Rising vocalist and performer Keeyen Martin, is one of Atlanta’s most promising new songsters. As he prepares to break into the mainstream, his talent has led him to grace the stage with living legends such as Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, PJ Morton and Kanye West. With a soulful sound and relentless talent, he is preparing for his most successful year to date.
I had the pleasure of catching up with the Atlanta native for a candid interview to discuss his upcoming plans for the new year. Check it out below.
Keeyen Martin Interview
Respect: What occurred in your life to make you want to pursue a career in music as an entertainer?
Keeyen: Being born into a musical family definitely. My mom and dad were singers and my dad is a pianist, organist, and songwriter. So being born into a musical family, doing music is one of the first things I remember doing and I was always around it. It became an immediate norm for me to go to the studio with my mom when she would record with gospel groups and perform, as my dad and uncle would be in the studio songwriting for a bunch of people.
I was in love with music before I knew what that meant. As I began to grow as a singer and performer I loved that energy and reaction you get from giving a good performance. Honestly I love being the center of attention and that came around the age of 4 or 5. I knew then I wanted to have a career in music as a famous singer. That was the start of it and I haven’t slowed down since.
Respect: When would you say you caught your big break or have you caught it yet?
Keeyen: That is interesting because a break is about prospective. I would say for me probably the transition into my under graduate is when I caught my big break being indicative of me getting a lot of professional work, from writing professionally to singing background. College is definitely where I caught my break. One of the first major opportunities I caught during undergrad was having the honor of singing background vocals for the late great Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. That was a huge moment for me because as a singer, everybody reveres Aretha Franklin.
That is when I started to see the difference between a professional level where you are in the settings with all of the people you have admired over the years, and are also getting compensated for what you do. It was an easy transition for me and doing it around campus was cool but I definitely appreciated being compensated for my talent for a change. I would definitely have to say around my collegiate years and experiences are when I started to see the change.
Respect: What was the inspiration behind your “Girl I’m On The Way” Single as it has found much success?
Keeyen: Really that song came from a place per usual as I was sitting at my key board writing and playing some chords and I knew I wanted to tell a typical love story from the male prospective. Essentially like “hey you dropped the ball and messed up” and as I was writing it I wanted the lyrics to have a simple meaning and energy surrounding it. I was in conversation with myself asking myself “what would I say to a girl if I messed up with her? Man girl I’m on the way.”
So when I said it the way I said it, it made the record simple like I was having a conversation and talking like how we talk today. I really like that and wanted to put that phrase in the hook and then it became the title of the song. I think after that, it was just easy to build the record because I drew from a real life experience and felt like every guy specifically would be able to relate to my situation. That is essentially how Girl I’m On The way” came to life.
Respect: What was it like sharing the same stage as legends such as Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, PJ Morton, Kanye West and Common and have any of them inspired you or have been instrumental in your career?
Keeyen: Well first I would have to say that I loved working with all of them. But I would have to say that Stevie Wonder is u there. He was one of the earliest voices I remember hearing from my parents and he has always represented musical excellence to me. His career is self-explanatory as far as all of the amazing songs he has made that really have transcended time.
He has been a constant source of inspiration but I vividly remember when I got the chance to meet him after singing with him. It is interesting because you go into these gigs thinking you will be close friend with an artist or acquaintances with them but generally tha tis never the case. You get hired by their music director, you learn the artists’ music and the first time you see them is on that stage they say thank you very much and keep it moving. It really just depends on the person.
But yes I remember when I got invited to eat dinner with him and his family and he just took a great interest in me. To hear him talk about my personal music and singing while encouraging me to remain authentic, is something I vividly remember. He told me that I have something that is classy and authentic. After having a conversation like that, I knew that I no longer needed affirmation from anyone getting the approval from Stevie Wonder.
Also really enjoyed working with Teyana Taylor recently. She has been really sweet and offered me all kinds of insight on the industry and interest in hearing my music when it comes out. She also championed me to all of her friends and peers. By default I would have to say that Stevie Wonder and Teyana Taylor, are two people in particular that I gravitate towards more on a personal level simply because they both genuinely showed an interest in me beyond me serving them and singing background. Some artist are only interested in you playing your role and being of service to them as they are stars in their own right as well.
Respect: Where do you draw inspiration from when creating?
Keeyen: I often take moments and reflect on my personal life, the lives of my friends and the moments they have shared with me as well as the moments I share with ym family and honestly sometimes I will just watch tv or movies for inspiration. One of my favorite components of being an artist is the storytelling of it. I really take pride in words. Like everyone who knows me personally knows that I am a natural wordsmith.
I have always been kind of nerdy in that regard as I love words, poetry, speaking and the art of languages. I think that with all of those things, I draw inspiration from whether they are personal bulls or others and I like to craft up words that I know can tell those stories. For me it is kind of easy to tap into that space as I like to listen and observe as well as being in tune with what I am feeling day to day. I think from having the capacity of being an empath so to speak, you feel everything including people’s energy all day long and I really enjoy that.
Every time I have a studio session or feeling creative, I try to tap into what exactly it is that I am feeling, what have my friends been feeling, and like the whole mood of how like the culture of the people and ultimately I try to allow myself to create music that won’t just speak to me but other people as well. That is definitely one of the fun parts about being a songwriter. The inspiration for me is so easy when I am trying to create something.
Respect: Do you mind lending some more insight on the work that you do with the Atlanta Music Project?
Keeyen: It really is an organization that is centered around youth. I have the privilege of being their vocal coach, and music mentor in which I am able to teach them all kinds of music courses to a lot of underprivileged kids in the Atlanta community. They may come from low-income or schools that have disconnected or removed art and music programs frontier curriculum. We come and feel in the gaps!
For me it is beyond a joy and honor because every time I interact with them, it brings me back to when I was a their age. I was always involved in some type of organization especially musically. I remember when I started my senior year of college and was baffled to discover they didn’t have any music programs in school which made me realize not every school has those which didn’t make since to me.
That immediately peeked my interest and I have always kind of been a natural leader since I was a kid. I Always loved volunteering and helping others, so for music it came easy for me to want to help others musically. Anytime I am able to teach or help another child or student hone in on their craft, that is joy to me. It has been such a large part of what I do because with being a teacher, it teaches you patience, and if you have a career in music patience is necessary.
Also in working with youth you have to have patience. Teachers do not receive the credit that they deserve for what they experience in the daily basis. Atlanta Music Project has been a joy to not only grow and develop as a professional singer, but to also be able to make the transition and give the kids first hand experience as I am learning myself, is super empowering and encouraging.
You know the song by Whitney Houston “Greatest Love Of All” where she sings “I believe that children are the future teach them well and let them lead the way”? That is very real to me. No matter what I do as a performer, I want to be able to have that connection to the next generation because if we don’t have that connection, who do they have to look to for guidance with their lives and careers.
Respect: What is up next for Keeyen Martin?
Keeyen: I just released my new single “Separated“ and will consistently be releasing music all throughout the year. I have some great visuals to accompany you relaxes as my EP is slated to release in April. I have a lot more performance, travels, and tours planned so you can definitely expect a huge impact to be made which is my intention.
Now that I have people’s attention and they are aware I Want to make an impact. We are excited about not only the process of making it happen, but knowing that we have some great music and content to roll out. Looking forward to getting this new music to the people.
Click here to checkout Keeyen Martin’s latest single “Separated” as he continues his rise to fame.
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