Emily Keener,
The TVD First Date

“My parents gave me a turntable for my 16th birthday, which was right around the time I had started to hear my friends exalting vinyl as the superior way to consume music. I didn’t fully understand the appeal, but at the time I was really into ’70s music and I liked the vintage aesthetic of a bulky physical medium. After digging through boxes of junky records at every thrift shop within 20 miles, I ended up with an impressive amount of terrible and just-ok albums, all in bad shape and most of them nearly unplayable. All in a day’s work.”

“I got an email from a guy who said he was a fan of the EP I had just released, and that he had seen me post about getting a turntable for my birthday. He had a big record collection he was looking to pare down and offered to send me some albums he had duplicates of. I took him up on it, and within a week or two he had sent me a box full of vinyl with a note that said something like: “Hope you get something out of these! Enjoy.”

Up until that point, I’d never listened to albums start to finish. I grew up on playlists and best-ofs, my parents’ musical tastes accompanying car rides and cookouts. When my Dad picked up the guitar to sing for the family, he played his favorite tunes; a live sampling of rock hits and country classics. Through listening to him I developed an appreciation for songcraft but had yet to experience the artform of full records. I opened that cardboard box and started rifling through albums I had never heard of and would soon love.

I remember beginning with Paul Simon’s self-titled, Joni Mitchell’s Hissing of Summer Lawns, and Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. I didn’t really care about how the vinyl sounded. I was more fixated on the experience of listening. I loved the ritual of flipping through my new collection, picking out whatever spoke to me and taking in the visuals of artwork, photography, credits, lyrics. I liked how the music stopped abruptly at the end of a side, prompting me to recommit my ear and attention as I turned to the next one. I started to experience albums as universes and entities of their own, and I tuned into the feelings that each one evoked.

Soon, albums were all I listened to. When I wasn’t lounging in front of my turntable reading over lyric inserts, I was playing an album on repeat in the car until I had memorized every nuance, every line. Then I’d move onto the next one. The more I listened, the more I understood my own tastes and what I tended to gravitate toward. For me, vinyl was less of an ascension to a superior listening-medium and more of a paradigm shift that encouraged musical exploration and immersion.

Throughout those initial experiences, I think there was a maturation in how I related to music. I felt inspired to create with more intention and to think beyond one-song-at-a-time. I still associate the warm crackling of a record with the undercurrent of calm and ease that I experienced there in my room, listening to stuff that mattered to me. It gives me flashbacks to nights I crashed on the couch of an old farmhouse-turned-musical-commune, falling asleep to whatever was spinning on the little Crosley by the bookshelf. I’m transported to Sunday mornings spent dancing in the kitchen to Ella Fitzgerald at Newport; breakfast is on the table soon and then there’s nowhere to go. (Back when having nowhere to go was nice!)

Soon, I’ll have my own vinyl release in hand, and it makes me feel nostalgic about the music that has inspired me and guided me up to now. I’m happy to have worked with Gotta Groove Records, Cleveland’s local manufacturer. A couple of my friends work there, and I’m grateful to have had their hands and ears on the project.

I think pressing music to vinyl is a lot like writing someone via snail mail. There’s value in the ritual and care that went into making something that will offer an experience for the recipient and sender. It’s rewarding to take the long way around sometimes. I could’ve just sent a text, yes, I could’ve streamed a track. But the process and the unfolding that surrounds an experience has the power to elevate it and leave a deep impression. This is something that drives artists to make vinyl, and I think it’s what makes people want to carve out time to enjoy it.”
Emily Keener

I Do Not Have to Be Good, the new release from Emily Keener arrives in stores on May 22, 2020—on vinyl.

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PHOTO: DALTON BRAND

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