorm raged outside, Keller and his band—consisting of Gary Lotspeich on bass, Brett Hoffman on drums and Ira Friedman playing the Hammond organ—performed for what Keller described as an “appreciative crowd.”

The Dave Keller band has performed at the Burlington Jazz Fest for the past four or five years. “We’ve played the City Hall Stage, the Center Stage, the Top Block Stage. We played Nectar’s one night of Jazz Fest,” says Keller, “I always like walking around the festival and checking out some of the other acts performing there.”

Keller grew up in Worcester, MA where he started learning guitar as a teenager. By the time he settled in Vermont in 1993, he had fallen in love with the blues and gained experience covering songs and performing alongside other great blues musicians. He has been part of the local music scene since his arrival here. “I used to play every other Thursday night at Manhattan Pizza,” Keller recalls, “back when the original owners were still there.” Keller and his band now perform live at least two to three times per week in locations all across the Northeast.

Keller has released five albums in his time as a musician; all but one he was able to fund himself and release with his own label, Tastee-Tone Records. However, Keller decided to record his most recent album, Soul Changes, down in Memphis where other legendary musicians have done some of their own work. In order to help fund the album, Keller created a Kickstarter campaign. “It was hard, asking people to donate,” says Keller, “but they were psyched to help. And this was more than an average record I wanted to make; it was the breakup album from my marriage.”

The support he earned and the hard work that came afterward led to Soul Changes’ nomination from the Blues Music Awards for Best Soul/Blues Album of 2014. “I was honored,” Keller says. “I was nominated alongside other soul stars. There are 125 nominators, and they’re all people from within the industry, so you know it’s not a popularity contest.”

Soul Changes’ success also helped Keller get a record deal with Red River Entertainment in New York City, and the album is now being distributed through Sony’s RED Distribution.

“I’m thinking ahead now,” says Keller. “I’m writing songs, I have a few that I’m pretty happy with. I’d like to start playing some bigger concert venues as opposed to clubs and halls. I’m in it for the long haul; I’ve worked hard every step of the way, and I’m grateful that people get to hear my songs.”

You can check out more of Dave Keller’s story and hear his music at davekeller.com, and make sure to like the Dave Keller Band on Facebook.