John Keek

Image via John Keek

Daily Discovery is a feature that highlights a new or recently discovered artist who we’re excited about. See the rest of our Daily Discoveries here.

Without any context, it’s hard to make sense of John Keek’s “Come Give it Up.” When I played the song for a friend, his first reaction was, “It sounds like Röyksopp and Flying Lotus covering ‘Marvin’s Room.'”

Pictures of John Keek offer the first clue—he only has a few photographs online, but he’s got a saxophone strung around his neck in all of them. He’s been playing the instrument since he was 14 years old, and his involvement with jazz is one of many things that set him apart from the flood of young artists who are mainly interested in modern genres like hip-hop, electronic, and pop. But perhaps more importantly, John Keek is into those things too. The result is a sound that feels very in-touch with the times, but also ties in traditional musicianship that you don’t hear too often from a young creator’s first forays into recording.

“Come Give It Up” is such a great song. Can you tell me a little about that song? What were you going through when you wrote it?
It’s about a girl that I can’t stay away from. I try to be playful as a songwriter and honor the experience because I don’t want to come off as an exhibitionist of the hurt I went through. When things are going great, you don’t want it to end. The song is me asking for us to keep it going.

Do you handle all your own production?
I produce all of my music from my computer and I’m grateful to be able to borrow microphones from friends when I record vocals or instruments.

Can you tell us a little about you personally? Where are you from, how old are you, when did you start making music?
I was born near D.C. and raised in Las Vegas. I’m 18 years old and I started songwriting last year. I’m infatuated with creating music; it’s all I think about and do. I play gigs on the saxophone and spend almost the entirety of my days listening to different styles of music. I also really like drawing. I drew all of those covers for the songs I have up right now. I love watching dope movies by directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino too. All around, I just enjoy staying stimulated as an artist.

What’s your goal with music? Do you want to pursue a full-time career? If a label wanted to sign you today, would you be interested?
I want to make music that is relatable to the times and speaks to people. My heart is set on being a professional artist and musician as my full-time career. Absolutely, I would be interested if it’s a label that I feel my vision correlates with.

You only have three songs on SoundCloud. Are these the first songs you’ve ever recorded?
Yeah, those are the first songs that I’ve ever recorded. I’m working towards an EP though, so I’m just getting started.

When did you start playing saxophone? Who are your favorite saxophonists?
I started playing saxophone when I was 14. My favorite players are Joe Henderson and Lee Konitz. I’m obsessed with the sound they get.

What’s the music scene like in Las Vegas? Do you feel like you’re part of a scene there, or do you do your own thing?
There are some great musicians in town. I play with a handful of cats but I mostly isolate myself so I can write music and shed the horn. It’s just what works for me.

Have you ever performed live? Is that something you look forward to, or do you prefer recording?
I have performed my original music live a couple of times with a band. I look forward to playing live shows because I love playing for people and I’m an honest improvisor. I’d put a band together full of dudes that can really play and interpret the music in their own way. Musicians like drummer-Louis Cole (from L.A. based band KNOWER) and pianist-Jacob Mann (Max OX) are the epitome of the type of people that would ideally be working with me. I’d have the saxophone on stage and blow solos over tunes but I’d be singing and also playing around on a synth or guitar.

Who’s your favorite rapper right now?
Kendrick Lamar and Chance The Rapper are fire and brimstone.

Favorite singer?
Donny Hathaway.

Favorite animal?
Sea turtle.

What else do you want people to know about you?
I want to make people feel good when they listen to my music. I believe that songs that are truly great are the ones that can be replayed endlessly and be enjoyed just as much each consecutive time. I aim to have my music at that high of a level. Thelonious Monk said, “A genius is the one most like himself,” and that is all I’m trying to do here. I’m being myself and I hope people like it.