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The University News

Allison Keeley: Music from a Midwestern Student for Midwestern Students

An Interview with the Up and Coming Folk Singer-Songwriter
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(Ethan Risch /The Sunday Collective)

Allison Keeley is a 22-year-old graduate student at the University of Wisconsin. She has a sound that she says is “heavily influenced by folk” as well as the singer-songwriter genre. “I don’t think my music would sound anything like it does now if I had never listened to Phoebe Bridgers or Elliot Smith or people of that genre,” Keeley said. Keeley’s age and vulnerable lyricism makes for relatable music to anyone on SLU’s campus.

She released her debut EP, “Carter,” as she finished high school. It is an acoustic-driven and melancholic self-produced album not unlike “For Emma, Forever Ago,” by Bon Iver, which is also an inspiration of Keeley’s. “I think one of the reasons Carter is so somber is high school sadness. Also, I was just kind of figuring out how to record honestly” Keeley said. 

Despite her young age when creating it, “Carter” is soaked in a poetic cold atmosphere, with emotional lyrics like “I know you’re somewhere underwater / but I’ve never been a very strong swimmer” and “Sweet Delilah, Mary Jane, how come the sunrise still feels like rain / cause it is what it is till it isn’t the same” 

The project’s stripped back minimalist sound makes it a project that feels honest and vulnerable, like a personal look into an artist at work. “The more I learned how to record through Carter was like ‘oh I can record another guitar over it’ and like ‘a vocal [with] and another vocal over it’ so there’s a lot of layering, but not a lot of variety in instruments at all,” Keeley said.

Her song “Sadie” features rain sounds in the background, which when combined with her layered vocals, create a gorgeous backing to vulnerable lyrics like “I’ve got nothing to lose / no one to hold” and “Come on Sadie dance / I’ll call you pretty, is it fine to do that.” This use of minimal instrumentation and ambient noise once again makes the listener feel as though they are right there with Keeley listening to her play.

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The standout song is “Rock Garden,” Keeley’s favorite of the ones she has made. “That one just means a lot to me as a song. ‘Rock Garden’ I wrote my sophomore year of high school, and I felt like it was my first ‘big girl’ song like this is a real adult song that has a theme and is not just teeny boppy and weird,” Keeley said. 

The song features chilling storytelling of a girl named Adelaide, and her fate is foreshadowed in the lyrics “Cause she’s got a boyfriend and he’s five years older / they go out for hours, and he says that he loves her” before being confirmed moments later “And I let my own body go limp in my bed / and they found my Adelaide under the bridge.” 

After “Carter” came out in 2020, Keeley took a two year sabbatical from releasing music. She has since released three singles, gaining a significant boost in popularity when one single, “Richie,” was popularized on TikTok. It is no surprise that Richie caught on as it did, given the song’s catchy and infectious sound. The chorus, led by Keeley’s beautiful voice and relatable writing, catches the listener immediately and stays in their head, making it evident Allison Keeley is a name that will only be heard more and more as time passes.

 

Interview Highlights

On balancing life as a student and musician

“I think that the actual playing music and writing music is really relaxing. The part that feels stressful on top of school is keeping up with the marketing and social media stuff.”

On the Midwest affecting her music’s sound

“I think there is something special about the Midwestern music scene. There’s something about it being like 15 degrees for five months. I don’t know, maybe we’re all seasonally depressed, but we make some pretty good songs.” 

On how TikTok affects music consumption

“It’s cool cause you get exposed to so many more things, but then I get like 100 DM’s being like ‘When are releasing the slowed and reverbed version?’ Or like your song blows up and people only know six seconds of it. I know the smart social media thing would be like ‘Okay let’s make sure there’s a really solid 20 seconds of this song that has a drop in it’ like a good sound byte. That would probably be the smartest thing to do, but I think that’s so shitty for songwriting to be like ‘Is this gonna fly on TikTok?’ It feels kind of gross to me.”

On upcoming musical projects

“So, currently, the goal is to release an EP sometime in 2024. I’m thinking somewhere between like six to eight, maybe nine songs.”

On what has been in her listening history

“I’ve been listening to a lot of this guy named Slim Dan, I just really like his songwriting. He’s very playful in the way that he song writes and really kind of clever. I also have been a really big fan of this band called TOLEDO. I’m always listening to Big Thief, oh and this band called Lonely Pirate Committee. I would shout them out for sure, they just released an album that is really good.”

Keeley’s newest single “Same Person” came out November 18th. Find that and all of her other music here.

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    CarrieDec 19, 2023 at 11:45 pm

    Who even is this?

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