It's a Christmas tour, but Robert Earl Keen is talking about the beach.
The Texas country star said his latest holiday outing "Fam-O-Lee Back to the Country Jamboree" starts slow and builds to an overwhelming conclusion, like watching a wave form in the distance.
"Music should be fun and entertaining for me personally," Keen said. "Playing on stage for two hours is the best feeling. ... It has this arc where the show starts out some acoustic songs with a quiet type of sound before we slowly increase the intensity."
The sixth annual Christmas tour also features Elizabeth Cook, Doyle & Debbie, Robert Ellis and the Quebe Sisters. Keen said he's always tried to push the holiday show out of Texas and will take it as far as New York this year.
Keen spoke to The Oklahoman about his upcoming show at The Jones Assembly.
Q: How long have you done this tour and what inspires you to do this tour?
Robert Earl Keen: The Christmas songs have been sort of a staple for us during December for a number of years, and for a while I got where I got to make this joke about how we should just go out and stand on stage for about an hour in a Santa hat then play the Christmas songs and everybody be happy. It's that time of the year. That's all they wanted to hear. Six years ago, we actually turned it into a show and made it a variety show with an opening act and another opening act in costumes. We started out with different Christmas costumes where we dressed up as Scrooge and Charles Dickens set piece. Then we try to expand with some themes and created the bigger set.
Q: What is the theme for this year?
Keen: This year we are doing the "Back to the Country Jamboree," which is basically a country rock show where everybody would dress up as Tom Petty, Neil Young or Yoko. Within that window, we all sing some of those iconic songs, which is abbreviated like a chorus or a verse and a chorus again so that we don't take up the whole show playing the whole song.
Q: So you're not sticking to just country?
Keen: We do a holiday thing and a rock thing, we have world-class players, and they enjoy jumping in the joke of dressing up and most of these guys could sing just as good as they guys they portray. We might feature "American Girl" by Tom Petty.
Q: Do you get the same feeling every time or is it always a different feeling with these shows?
Keen: It's exciting. A couple of our themes were really, really good and the inclination is to just repeat, but I feel like the big part of the fun for us as a band is to work through the set as a new thing and learning some new songs. Presenting the songs differently gives us some real challenges to step up every night and do our best, whereas I think if I repeat, the crowd might doze off. There is a great deal of effort put into this show and putting it onstage.
Q: What type of crowds do you try to attract?
Keen: I am the Milton Bradley game version of entertainment, and I am good for everyone from 8 to 80. I have made that joke for so many years, but truly our fans are not a solid demographic.
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