The artist: Born and raised in St. Louis, Chris Keener is the lead vocalist and pianist for the Columbia band Oh Yeah. At 16, Keener left home to find his mission in life. Living with friends who were in bands, he became inspired and eventually taught himself how to play the piano and guitar. Keener attended MU as an undergraduate, but after less than a year, he dropped out to focus on his true passion: music.
The art: Keener began as a solo artist, but in time met up with his bandmates John Gilbreth, Taylor Bacon and Seth Ashley. Oh Yeah has begun to generate a name for itself in Columbia, playing at venues such as the Blue Note and Mojo’s. The band’s first album, “To Have and To Hold,” has an eclectic range. The band is working on its second album.
Q: What is your musical motto?
A: “It’s all about soul.”
Q: How did you form your band?
A: We went through different stages, starting with just me. It took about a year before we had a full band. It started when I was about 20, and it’s been over two years now.
Q: What genre of music did you push for at the beginning of your career, and has this changed throughout the years?
A: We’ve never tried to be a genre. We actually try not to be. It’s just the growth of our music from the first album. All the songs were different, but they all go together. The new album is more of a record; it’s more fluid, not just cohesive. I’d say it’s more focused on a certain feeling or emotion.
Q: Many musicians say it’s a natural high to be on stage performing. Do you agree?
A: When I first started, I got nervous, but not anymore. It depends on the show, you know. You feed off the audience, and you’re more into it when they are. One of the best feelings ever is to lose yourself when you’re playing.
Q: How many musical instruments do you play, and which has helped you the most in understanding music?
A:Definitely the piano. If you know your way around the piano, you pretty much understand all the other instruments. I play the bass, guitar, drums, clarinet, electric kazoo and melodica.
Q: Who are your musical mentors or idols?
A: Well, Tom Waits, Brian Eno, Edith Piaf and John Lennon.
Q: Are you a Beatles man or an Elvis man?
A: Ahh. Beatles.
Q: How do you feel about MTV?
A: It started out as a great thing, a way to outlet videos and music. Bands started to make videos, but now it’s turned into a money-making corporation. They hardly even play music anymore; it’s all promotion for pop bands. I am a sucker for Hot Jams, though. I listen to Y106 a lot. Alicia Keys and some of those Usher jams are great.
Q: Do you sing in the shower?
A: Yes, very loudly.
Q:What do you hope to accomplish with your music?
A: I am an artist, and I just gotta keep making music. Some great parts about it are the shows when you feel something. I like party bands and dancing, but the shows that stick with me are the ones that are on a deeper level, more intense and spiritual. My plan is to give that to people. I want to be good enough to hypnotize the crowd.