Wikipedia describes Keaton Henson as an English indie folk/folk rock musician, visual artist, and poet from London. He currently has six albums: Dear, Birthdays, Romantic Works, Behaving, 5 Years, and Kindly Now.
My friend introduced me to Keaton Henson a few years ago, and I quickly became a huge fan. His music is soft, intimate, and deeply emotional, featuring minimal instrumentation and powerfully moving lyrics. In his art, Keaton expresses his fears, heartbreaks, and struggle with extreme social identity.
I particularly love his albums Birthdays (2013) and Kindly Now (2016) as well as his instrumental album Romantic Works (2014) featuring cellist Ren Ford.
If I had to choose, a few of my favorite songs of his are Lying To You, Old Lovers In Dressing Rooms, and Alright.
Lying To You is written as an anti-love letter from a man to his lover, exposing the falsity of his feelings. One verse reads,
“Girl you must know you are lovely,
You’re kind and you’re beautiful too.
And I feel in some way I do love you,
But babe I’m not in love with you.”
The song is beautifully tragic, and if it is an autobiographical story, I think Keaton is placing the blame on himself for his inability to love, portraying himself as cold, unfeeling, and broken. The singer admits that their relationship is just a front, and by no fault of the girl’s, he feels nothing. Whether based in fact or fiction, the story of the lover who is not in love is heartbreaking. The song ends with Keaton’s attempt at an explanation, as he writes,
“It may seem strange that I still stay with you
If it’s true you’re not really the one.
And why don’t I just keep on looking for her?
‘Cuz I found her but now she is gone.”
In Old Lovers In Dressing Rooms, Keaton tells what is almost undoubtedly a personal story; a former love from his youth visiting him in his dressing room after a show. In the lyrics of the song, Keaton describes their private exchange. They are both initially awkward with each other, and although they grow more comfortable as they reminisce on their youth, it becomes clear that Keaton still hasn’t gotten over their relationship, singing,
“We haven’t many words to say,
I’ve thought about you every day.
And she seems disappointed
When I say that I’m not happy yet.”
The song reveals the fragility of Keaton’s heart, and his fear that he hasn’t done enough with his life. He still thinks of her, despite the years that stand between them. His old love has moved on and is living happily, as Keaton writes,
“She tells me she is happy now,
She really loves him and they have a house.
I say I’m glad for her and I should’ve known-
I have one too now but I live alone.”
In my interpretation of this song, Keaton seems to feel there is something wrong with him, that he is always caught up in the past, and it is hard for him to live like other people. He and his old love have gone down very different paths, and now that they’ve crossed again, he is left feeling a mix of emotions, overcome with his old feelings for her and his insecurity about the choices that have brought him here. This song is a nostalgic walk down memory lane, remembering the people that have left our lives and reflecting on the ways time changes people, and the ways they remain the same.
One of the first songs I ever heard by Keaton is his song Alright. I love listening to this song whenever I’m down and having a hard time. In this song, Keaton again appears to be singing to a love, possibly the french singer Soko, with whom Keaton was in a public relationship with. A bit of research will show you that Keaton has kept the facts of the relationship and breakup mostly private, while Soko has been more candid, at least with her side of the story. I, personally, don’t want to dig into the artists’ personal lives and continually bring up their now-concluded relationship, but this song does seem to reference another artist, as Keaton sings,
“I hear the crowds adore you so
But I’m still here I hope you know
This song might not exactly sound like a comforting song, but I always feel calmed whenever I listen to it, especially the line at the beginning of the chorus that contains the song’s title, which says,
“You’ll be alright.”
As someone who suffers from both social anxiety and depression, all of Keaton’s songs resonate very deeply with me. This song especially captures my experience with social anxiety, and I listened to it a lot during my first year of college when I was feeling isolated and forgotten. Keaton describes the way he feels like a recluse, preferring to close himself off from the world and the difficulty he has opening up to others.
The ending of the song moves me to tears almost every time I listen to it, as Keaton’s voice trails off with the words,
“Don’t make me go
God knows what out there lies.
I’m hoping I don’t die
I’ve got chills, it’s so good.
The final line really strikes a chord with me; no matter what this couple has been through, whether they are already broken up or not, he doesn’t want to go on living after she is gone.
I was so happy to find Keaton Henson when I did; I’ve never listened to an artist that felt so open and vulnerable and his music really helped me through some hard times. As you can see, most (if not all) of his music is rooted in experiences from his life, not just generalized pop tunes. He truly feels like such an artist; his lyrics are so poetic and he’s talented in a variety of mediums. He’s very reclusive, and therefore he doesn’t have a social media presence and doesn’t usually play live shows, but I respect his privacy, and eagerly await anything he’s willing to share with us.
If you want to know more about Keaton, I really like this interview from a few years ago:
Thanks so much for reading! This is a new segment I’d like to start where I share and analyze one artist that I particularly love. I hope this was interesting for you, and hopefully you’re inspired to check out Keaton’s music! I also want to set up a little way on this blog for people to submit song/artist recommendations because I love discovering new music~
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