On Friday, Dec. 17 Keith Foley will play his last gig with the Amorphous Band. The date simultaneously marks the beginning of his (semi) retirement from live performance to pursue his next musical career move, which is working with Rob Kneeland's Emus Way Music publishing company, composing and producing music.
"What it is for me, is I really want to focus on the publishing company," said Foley in recent interview at his Dover home. "It's really where I have my heart set now. I've never really tried anything like this before — composing music. It's a new challenge for me, and it's a ton of fun, just banging out tunes and cataloguing them. It's a think tank, we just hang out, come out with ideas, record the ideas and combine them with other musical thoughts we have, or come up with down the line. Everything from folk, to jazz, to Americana, along with the stuff that Leo Ganley is doing there — more of the pop stuff — we're trying to cover it all."
WHERE The Press Room, 77 Daniel St., Portsmouth
WHEN Friday, Dec. 17, 9 p.m.
CONTACT 431-5186, www.pressroomnh.com, www.amorphousmusic.com
Foley started off at a young age playing the trumpet, which he claims was his first real love, listening to his parents' Herb Alpert, Al Hurt, and Harry James records and trying to recreate the sounds on his own horn.
"But then I got braces," he says with perfect comedic timing. "Back then braces were like having a train in your mouth. So that was the end of that."
He then started singing tenor in chorus and found himself struck by the kids standing behind him singing the bass notes, which led to him picking up the bass guitar (his father bought him his first bass at the age of 16) and playing along with his favorite Pink Floyd tunes. The rest is history.
Foley has been playing professionally for 23+ years now, working with bands of his own such as the Haveknots, as well as collaborating with others including Tim Janis, Northern Roots, Charlie Strater, Dan Walker, and many others. He is best known, perhaps, for his work with Chris O'Neill and the Amorphous Band. The two met 13 years ago, and formed an instant, unique musical bond.
"I'd seen Keith around at a few open mics and he always kind of stole the show," O'Neill reminisced in a recent interview. —»It was a show he did with Heidi Batchelder that I was mixing (at the Stone Church) when it clicked how good his sound would be with my guitar duo, which at the time was called the Friday Night Haircuts (which later 'morphed' into the Amorphous Band).
"Having Keith in the band is a bonus in a million ways but definitely in that I always had a partner who would go to the edge of the cliff musically and stay there as long as I wanted. I would say he has no fear and we rarely trainwrecked completely, but even that was fun when it happened. Oh yeah, he loves carrying PA gear too..."
"I'm definitely gonna miss some things about it, ya know?," Foley said. "Those great moments, those magical moments that happen in a song when you're playing with such fabulous musicians ...; I'm gonna miss that, and I'm also going to miss the people — the fans. There's this Zen thing, a circular energy that goes around between the musicians and the crowd and when they're positive and upbeat, man, that fills my gas tank...; I'm ready to rock."
Though he's channeling his musical energies into a different avenue, Foley says you may see him from time to time on a stage in the local area. But the end has come for all the traveling and running around. It's time to take it a little easier.
"This move has nothing to do with anybody else. It's just me. It was never a money thing. A lot of it is, when you're out there on the road, sitting for six hours in a car traveling to a gig ... that time away in a vehicle, where I could be sitting at a piano, or picking up my bass. That really was the issue.
"I've got to try this. I have to do this. I've never done it before. I've always tooled around with the bass...; opened up the tunings on the tuning pegs and tried to write some music, but I've never really pushed to record my own stuff...; and you know, I'm learning. This whole thing is new to me. I love it. It's challenging, but I love it. I think the bottom line is, I'm really tapping into myself instead of playing other people's tunes. This is a new chapter for me and I gotta tell you, I'm really excited about it."
The final Amorphous Band show featuring Foley will be Friday and start at 9 p.m. with the "current" line-up of George Laliotis, Mike Effenberger, Ian Smith and Chris O'Neill. The second set of the night will feature Foley on the magic 7-string fretless. The third set will include various Amorphous Band collaborators such as keyboardist Chris Sink and bassist Greg Rothwell.