Kevin West
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Kevin West

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF
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"Sometimes, I wonder if it's smart to put all these life experiences out there on an album ... where people will know more about me than I cared to let them know," says songwriter and guitarist Kevin West, who celebrates the official release of his new, independently-produced album My Life & Times this week. "As an artist, I feel like you have to do it. I'm sure a lot of my life experiences are similar to a lot of other people's. I'm singing from what my life was at certain times, but people relate to honesty, and I think they'll relate with this."

Born in San Diego and raised in northern New Jersey, West grew up in what he calls a "lower-middle class blue-collar environment" — an experience often reflected in his lyrics. He relocated to Charleston in 1995 and worked his way into the local club scene as a singer/guitarist doing his own tunes and a variety of funky renditions of rock and pop classics.

"I grew up as a heavy metal kid," West says. "I first started playing guitar when I was like 8 years old because of Ozzy's guitarist Randy Rhoads. Throughout the '80s, I liked the good metal, but not the bad hair metal. I could never see myself wearing spandex and poodle hair. I picked up an acoustic guitar and checked out some classic music. The '90s came along, and, all of a sudden, the solo singer/songwriter thing became popular. I was used to playing by myself anyway, so I worked on becoming a vocalist, too. I never could find the right person to sing for me, so out of necessity, I became a singer. I went through a phase where I listened to a lot of classic acoustic singer/songwriters like Harry Chapin, James Taylor, and Jim Croce. I got into Jeffrey Gaines and Dave Matthews."

Voted "Best Male Vocalist" by City Paper readers in 1997 and '98, he eventually formed a full band with a loose rotation of local players. His current backing band includes drummer Alan Brisendine, bassists David Hodges and Blair Halford, guitarist Kenny Meyer, and keyboardist Daniel Walker (who played on most of the new album).

"My little brother, Mike [a.k.a "O.C."], moved down here from New Jersey. His whole life, he's been rapping. He was totally into hip-hop. I used to not even like hip-hop when I was younger; I thought it was all machines and beats with no real musicians. I was sort of ignorant because I never really listened. Once I really listened to 2Pac, The Roots, Eminem, Common, and others — and their stories — I really got into it. The true hip-hop artists really have something to say."

The 18-track My Life & Times is a musical jumble of hip-hop and rap, slow-moving grooves, acoustic and electric modern rock, foul-mouthed comedy skits, and lyrical storytelling.

"This album has such a huge hip-hop element to it, but it's not enough for the hip-hop radio stations ... and there's too much hip-hop in it for most rock stations," shrugs West. "It could be a rough place to be, but I figure that most music that gets anywhere succeeds because it's something different and doesn't sound like everybody else."

Semi-modern hip-hop sounds and styles made their way into most of the songs — sometimes without proper credit. Lead-off track "Carolina Love" — featuring raps from Ace, PHEVE, O.C., Number One Contender's P Huck, and Double O's Ryan Phillips — carries on about the life "in the city of James Island ... and in the city of Folly Beach" without listing any credit to the original version: it is an obvious reworking of 2Pac's and Dr. Dre's "California Love," released as a single in '95 and featured on 2Pac's '96 album All Eyez on Me. The tune traces back to a collaboration between funk drummer Woody Cunningham and Zapp keyboardist Roger Troutman. For the 18 tracks on the disc, the only writing credits listed read as follow: "All songs and original skits written and produced by Kevin West." Most, perhaps ... but not quite all.

"Well, 'Carolina Love' is definitely derived from 2Pac's 'California Love,'" says West. "I checked with the publishers and cleared it, but I wasn't sure how to include that information in the sleeve. I'm definitely not trying to claim it as a songwriter.

"There were little things along the way that weren't exactly planned, but mostly, every detail on the album was thoroughly planned out," asserts West, who began recording the basic tracks for My Life & Times in March '05, but was nearly sidelined from bone-fusion surgery in his neck in April. "For most of the making of the album I was in a neck brace and a lot of pain [laughs]. It was a rough summer. In a weird way, making this album was a strange blessing. Now, I'm ready to go."

- Charleston City Paper


To see press clipling for First album "On The Way To Nowhere" please go to photo section (Photo #9) - To see press clipling for First album "On The Way To Nowhere" please go to photo section (Photo #9)


In the Jukebox: Kevin West
A review of local singer/guitarist West's latest solo effort
by T. Ballard Lesemann

Kevin West
Once in a Lifetime
(independent)

A few years ago, Charleston singer/guitarist Kevin West was being touted by friends and fans as the master of the rock/hip-hop hybrid — a funk master with a way with rhymes and rhythms. West, a skillful musician with a versatile style, can handle a solo gig with ease, and he can hang confidently in any rock, funk, or soul band setting.

West's local performances have come in waves in the years since he released his last album, 2006's My Life and Times. On his newly released, independently produced solo album, Once in a Lifetime, life and time are at the heart of the record once again — plus a few attempts at being sexy-cool.

Recorded at the local Collective Recording Studio with engineer Alan Price (of Souls Harbor), it's a crisp production and a balanced mix. Bassist Jesse Anderson, drummer Karl Anderson, guitarist Kenny Meyer, and other special guests proficiently fill the role as a backing band.

Musically, Once in a Lifetime is a scattered, meandering collection with dual personalities, however — like two very different mini albums crammed into one long player. Half of it tries to jam out with contemporary soul-rock funkiness. The other half lilts and flows as a more introspective folk-rock set.

Once in a Lifetime starts off with the Lenny Kravitz-esque "Sky High," one of the funky full-band songs of the set. Based on a total rip of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" (the main riff appears to be the same as the bassline of the famous chorus), it's a shaky opener. "Excuse Me, Beautiful" continues in a similar vein, but with more booty-chasin' attitude and a rickety sense of rhythm.

West sounds like he's forcing his rhymes and lyrics. Some of the lines are painfully boastful. West's main character comes off as a self-important braggert, rapping about his swagger and sex appeal. The overly syncopated "I'm Alright" and disco-beat "No One Does it Better" make the vibe redundant.

Thankfully, the double acoustic guitar ballad "One Too Many" — a more personalized and melancholic tune with a whiff of boozy sorrow — aims for the opposite direction. It's the first of several more laid-back tracks that lay off the braggadocio, "Hey lady, won't you lay with me" nonsense.

"Everything" contains some of West's most potent lyrical work. The line, "No one ever thought I'd be where I am now/Still, here I am somehow," sums up his sense of survival and willingness to drop his guard.

Trumpeter Kenny Price adds a brassy melody that complements West's steady strumming. The emotional and waltzy title track features the songwriter at his most pained. Raspy and passionate, this one should have been the foundation for the entire collection.
- Charleston City Paper


Kevin West puts the funk in his new rock
Getting up, getting down
by Jared Booth

Songwriter and guitarist Kevin West regularly embraces the scenery of the Lowcountry. The cover of his 2001 debut On the Way to Nowhere featured a silhouetted figure with a guitar strapped to his back standing on the corner of George and Glebe streets downtown. His next album, 2006's My Life and Times, placed the same figure in front of the loading gate at the Music Farm. For his latest, Once in a Lifetime, West knew exactly where his avatar would be standing: Center Street on Folly Beach.

"I've been living on Folly and James Island for most of my adult life," says West. "I feel such a kinship with it. So for my third album, I had to show where my heart is: Folly Beach, my favorite place in the whole world."

Recorded at Collective Recording Studio in West Ashley, guided by the hand of engineer and veteran local musician Alan Price, the new album is essentially the acoustic sibling of the hip-hop centric My Life and Times, which featured West's younger brother Mike [a.k.a. "O.C."], an established rapper in his own right.

If My Life and Times embellished the usual rock band production with drum machines and digital samples, Once in a Lifetime aims for a more organic, Southern-fried funk-rock style — from the riffy opening grooves of lead-off track "Sky High" to the acoustic guitar-based ballads "One Too Many" and "So Long."

"Hip-hop was a better vehicle for me to tell my story," says West of his earlier work. "I've gone through a lot of difficult things, and if I'd gone in a singer/songwriter direction, it might have seemed whiny. But this album is more about my life now in Charleston, and it's much more representative of my live show."

While it doesn't tackle difficult subjects and life experiences, the new album is still very personal for West; his songwriting style has always leaned that way. In particular, he draws inspiration from Tupac Shakur and the frankness of the rapper's lyrics and rapping style.

"Tupac is one of my favorite artists of all time," says West. "Rappers seem to be able to tell their stories more clearly, while rock artists tend to be more vague about things. Once I started writing in that hip-hop fashion, it was hard to stop.

"I'm not a great storyteller," he continues. "I can't come up with a lot of fun, interesting things, but I write about my personal life and how I feel, and that's what people relate to. Like on the song 'One Too Many' [a sparse acoustic duet with singer Brittany Linder] — that could be a theme song for Folly Beach."

While West's influences range from hip-hop to heavy metal, Dave Matthews to Harry Chapin, the action of the local music scene invigorates and inspires him more than anything. Some of West's longest collaborations are reflected by the guest musicians on the album, including performances by bassist Jesse Anderson, drummer Karl Anderson, guitarist Kenny Meyer, and trumpeter Kenny Price.

"There's so many amazing artists in this town who are more influential to me than big rock stars," he says," "people like Graham Whorley and Elise Testone, who has one of the best voices I've ever heard. Where else can you go on a Monday night and see talent like Sarah Cole and the Hawkes? And everybody else keeps getting better, so I've gotta keep up." - Charleston City Paper



Kevin West

My Life & Times
(independent)

On his latest, local songwriter, guitarist, and white-dude rapper Kevin West attempts to overlap funky acoustic rock with funky hip-hop and soul. The groove-filled, Carolina-centric collection is comprised of a dozen songs and a handful of comedy skits based on his own true-life experiences. Musically, it's all over the map, with acoustic and electric modern rock tunes, dirty-word rhymes and stories, and a few bouncy rap-rock hybrids. Around a traditional rock band style of production, there's plenty of drum machine rhythm tracks, samples, and electronic loops. West's kid brother, Mike West [a.k.a "O.C."], stands out as one of the rappers alongside Alex Carpenter [a.k.a. "ACE"]. My Life & Times makes a few weird turns from one style to another, but it bounces throughout. —TBL



- Charleston City Paper


Discography

Three albums, "Once In A Lifetime", "MY LIFE & TIMES" and "On The Way To Nowhere" NOW AVAILABLE AT itunes, kevinwestmusic.com, cdbaby.com,all Charleston area cats / monster music Charleston.

Photos

Bio

(See "Set List" section for list of cover songs)

Kevin West (1st prize winner of American Songwriter Magazine's lyric contest July/August 2006), is a throwback Singer-songwriter/ Guitar player. Playing guitar and singing since a child, Kevin has studied many styles of music including Blues, Hard Rock, Metal and Hip-Hop. He also studied Jazz at the College of Charleston, South Carolina.
Born in San Diego CA. and raised in northern New Jersey, Kevin West grew up in a lower middle class blue collar environment which is often reflected in his lyrics. His writing tells stories about living in the real world and how rough it can be, though sometimes using humor to make his point.
Living and performing in Charleston for a number of years now, Kevin has played in many bands with numerous musicians, on just about every stage in town. From playing at Charleston’s famed Music Farm or The Wind Jammer, opening for national acts like Rehab, Afro Man, Long Beach Dub All Stars/Short Bus and Kevin Kinney (Just to name a few) to doing acoustic sets at intimate venues downtown and on the beaches. Big show or small, Kevin's love for the music is easy to see in every performance. He was voted “CHARLESTONS BEST MALE VOCALIST” in 1997 and again in 1998 in the Charleston City Paper.
Charleston is not the only city where West has done his act. Audiences at The Cubby Bear in Chicago, Rays Boom Boom Room in New Orleans and various clubs in cities such as New York, Richmond, Atlanta, Va. Beach, and Columbia , SC have also seen him do his thing.
His first album “On The Way To Nowhere” (2001) is a compilation of songs that was put together from recordings made throughout the late 90’s. A variety of Charleston’s best musicians can be found accompanying Kevin West on this one.
On his last album "My Life & Times" (2006) Kevin West created a Hip-Hop/Singer-Songwriter cross over sound that showcased his talent as an artist as well as a producer. By using jazz chords, singer songwriter arrangements, Hip-Hop beats, 16 to 20 bar rhyme schemes and strong hooks. Then, adding original comedy skits, sound bites and other forms of studio magic give the album a sound that’s truly unique.
Kevin's newest album "Once In A Lifetime" (To be released July 8th 2011) is a back to basics kind of album. This project is more performance based. A Guitar Player/ Singer-Songwriter sound as opposed to the Hip-Hop feel of his previous endeavor. "Once In A Lifetime" is an excellent example of what Kevin West sounds like when you see him live.
Along with playing music for a living, Kevin has done countless performances and hands on volunteer work for many low country charities to include, Communities in Schools, My Sisters House, Happy Days And Special Times, North Charleston Juvenile Detention Center, Make A Wish Foundation, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and ”COURAGEOUS KIDZ”.
With every album, as with every performance it is clear that Kevin West is constantly growing as an artist, a musician and as a person