Dear sixties souls, we are very thrilled to introduce to you the Good Morning Keith Diary. This journey was born following our desire to put the light on artists who share the same inspirations as we do and to talk about key events that built the values of sixties countercultures.
For this first step into the Good Morning Keith diary, we would like to introduce to you Theo Lawrence, a French musician coming from the suburbs of Paris inspired by the blues, the soul and the pop of the 60’s. Influenced by many legends such as Karen Dalton, Lee Hazelwood or even Willy Nelson, he began his music career in 2016 with his band, Theo Lawrence and the Heart, and a double single named Heaven To Me. Soon after came Sticky Icky (EP, 2016), You’ve Changed/500 Dances (2017, Single) & later another single called: My Prophecy (2017, Single).
Following those releases came their first album: Homemade Lemonade (2018), a warm 10 tracks record which is an elegant mix of Nashville sounds, soul and rythm&blues. It appeared to us as a romantic trip into the American culture, a trip where we would be sit-in a Cadillac broadcasting a Motown playlist. What is remarkable with his music is that it sounds really authentic but also very modern! It feels like all those songs were written in the late fifties but recorded yesterday.
A year later, Theo Lawrence released his latest record named Sauce Piquante. This record has been mainly recorded in the state of Georgia with Mark Neil who is also famous for his work with the Black Keys (co-producer & sound engineer). Mark Neil used to be a radio operator, he recorded for 10 years on only one track! He is known for his way of working and doesn’t compromise at all. We read that he rarely let musicians take more than 3 takes! By this process, he focuses the recording on musicians and not on technology… Very authentic, Theo brilliantly continues his work by adding more sonority to his music. We’ve spotted there some swamp pop and cajun inspirations. By the way, the name of the record is a reference to Jimmy Newman who screams « Sauce Piquante » in a track!
We had the opportunity to meet and ask Theo a few questions:
Hey Theo, could you tell us how you came to music?
My sister and I used to sing karaoke in Paris, around Belleville when we were kids. That must have been one of my first musical experience. Most of the time the only public was my parents.
Then I got a mini electric guitar for Christmas when I was 6. I played around with it for a couple of days and gave up pretty quickly. I also tried piano for a while but couldn’t quite focus.
A few years later, as I got introduced to Rock & Roll, I picked that guitar back up and started having serious fun with it! Learning a few chord shapes, and you know, fooling around in front of a mirror...
My father and I went to the video store and rented the Woodstock DVD and I was hooked. I immediately formed a band with my friends and started writing little pieces of songs. I didn’t even how to play or anything but "Fake it ’till you make it ».
It’s hard to say precisely what I loved about that music but I was just obsessed. I was reading all the magazines, reading about all the stories, watching all the footage and pictures I could put my hands on. From the late 60’s psychedelic music, my taste evolved to early 70’s hard rock, then British punk rock and so on. I haven’t stopped listening to new music, writing songs and playing in a band for a single day ever since!
What are your 5 most important records?
They change over time but if had to pick 5 records that really influenced me when I was in my early - mid-teens, I’d say :
- Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones
- Elephant by The White Stripes
- Disraeli Gears by Cream
- Are you experienced by Jimi Hendrix
- The Stooges by The Stooges
Even though I don’t listen much to these records these days, they have a little bit of everything I love today. I’ll also give 5 records important for me right now :
- Introspect by Joe South
- The very special world of Lee Hazlewood
- They call me country by Sanford Clark
- I only want to be with you by Dusty Springfield
- Shakin’ the Blues (compilation) by Johnny Paycheck
What's your relation with clothes?
My relation is deep, I think. My interest for clothing really evolved with my taste in music. Depending on what band I was into, my style changed, and I always put a lot of care into it. I like to switch things up now and then.
It’s always been a way to really live my passion to the fullest and to create a little world around me, adding romance to my everyday life. I’ve always put myself into a sort of characters, living at a specific time and place.
I can wake up one morning and try to channel a truck driver from Canada in the winter of ’72, then listen to the Beatles the next day and put a pair of Cuban boots, a properly ironed white shirt and a suit. Then I’ll go through a Nashville 60’s country phase and I’ll try to look like a decent songwriter/record producer going to work one morning in 1962…It’s a game I play in my head and I have a lot of fun with it.
Do you have any icon when it comes to getting dressed for the stage?
I think that Gene Vincent had an amazing style and even though I’ve never walked up on a stage in a full black leather outfit with a big gold chain, I think it looks great on him. Not mentioning the fact that I think he’s one of the most soulful singers I’ve ever heard.
Besides that, I’d say Waylon Jennings in the late 60’s, Keith Richards, Elvis… or all the country singers from the same time period. I think I get a lot of inspiration from all the appearances these people made on TV sets back in the days. Sometimes they’re sharply dressed, sometimes they’re a little more casual. I love how it complements the music. It’s all part of the movie. It’s all on Youtube!
Are clothes playing a role in your musical project?
Well, not consciously because it’s really part of who I am. I don’t wear a uniform or anything, I just dress according to the mood of the day. Clothes play an important role in my life more than in my music. You gotta show up to work in a respectable attire right?
We’ve recently seen that you were recording a new project, is there anything we can know?
Yes, we’ve recorded about half an album a few weeks ago and we’re going back in the studio to do the rest. With all the cancelled shows and all, I try to keep myself busy. So these days I’m really knee-deep into the next album.
When it comes to recording, do you follow certain rituals?
I’m pretty down to earth about to it. I like listening to records before making music. I love to be influenced and listen to a ton of stuff when we’re recording. It gives grist for the art.
When we were at Mark Neill’s studio in Georgia we started every day of recording with 2 or 3 hours of just spinning records in the control room. We got lots of ideas from that.
We get into a circle, work on the arrangements, some drink coffee, some smoke a little something. The whole deal is to keep the atmosphere a little loose and to have fun while we're doing it. Usually, when the red light goes on, everyone gets a little tense so you have to relax and stay focused at the same time to let the magic happen.
How do you deal with actual context? We’ve seen a lot of artist having troubles with inspirations, how’s it been for you?
Well, I kinda have a hard time with the routine. Weeks feel like one very long day sometimes. I try to stay busy, listening to music, working on my guitar and when a good idea comes to my mind, I write a song. It is hard indeed to find inspiration when days are all alike.
Writing songs is a necessity for me so I just do it without asking myself too many questions. When I get down to it, it usually comes. It doesn’t mean they’re all good but at least I keep it moving.
I really miss playing shows and travelling to different places. You don’t realize how much you like it until it’s taken away from you.
How do you feel about releasing music at the moment?
I feel like it’s the only thing left for me to do, to keep on creating and existing in this line of work. It’s the one thing I look forward to. I think about it every morning when I get up. I want to keep on experimenting in the studio, improve my songwriting, our abilities as a band, the whole quality level of my music. You got to keep on working to make a living and in my situation, writing, recording and releasing music is my job. So buckle down, knuckle down!
And a parting question, what would you like listeners to take away from your work?
I’d love them to feel the same as I do when I listen to something I like. To be taken to another, better world. Quite frankly I think things are pretty ugly right now and music is a good way to go where things are beautiful.
All pictures taken by Julien Aussel