Kevin Welch finds a new home in Texas and goes solo – for a while
Kevin Welch doesn’t need much to keep an audience enthralled – they’re with him from the first note he plays, through a confident, laid-back set to the moment that he stuns everyone by folding his guitar in half. Though he’s been mostly seen as part of Kane Welch Kaplin in recent years, Welch is a supreme solo artist, and he’s now out on the road alone promoting A Patch of Blue Sky, the solo studio album that has been a long time coming.
“I finally decided it was probably time, and it actually took me a while to come up with the songs,” says Welch. “I’ve got a million songs lying around, but I wanted to come up with a collection that represented kind of where I was actually at when I made the records.
“I believe there’s a reason we call them records. People always apologise, say we shouldn’t call it a record, it’s a CD. But that’s not right. It is literally a record of what happened when you were recording the song. Maybe it’s not an LP, but it’s still a record.”
Welch says he’d rather that people listened to A Patch of Blue Sky than wait for him to talk about it, but, “I think the general theme of the record is about acceptance, accepting life as it is and keeping your head up and dealing with it and moving on.”
Moving on is what Welch has been doing. After many years in Nashville, he recently made a permanent move to Texas, setting himself up in a log cabin he owns in the countryside outside the town of Wimberley, just a short drive from Austin.
“I was just kind of finished in Nashville. I wasn’t fooling with mainstream Nashville, I wasn’t doing anything with Music Row. My two oldest kids were in Austin already and my youngest went away to college. I was just sitting in Nashville for no real solid reason,” Welch says.
To mark the move and to establish himself in Texas, Welch decided to make the new album entirely with Texas-based engineers and musicians – including his son Dustin and his daughter Savannah, as part of her group The Trishas. He chose to release it not on the Dead Reckoning label that he co-owns with Kieran Kane, but on the artist-run Austin label Music Road Records.
“I would like to think that Dead Reckoning will be going until after Kieran and I are both gone, but ... I kind of liked the idea of just stepping outside of that Dead Reckoning bubble for a minute and doing something with this cool little startup label down there. It’s a nice bunch of guys and it just seemed like an obvious thing to do right now. I’m glad that I did.”
Welch finds the music scene in Austin to be somewhat different to that in Nashville, particularly in the fact that artists are often working independently rather than with record companies.
“In Nashville I think we all became somewhat used to dealing with companies and contracts. Down in Austin, those bands are all their own little industries. They do everything and they do it quite well. I’ve been so impressed watching how tightly-run those businesses are. We’re talking about a band of five or six wild-ass Texas guys or Oklahoma guys, and yet the business is very, very well-run, profitable, they’re working all the time, and they’ve got almost nothing to do with any kind of major label. I found that to be pretty impressive.”
Welch stresses that the move to Texas and the solo album don’t mark the end of Kane Welch Kaplin, who are continuing to play together and have recorded a live album that they will release “when the time is right.”
“Over all these years we’ve always come together to play, make records and go off and do our solo things. It keeps things fresh, it’s really important to not get bored, start to do anything by rote.”
Since setting up in Texas, Welch has also started running songwriting workshops, opening up his home for five days at a time to a group of people that vary from jobbing singer-songwriters to people who have never written a song in their lives but would like to try.
“We’re talking about mostly structural stuff, lyric structure, and we’re looking at how to help a song function, not break down, not wander. It turns out that there’s plenty to talk about,” Welch says.
“You can’t give anybody any rules on this thing, but you can give them some tools. And you can help them get to where they are in the frame of mind to be paying attention when they’re writing, make sure what they’re writing is going to function, stand a better chance of reaching the listener. You can help people with that stuff. As far as what they ought to write or how they ought to write it, that’s sacred ground!”
Welch hopes to expand the workshops in the first half of 2011, and is also continuing with his touring and producing other artists. He’s also working increasingly with his son.
“I’m basically just going to keep on going.”