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Interview with Bassist Keven Eknes

Keven Eknes, a highly sought after session musician and sideman in Nashville has just released a stunning, highly eclectic instrumental EP entitled “Northern Lights.”

Inspired by the arctic lights (Eknes grew up in Norway), this gorgeous 4-song collection combines rock, country and jazz in a way that you probably haven’t heard before. We chatted with Eknes about his unique fusion of genres and picking style, and which basses he reaches for when he opts to law down some low end.

You had 2 pretty killer bassists appear on the new EP, Jacob Umansky (Intervals, Painted In Exile, and The Faceless) and session musician, Alex Gorchesky. Who played on each song? 

Yeah they’re badass! Jacob for “Into the Maze” (1) and “Diminished Blues” (2), Alex for “Hemispheres” (4). 

You’re a Berklee alum yourself. Do you know them both from your tenure there? 

Yeah, although I didn’t really get to know them until the very end (Alex) and after (Jacob). I met Alex during the final graduation concert, thought he was awesome to hang with and an amazing player so we kept in touch. Jacob and I randomly started chatting on socials a couple years after Berklee. We did have an art class together at some point, where we were improvising to different paintings. 

Jacob is pretty well known, especially in the metal community specifically. What made you choose his particular playing style for your latest effort, which leans more in the direction of rock, country and jazz? 

I like experimenting with the settings musicians are put in. Jacob has such an evolved and notable sound, and whatever music he is a part of, is gonna have that “Umansky” sound. Jacob’s sound helps carry the songs immensely, especially energy-wise, and the strong djent sound really adds a cool vibe to the more “Country” and “Blues” songs. Similarly, Alex has a lot of experience in Jazz, and I thought his sense of harmony would be very cool in the more “Prog” song, as well as having the capacity to maneuver the chord changes in a very creative way. 

The new EP as I mentioned earlier employs many different styles. One thing I love about your playing in particular is your incorporation of country. One minute, you’ll be shredding a super proggy, Steve Vai-esque solo, and then the next you’re on to some lightning fast chicken pickin’. Has your tenure in Nashville inspired that, or have you always been a fan of country? 

Thank you so much! Very kind. Definitely something that has been added to my vocabulary the past couple years, since moving here. I’m a bit of a wanderlust, and I try to learn and adapt the musical languages from the environments I live in. Nashville has such a prominent style that can really add a new depth to the more rock sound, and I am having a blast exploring my own sound with the current surroundings. 

The EP is entirely instrumental. Do you think you’ll incorporate some singing the next time around? 

Probably not “singing” with lyrics and everything, but the human voice is definitely something I can see added for pads or melodies in the future. 

In addition to being a very accomplished guitarist, I also learned that you do play bass casually and for demos. Do you think you have a more of a guitarist’s approach to bass since that’s your main instrument, or can you completely switch gears and attack it more like a bass player when you play? 

I do, however I am definitely a guitar player playing the bass. The lines are often very minimalistic covering the tonality in the low-end, or is based off of the guitar riffs and hooks. I think the modal heavy guitar approach targets other “colors” than a more traditional bass mindset would, and through the demos I think I can often contribute or sparks ideas that would not be there otherwise, to whoever does the final recording performance. 

Which bass(es) do you normally jam on when you do decide to pick one up? 

I have a Black Fender Jazz Bass from the early 90s, loaded with J-Style JBE Pickups (Joe Barden). 

Can we expect to see you on tour following the EP release, and will you be bringing Alex and/or Jacob with you? 

I wish! I am booked with sessions and sideman gigs until late December, however after that, I would love to! Hoping to release more music, gathering enough traction to maybe split the bill with someone else very soon.

Visit online: INSTAGRAM | YOUTUBE | KEVENEKNES.COM

Photo, Cat Collins

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