We had the good fortune of connecting with Kéo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kéo, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I’m sure a lot of people could see my choosing to pursue music full time as a risk, but honestly, I’d rather bet on myself any day than a safe job that I might get fired from or be miserable at. For folks who like the stability of a 9-5, that’s awesome and I applaud them for finding where they fit in life. For me, taking risks has been the best way that I’ve learned how to do or not do something.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
My biggest determining factor behind anything I do, creatively or otherwise, is if something has clear and good willed intention. Doing something just for money, vanity, clout or fame doesn’t really motivate me as much as doing something because it’s fulfilling and furthers my purpose in life. Maybe that’s a little “woo woo,” but the deeper I get in a connection with myself and further the along my career goes, the more my goals are set and met with having good intentions. In terms of how I got to where I am professionally, maybe this is too simple of an answer, but I found success in the following things: 1. Treat people with respect and don’t stab anyone in the back for a quick check or politics, 2. Show up when I say I’m going to show up and do the job well, and 3. Know how to write emails and invoices well. The last one is only partially a joke – you’d be surprised how many folks in the music industry don’t have their business together remotely at all. The biggest lesson I’ve learned along the way is how to say no and honor my sense of self-respect. Having creativity is one thing but knowing how to hold it sacred and maintain its value by being choosy isn’t something we are taught. Being gifted at a craft or having special skills is something that is revered in other industries, yet in music and other types of arts, we are almost encouraged to take the lowest paying job just because it’s “good exposure” or could maybe hold equity down the road with a relationship to someone famous we’ve never met (and probably won’t ever get to work with). I choose to say no to a lot of things because my creativity is everything. My lyrics, melodies, ideas hold so much power and if I were to give it away to the lowest bidder, why should anyone else value it as more? So far, I’m most proud of my project “I Sank Then Swam” that was released in Feb. 2020 – it’s hard to really put this into words without taking the rest of the day, but ISTS was a project about a relationship where I got my heart broken and was betrayed by a few people I thought of as good friends. I didn’t take revenge or go crazy, I chose to put it into music because I thought “I can’t be the only one who’s had to go through something like this.” With the ability to write music, I see it as a gift and privilege to put into words a lot of universal stories that might be too difficult for most people to recant. In terms of what I’m excited for now, I’ve found a place in my voice and writing that I feel really confident in. I’ve never really been able to say that in my career up until this point. And not in a self-deprecating way, but I knew even a year ago, there was a tonality and expressive point I had yet to lock into. Now I feel like I’ve stepped into that tone and timbre almost effortlessly. I’ve been working on a lot of children’s shows and commercials, providing the music behind the scenes for some really recognizable brands. Some of the songs, you may actually be able to hear my voice. On the artist side of things, I’m working with a few different writers and producers on a new project. No one has ever heard me really go deep into my R&B ability, but the new stuff will be showcasing much of that. I’m also looking forward to some (hopefully) bigger features with artists I have admired and manifested writing for.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The best part about Los Angeles is that there are not only different scenes, but different climates and types of outdoor activities. There is skiing in the mountains, surfing at the beach, rock climbing in Joshua Tree, the list goes on. So it would depend on what they were in the mood for, but there w e’d probably go on a hike at the Wisdom Tree Trail (my favorite one). We’d definitely make a trip to Leo’s Taco Truck on Sunset Blvd (don’t let the names fool you, that’s the only and best Leo’s taco truck in LA). I’d take them to Malibu, through the Santa Monica Mountains to see some amazing views during the drive – a lot of people have gotten hip to Matador Beach so I’d avoid that and go to Point Dume. It’s got a great spot on a cliff for watching the sunset. Then for dinner, we could go to Osteria Mozza, one of the most famous fine dining Italian restaurants in LA. When it’s not quarantine, there’s so much to do here, you have to really plan it out well or you could sit in traffic all day.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are a few people I could thank for the support, love and mentorship they’ve given me along the way. I think the biggest shoutout I can give right now is to my siblings. Both incredibly skilled and talented in their respective fields, they’ve seen me grow, fail, try and try again and have always had my back through anything. The other two people I would like to shout out are my good friend and engineer Tyler Scott and my mentor/friend Reza Sarrafieh.
Leo Garcia, Yams (GotShotByHer), Monique Flores