Cataclysmic changes in the music industry have a lot of recording artists on edge, but singer-songwriter-guitarist Keb' Mo' can see an upside to the upheaval.
'I like it because it's like everybody's got their eyes and ears open, and all the musicians are working together as a community again, not separated by who's the double-scale guys and triple-scale guys, as opposed to the no scale guys, and all that stuff,' he said recently from his home in Los Angeles.
'It's really just great for music overall, music listening is way up. But the music industry didn't catch the hint that things are changing, and the bus left,' laughed Mo', who plays tonight at the Paramount Theater .
One of the few contemporary blues artists to find success on a major label, Mo' had a great run with Epic and its parent company, Sony, beginning with 1994's acclaimed Keb' Mo'. That album went gold, and over a dozen years, he racked up three Grammy Awards, four additional Grammy nominations and a slew of W.C. Handy Blues Awards. But after his 2006 release, 'Suitcase,' Mo' (ne' Kevin Moore) decided it was time to go the independent route. He put out 'Live & Mo' ' last October on his own Yolabelle International label, through Portland, Ore.-based Burnside Distribution. The album includes six concert recordings and four studio tracks, among them the hopeful anthem 'Brand New America' and sardonic funk-blues 'Government Cheese.'
Now, there's no A&R rep breathing down his neck about a release schedule. On the other hand, when he goes out on the road, if he doesn't have a new CD for fans, he's losing out on revenue.
'It's lucky that I don't care,' Mo' said, laughing. 'I only want to put a record out if I've got a good one, one that I can be proud of.'
Sometimes, he said, making an album is like going across the desert.
'You think you see water, and it's just a mirage,' Mo' said. 'It's a really emotional thing, because there's the excitement of creating something, but then there's the part where you have to step back and go "OK, whadda we got? Are we just excited, or do we actually have something?" '
He's in the midst of recording a new studio album, scheduled for completion in March.
'I'm way in there. I got the carburetor laying out on the floor, and the oilpan dropped out, and now I'm waiting for the new rear end to come in, trying to get it all together so I can paint it,' Mo' joked. 'What's hard about it is when I started making this record, I'm in some places I haven't been before, and I haven't put anything out like these things I'm doing. They have to be well-crafted, they have to be honest, and not be putting out something different just because it's different.'
Now that he's piqued your curiosity -- no, he won't be previewing any unrecorded material on this solo tour, which isn't quite solo, as he's leaving the band at home but bringing his friend, the captivating singer-songwriter Susan Werner.
'She's like my Ed McMahon. Or I'm Jack Benny, and she's Rochester. I guess another one -- I'm Oprah, and she's Gayle King,' he riffed. 'We're the Smothers Brothers.'
OK, so which one is Dick, and which one is Tom?
'Mom always liked her best!' Mo' proclaimed with a laugh.