Es gibt wenige Künstler, die in all ihren Ausdrucksformen so beeindrucken und begeistern wie der britische Songwriter, Poet und Künstler Keaton Henson! Seine Alben sind zumeist ein roher emotionaler Trip, wenn es sich nicht gerade um ein Album voller Instrumental-Klassik-Kompositionen handelt. Seine Gedichte sind von einnehmender Schönheit und auch die Ausstellungen seiner Bilder erfreuen sich wachsender Beliebtheit in seiner Heimat. Schade nur, dass der scheue Brite zumeist lieber für sich werkelt, als häufiger auch mal auf Konzertreise zu gehen. Wir haben zumindest die Chance genutzt, als Henson zuletzt in Berlin für ein exklusives Deutschland-Konzert zugegen war und haben ihn mit Fragen gelöchert!
You recently released a new album, Kindly Now. How’s the response been so far?
It’s been really good thus far. It’s nice for me because my fans seem to always accept what I produce, my third record was an instrumental classical record and no one seemed to batter an eyelash. They respect whatever I decide to put out and that gives me freedom to feel like I can push myself every time. As long as they get what I’m trying to do, that’s what matters to me.
Was it an album you enjoyed making?
It was a little bit tortured to be honest. It took three years to make; I started to write it when I was in LA finishing Birthdays. George Carlin said that as an artist who writes from inside yourself, you can either come back out or go further in. So with this record I was like I don’t want to keep mining from the same pool so I started going into areas that I didn’t necessarily want to explore that much but I forced myself to go there. Emotionally if anything to just try and find the areas that were left, the areas that I’d avoided for a reason.
There are lots of beautiful orchestral melodies within Kindly Now. How much say did you have in the production side of the album?
I just did it on my own. My second record, Birthdays, was done with a big team in a very intimidating studio in LA; it was a really amazing experience but I was really longing to go back to my bedroom. I had an amazing engineer called Dan Grech-Marguerat come over and he helped me set my bedroom up so it sounded better. I bought a new piano, we set it all up and I did it on my own for months and months. Recording the piano, vocals, and then started bringing orchestral players in, one on one.
Do you enjoy the process of creating an album?
Yeah more and more so. I wasn’t that interested in it before, I’ve always thought the songwriting bit was the most important part. I always thought the production as polishing something that doesn’t need to be polished. But the more I’ve got into arrangement and composing that’s changed. Hopefully with this record with the strings and orchestral arrangement, it’s done in a more interesting way than in pop music. Quite often they’re production as opposed to actual composition. I did some boring production things but most of it was recorded really close, I wanted to create a more raw sound. Rather than hearing a rush of an orchestra, you can hear each instrument. They’re close, and almost claustrophobic at times.
You come from quite an arty background, your mum’s a ballet dancer and your dad’s an actor – so why music?
Ironically, I’ve never thought of myself as a performer. I come from a family of performers. I don’t like attention or going on stage. It was always art and writing for me and music wasn’t the main focus. Yet somehow I’ve ended up performing, against my own judgment. Everyone assumed I’d be a painter; music was always more of an emotional thing for me, so I kept it secret. I’d just write emotional songs in my bedroom and drawing was a lot more public for me.
Do you have any plans to continue drawing?
I had an exhibition last year and I’ve got two more coming up in February. Another couple of illustrated books online that I’m finishing now, but it’s just finding time in between doing music.
Do you find that the different forms of art (illustrating, music, poetry) help you to express different feelings? Do you have a favorite?
I couldn’t be luckier to have them all. Music keeps me sane when the arts driving me mad and art keeps me sane when the music is driving me mad. I really need them both in a completely different way. I know too well what I’m doing with art, the technical aspects I mean, because I’ve been doing it for so long. I almost feel too confident in it to feel emotive and expressive. Whereas with music I’m feeling my way in the dark, and I try to keep it that way as much as possible. I try not to learn too much about music other than by doing it. There’s something in ignorance, or at least naivety, which means that you’re more instinctive, because you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s more of an outpouring.
Do you think you need to make yourself vulnerable as an artist?
It’s an impossible thing that we have to balance between probability and confidence. You have to make yourself vulnerable enough to create but also be confident enough to release. So yeah, it’s a weird one.
Who would you say inspires your art the most?
I’ve realized that a lot of the people I want to be like, I don’t want to live like. But in terms of artistic output I’d definitely saw Randy Newman. He always has been my hero. He’s an incredible songwriter; essentially I’ve realized his greatness comes from his honesty. He writes songs so brutally honest about the world that we live in that it makes people uncomfortable. And I aspire to be brave enough to do that. I’m also a massive John Betjeman fan, not that that’s a cool thing to be. I like Tennyson and the Romantics, Shelley and Byron.
Do you think an increased presence in the public eye affects your ability to create?
Definitely! It becomes harder and harder to ignore your audience. The more I’m aware of the audience the more I’ll try not to be. So I have to keep adding different techniques to my process to try and ignore the fact that there’s this audience. I think the creative process changes for everyone. There are so many artists whose output I feel is damaged because they ignore the fact that they are changing. Whatever happens as you get older, whether famous or not, you keep changing; your heart changes and you have to embrace it, figure out what your new process is. I think a lot of people don’t do that, they just keep doing what they’re doing and it doesn’t’ work.
Where can you see yourself in another five years?
I think composition is something I’m really excited by. There’s a film coming out in a couple of weeks that I’ve done the score for, it’s a ballet film. Yeah so that was really exciting, and composition is something I want to do more of. Just locking myself away and writing. And another album when it occurs to me. Finishing these books, drawings, another exhibition. Just continuing to explore really, that’s my main job.