Songcraft: Spotlight on Songwriters Podcast

Robert Earl Keen

Ep. 94 - Robert Earl Keen
The Road Goes on Forever: A Modern Day Texas Icon


Scott and Paul talk about Randy Poe, Texas, and their favorite songwriters from the Lone Star State.

PART TWO -  20:52 mark
Our in-depth interview with Robert Earl Keen

* Click the orange play button below to begin listening. Or click here to download to your device.

Robert Earl Keen comes by Songcraft World Headquarters to chat about the Marty Robbins song that set him on his path as a kid; why he wants his songs to be provocative; the book Lyle Lovett gave him that jump started his career; what Steve Earle said that convinced Robert to move to Nashville; how having only $20 in his pocket led to writing his most classic song; which of his albums made him feel like he’d been accepted into the mainstream; and why he kept delaying making a bluegrass album.

Regarded as one of the purest singer-songwriters in the Texas tradition, Robert Earl Keen is a true pioneer, and one of the most consistent practitioners of the Americana genre. While studying English at Texas A&M University, Keen linked up with fellow aspiring songwriter Lyle Lovett. The pair analyzed songs and worked on their craft together, writing tunes such as “Front Porch Song” which each included on his respective debut album. After the release of the West Textures album in 1989, Keen hit the road with songwriting giants Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. It was another Texan, Joe Ely, who recorded two of Robert’s songs on his highly lauded 1993 release Love and Danger that brought Keen to the attention of a wider audience.

With a canon of classic songs that includes “The Road Goes on Forever,” “Corpus Christi Bay,” “Gringo Honeymoon,” and “Merry Christmas From the Family,” Keen built a diverse following that ranges from rowdy college kids to dyed-in-the-wool folkies. Live performance has been an important foundation of Keen’s artistry, as illustrated on the modern day classic live album No. 2 Live Dinner that was issued in 1996. 

With a dozen studio albums and seven live albums under his belt, Keen has continued to explore new musical ground with a string of charting albums that includes 2015’s Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions. Reaching the Top 10 on the country chart and #1 on the bluegrass rankings, Happy Prisoner demonstrates that Keen’s track record as an artist is just as strong as the respect his songs have earned from other performers. Those who’ve covered his material include Nanci Griffith, Eddy Raven, Kelly Willis, The Highwaymen, Jack Ingram, Montgomery Gentry, Shawn Colvin, Gillian Welch, and George Strait.

In 2012, Robert Earl Keen was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Songcraft's Robert Earl Keen Playlist: Spotify users can select the song you'd like to hear below, or simply start the player and enjoy more than two dozen REK classics. If you don't have a Spotify account, follow the prompts to sign up for free. Click this link to take you directly to the playlist in the Spotify web player.