Carmen Keigans of I Nine
When the members of I Nine first got together and contemplated starting a band, the magic eightball was a little hazy. They weren’t sure where the band would take them and they had no pre-conceived notions, just a shared love for making music. Fast forward to the here now and things are a lot more clear. With the recording of their first major record under their belt, their single being played on radio from coast to coast, and their debut album Heavy Weighs the King scheduled to be released in early 2008, I guess you could say the band has been a bit busy. The band (Carmen Keigans on vocals, Bryan Gibson on cello and lead guitar, Brian Whitman on guitar, and Matt Heath on bass) attribute their successful songwriting and chemistry to mutual respect, strong friendships and ties that bind.
Frontwoman Carmen took some time to tell us about the band, where they came from, where they’re going!
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | November 2007
Since a lot of our readers will be hearing about you for the first time, can you give us a little background on the band? You all knew each other from childhood and went to school together, is that right? How did you eventually come together to form a band?
It’s kind of funny. We were all in a band together except for Brian Whitman, then that band broke up. I was riding in Brian’s Ford Escort one day and he said we need to be playing music, why don’t we just start a band, no strings attached. So I agreed but I said that I only wanted to be in the band if Brian Gibson was in the band and he said “oh he’s in the band!” So he went to Brian Gibson and told him he was starting a band and asked him if he wanted to join and Brian said he only wanted to be in the band if I was in the band. So we started like that.
So that worked out in everyone’s favor!
Yes, we didn’t really know what was going to happen. We didn’t even have plans to get a record deal. We planned to record a pretty decent demo and maybe archive our music. We didn’t have a whole lot of songs but it didn’t take us long to get a bunch of songs because we had been writing for years, but it was just funny how it all went down. Now we’re all excited!
You mentioned writing, all four of you are involved in the writing process, which has to make for some interesting writing sessions. Can you take us through a typical session?
It can go several ways, since everybody does write we’ll sometimes just disappear to the mountains or we’ll go to someone’s house where there are no disturbances and we’ll start to jam; jamming and improvising on my part as far as words and vocal notes go. We’ll play for a few hours, have a ton of ideas and then we’ll let those rest until we get to a place where we can pick out the best ideas and turn them into songs. Sometimes I’ll have a melody or a lyrical idea and I’ll sing it to the boys and they’ll give it the life that I can’t give it because I don’t play instruments. There’s been other cases where Matt will come to me with an idea musically because Matt plays bass and guitar so sometimes he’ll have a guitar song that he’s adamant about working on and we’ll write a song from that. There’s so many different ways that a song can come together since everyone in the band is a writer.
So is there an actual release date for Heavy Weighs The King yet? An exact date?
You know what, I wish I had the answer to that question. It’s a release date of early 2008. They tried to get it out in 2007 but I think what happened was that when they played the record for the label they got really excited and wanted to get it out this year. They released our single which was awesome, we were really excited because we had never heard one of our songs on the radio. But hey, 2008 is right around the corner so no worries.
You sort of just touched on this a little bit but your single for Seven Days of Lonely is getting great feedback and has been picked up by a lot of radio stations. What was it like the first time you heard your song on the radio? Were you guys together? Did you freak out?
I was by myself and I always thought that when I heard it I’d be excited and singing it at the top of my lungs like a dork, because I am a dork, but when it came on it kind of shocked me. It was after a Nickelback song and I heard the intro and I just stopped – I had chills. I just listened to the whole song silently almost like I was nervous and then when it ended I was like yes, we didn’t mess up, as if we were playing live. I felt nervous, that’s for sure.
Your debut album features a handful of star producers, can you tell us how you came to work with the likes of Brian Howe and Chad Kroeger?
Well Brian Howe contacted someone through our label who contacted us and told us about this guy in Vancouver who was interested in working with us and co-writing. We’d never co-written before so I was a little skeptical about that just because we are all writers. The labels thought it was a good idea because he had done a lot of work with the band Hinder and had been successful with wriring singles so we decided to check it out, and see what he was like. I went up there and it turned out to be painless. Basically he had some musical ideas and his co-writing was more of like a producing, co-writing thing where he was an active producer. A lot of times in the past when we would go into the studio we’d be in charge but with Brian he was really active in saying things like these guitar tones need to change or the melody needs to change here, it ended up working out. The label loved the song that I worked on with him so I went back and did another one with him, but the second time the whole band went and it worked out well.
So what song did you write with Brian?
Seven Days is the one I wrote with him.
Cello can be heard in some of your songs and Ive read you describe it as a voice or as your back up singers. How do you go about writing songs with cello in them? Does it become a part of the writing process or is that figured out later?
Well, it’s not on this record but one of the first songs we ever used cello just came about by me singing the lyric and the Ahs in the chorus..and the Ahs seemed seemed like prime opportunity for cello. Any melody that there are not words for, that’s a cello part. It’s like having an opera singer onstage. It can sing everything! I don’t have to worry about anything, well Brian’s fingers of course! I don’t have to doubt it’s power, it’s amazing. We never really start a song with cello, but it can come as a close second or third really.
Brian plays cello, was that something that was anticipated at the bands inception?
Brian was in a rock band and he was working on honing his skills on cello. I was playing with Matt and we were sitting around jamming and Brian was in the other room playing cello so I went in and asked him if he wanted to play on the song, and he said “what guitar?” and I said “no, cello” and that’s sort of how it all started. It was an idea, and we’re pretty open to ideas like that. Anything out of the box we’re willing to try.
So I’ve read a few articles where you have been compared to Avril Lavigne in some reviews, how do you feel about that? Avril is great at what she does but, there seems to be a lot more depth to your vocals and music, do you think people are just reaching to make a comparison?
In a way I think that’s how America connects. You always want something familiar, whether or not it’s good that it’s Avril Lavigne familiar, I don’t think that any of the other songs would make that connection but with Seven Days of Lonely I hear the Avril connection. The thing is, that works with the co-write. Maybe that had some effect on it. If you come to a live show you won’t say that anymore. I think she’s very talented, she’s a young talented female musican and I definitely do not take offense being compared to her. I don’t want people to get the wrong idea though. If you come to a live show and expect it to sound like Avril, you’d be disappointed. Come to a show, that’s my advice, and by the next single, they won’t think that.
What do you think the advantages and disadvantages are to a woman fronted band in today’s industry?
Disadvantages – any time they take pictures of me or put me in a video they put tons of make up on me and I think that hides personality.
Advantages – I’ve got an awesome voice! I’m like the band mom. Heavy Weighs my van full of Kings. I’m the den mother! I don’t think the guys look at me like a girl, they look at me as a friend. I have to sometimes remind them.
Can you walk us through a few of your favorite songs on the album both lyrically and musically on?
Actually I can tell you about a song that you can find on YouTube called Change Nothing. I really like that song a lot. We kept the same vocals on the record from that setting but we changed the guitars and drums. Everyone thinks that that song is about my first intimate time with a boy and maybe I shouldn’t tell you this but I don’t want to mess up anyone’s dream but we had just done this thing for the Elizabethtown premiere and we didn’t have a deal at that point and I thought man, this is our fifteen minutes of fame and this is so amazing and I got to meet Cameron Crowe and Nancy Wilson. Everyone stayed up the whole night laughing and we had to be up at 9 am to leave, so none of us slept, and I just started singing “Wake up…but we haven’t been to sleep” and Brian was there with his guitar and started playing this sweet little melody and it was a joke. When we got home we recorded it and made it a real song. I get chills when I sing it because it takes me back to that moment in time when I thought that I would rather be no place else but here with my friends. They’re my family and they’re my best friends, I have the best job in the world. No one can argue that point with me!
Watch I-Nine’s video for Change Nothing