SONG PREMIERE: Jack Keyes Lends Intimate and Whispery Vocals to Enchanting Folk Single “Ferdinand”

The human condition strives for transcendence—anywhere we are, we want to be somewhere else. These days, though, there is no place else to go. For us earthbound folk, Louisville, Kentucky-based singer-songwriter Jack Keyes offers his debut full-length, The Moon Is Too High. It’s a getaway album, featuring 10 songs of sublimely intimate experimental folk. It will be preceded by the single, Ferdinand.

“This album, as a whole, deals with themes of childhood and ‘getting out’ of circumstances you don’t want to be in. It feels timely. There is a lot of escapism in the lyrics,” Jack says.

Jack’s musicality is soft spoken but edgy. His aesthetic is informed by classical guitar, pop, the beat poet tradition, and the inspiration of artists such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Nick Drake, and Elliott Smith, among others. Also, hugely impactful to his songwriting, and his humanity, have been his experiences as a 10th grade writing teacher in Nashville, Tennessee. Previously, Jack has issued the EP The Dog Who Ate Your Birthday Cake (2018), recorded with Erik Wafford (My Morning Jacket, Bill Callahan, Daniel Johnston), and the two-song release Last Nostalgia (2019).

Jack began his journey in music after his godfather/pen pal—Grammy-winning producer Joe Henry—surprised with him his first acoustic guitar after Jack had expressed interest in being a musician, and was inquiring about advice for purchasing an affordable instrument. Upon receiving the guitar, he immediately began learning chords and writing songs.

Today Glide is excited to premiere his new single “Ferdinand,” a song that feels like a lost entry in the Great American Songbook – worn in, refined, and nostalgic. With soft acoustic folk playing, Jack lends his intimate and whispery vocals to the idea of potent self-realization concerning concepts of nature verses nurture that he studied while majoring in psychology in college. His soft and vulnerable lyrics are complemented by a sparse and delicate arrangement of acoustic guitar, bringing to mind the reflective and quiet indie folk of acts like Iron and Wine and Tallest Man on Earth. There is a fleeting beauty to the music and vocals, as they seem to drift away as if blown by a soft wind and suddenly the song fades away as quickly as it started. 

Jack describes the inspiration and process behind the song:

I first came up with the chord progression for Ferdinand in my room when I lived in a very thin-walled co-op of over 100 people at the University of Texas. Everyone could always hear when I played guitar, and I remember someone messaged me on Facebook that whatever I was playing sounded pretty. That gave me the confidence to add words to the song. I was a psychology major, and I would always apply my classes to my real life as I was trying to find my place in the world. I started undertaking an unhealthy mindset of conveniently blaming my insecurities on anyone that had hurt me, from kids who picked on me when I was little, to relationships that didn’t go as planned. I realized that it was a silly way to think and that I need to take responsibility for my own actions and mindset, which is why the chorus starts with “I won’t blame you”.

The title, “Ferdinand” comes from the children’s story of Ferdinand the bull, who always wanted to smell flowers instead of fighting like the other bulls. I always admired Ferdinand as a kid, and I still do, but my thinking is more complicated now. I am often super non-confrontational and just want to be left alone in my flower field, but sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do: stand up for yourself, communicate difficult feelings, and “fight” for yourself in a sense. Only then can you find your inner peace and smell flowers under the cork tree like Ferdinand.


Photo credit: Francis Thomasovich

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