Nothing Hurts More Than A Broken Heart: An Interview with Keegan Calmes

Photo courtesy of Ariel Kassulke
Sometimes, it takes a little bit of soul searching to decide what’s next. For Keegan Calmes, a year of soul searching found him in Austin, Texas with a brand new solo project.

Calmes is one of the founding members of Milwaukee-based band Vinyl Theatre and recently stepped away from his role as lead vocalist and guitarist to explore a different venture.

“I had been trying for some time, maybe even over a year while still with Vinyl Theatre, to explore other genres,” he said. “I don't know if there will ever be a ‘right fit’ or if I'll fit into any specific genre but I love just flowing through different types of music as I please. After 4-5 years of writing indie rock songs, it's been very nice to explore other things. I'd say it was seamless.”

In the time from leaving the band to the release of his first single, “Broken Heart”, Calmes wanted to find any opportunity he could to better himself as a person and as a musician. He moved to Austin, where he said he felt more open to collaboration and exploring new sounds. He has always felt guarded when it came to his songs and ideas, but every day he tries to step out of his comfort zone and work towards his current end goal of having his own home studio.

“I've spent countless hours in this tiny room now having an absolute blast exploring new sounds, video chatting other writers, and emailing ideas back and forth with a pretty big and expansive team of writers, producers, and engineers,” he said. “I decided to start releasing music on my own because it felt like I was completely neglecting that side of myself. I feel much more fulfilled now.”

“Broken Heart” is not only his first single as a solo artist but was one of the first songs that truly sounded like all his soul searching paid off. It holds true to his roots but experiments with an edge that he hadn’t tried before. It combines his love for guitar-driven music with new-age modern production and represents where he’s at in life.

The song was co-written with Steven Pitzl and Timothy Wolf of Four Giants. Pitzl originally sent over the piano track and finished beat, and after Calmes heard it once he immediately formed a melody. The lyrics “Nothing hurts more than a broken heart” was the first thing out of his mouth and it stuck. The rest of the song was essentially ad libbed and ended up being the final product.

“Sometimes those mini miracles happen,” Calmes said. “It's one of my favorite things, when a song just jumps out of you. I really enjoy working with the two of them because they do a great job of giving you space to explore an idea in its entirety. They're very supportive writers and producers.”

As for the theme of the song, Calmes feels like everyone can relate to its story. It’s about knowing that feeling heartbroken is inevitable, but that letting go is the best way to move on. Also, it’s okay to reminisce about the good times that were had and looking back without animosity is good for the soul.

“Look back and wish the best for them, what you had is still to be cherished,” he said.

For those that watched Vinyl Theatre grow and evolve over the last several years, know that Keegan Calmes is not only humbled by the incredible group of people that have supported him but is happy to be making music in a new light. He has learned a lot about perseverance and doing what’s best for him; that shines in “Broken Heart” and sounds like it will continue to do so in his upcoming releases.