Welcome to a new installation of Back Porch ATX, a collaborative series with Verge Campus and Porch Fire Records that features outdoor live performances from local artists.
Jack Keyes first wanted to play guitar in 7th grade, but he couldn’t find anything in his budget.
“I was looking online for an acoustic guitar that I could afford in 7th grade, which was not very many,” Jack said. “I’m left handed, too, so lefty guitars are kind of rare.”
He emailed his musician godfather, who told Jack to wait a little bit before buying one.
“And then it showed up at my door one day,” Jack said, a left handed Martin. “From there I was just playing every day. I was playing at night and waking up my parents.”
Last year, when Jack was a sophomore at UT, he took what he called his first push into music.
“I kind of randomly decided to make an album with my roommate,” Jack said. “We were living in a dorm and over the course of a month we made a full album. I don’t know why. I was in a weird mental state or something, and I just decided to get really obsessive over music.”
That project was called Whipflash, and the band played some shows around Austin and made some appearances on Texas Student Television.
“That was just my initial push, and I’m gonna make a bigger push now,” Jack said. “I’d never put myself out there before, and that was the first time I tentatively stepped out of my comfort zone. Now I wanna leap out and really go for it.”
Jack said he’s focused more on writing songs and doing solo shows, pointing to influences like Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley and Nick Drake.
“They made so much happen with just a guitar and their voice,” Jack said. “I think that takes away a lot of the stress when all you’re focusing on is the song, the lyrics and the melody. Just saying I’m gonna do this bare and see what happens.”
Instead of songs that use vague metaphors, Jack said he’s using more specific anecdotes that could have actually happened in someone’s life.
“I really like to write short stories and poems and think from a character’s perspective rather than my own,” Jack said. “So regardless of whether what happened was true or not, it’s nice to have a story and a narrative in songs.”
Jack is a journalism junior at UT. He plans to keep playing open mics for a few months and record some songs over break so he can start booking shows.
“The scariest part of music is sharing it with other people, whether that’s live or just sending them recordings,” Jack said. “It’s easy for musicians to feed off what people think, and it’s hard to decide when people’s opinions should matter and when they shouldn’t.”