Local Music Spotlight – The Keep

By June 25, 2019Music

Northeast Tennessee is well-known by tourists for its beautiful scenery, charming cities, rich history, and it’s flourishing live music scene. Local music in our region has made an impact in not only the smaller, local communities of the region, but also on a larger scale influencing and leading the way in worldwide music trends. Northeast Tennessee and Virginia are major staples in the development of modern country and bluegrass music; East Tennessee State University is the only 4-year university in the world to offer a comprehensive bluegrass music program. Northeast Tennessee is renowned for its undertaking and celebration of their local music scene with local festivals, concert series, and venues embracing and honoring local bands and artists. Each band has their own unique sound and personality 

Hailing from the Appalachian Mountains in East Tennessee, The Keep, is a dynamic-band with an indie, electric folk sound. Before The Keep, there was Daniel and Bets Couper a couple who met and fell in love while in chorale at East Tennessee State University. They’ve spent the past couple years traveling around the southern Appalachian region playing as a duo, in an acoustic quartet, or as a six-piece band. Their band has a unique collection of diverse musicians, each bringing their own tone and sound to the influential group. The six-piece band consists of Daniel Couper (vocals/guitar), Bets Couper (vocals), James West (guitar), Colin Jeffress (keyboard/cello), Jason Hardy (bass guitar), and Aaron Heschong (drums/percussion).

Where did your members go to high school/college?
“Well, for starters, two of us were homeschooled (five points if you guess which ones), one attended Providence Academy, two are Hilltoppers, and one went to some high school out in Middle Tennessee. For college, we’ve got several ETSU alumni, as well as degrees from Milligan, Belmont, App State, and UT.”

Where’s your favorite local place to perform?
“This is a really tough question, because all the places we’ve played locally have their different charms, but our favorite might just be this little spot out in Jonesborough called the Mockingbird Music Room and Gallery. With the shape and color of the space and the art hanging on the walls, the visual aesthetic complements the music perfectly, making for a really wonderful and intimate artistic experience.”

How would you describe our local music scene?
“The two words that come to mind are vibrant and supportive. Every musician and venue seem genuinely invested in each other’s success and the success of the community as a whole. It’s a great place to be making music.”

How have you seen our local music scene adapt and change over the years?
“We’re no veterans to the local scene by any means, but for the few years we’ve been around, the most prominent change seems to be a growing sense of community. Musicians and businesses and listeners all want what’s best for each other, because it’s what’s best for all of us.”

How would you describe your sound?
“We try not to describe it too often because we like to think that we defy description. Seriously, though, we like to dabble in lots of different genres, but everything we do starts with a pretty solid indie folk foundation. With emotive harmonies like those of the Civil Wars and the Swell Season, we craft tunes that are unflinchingly honest and dynamically hopeful.”

What makes your band unique?
“Well, honestly, we’re not all that interested in being unique. We probably are (in some way or other), but we’ve found that striving for uniqueness can be a distraction from being true to who we are and what we want to say through our tunes. If we keep writing honestly and playing from our hearts, maybe we’ll end up being unique on accident.”

What region/area are the members of your band from?
“We all call Johnson City home, though a few of us come from far-flung places like Canada and Germany and Franklin, Tennessee.”

What’s your favorite thing about living in this area?
“The mountains. Definitely the mountains. (No offense to all our family and friends.)”

What local bands have inspired or motivated you?
“Oh wow, too many to list here. There’s so much incredible talent in this area, and so many encouraging, friendly folks. Among their number, Zach Ross (A Great Disaster) and Beth Snapp have been especially indispensable to us, both musically and as friends. This Mountain and Annabelle’s Curse were early inspirations as we were getting started making music, and, of course, Amythyst Kiah is nearly divinity.”

Lastly, if you could spend a day doing anything in this area where would you go and what would you do?
“Fair warning: We’re definitely going to have to work more than one thing into our ideal day here. We’ll start with an early morning hike, maybe up to the Unicoi fire tower or down to Laurel Falls. Then we’ll hit up downtown for the afternoon: White Duck Taco for an appetizer, Holy Taco for the main course, Korean Taco for dessert. Perhaps we’ll spend the afternoon reading and chatting over a cup of Elder Fairy tea at The Willow Tree. A quick dinner at Main Street Pizza Co. before we load up a couple of canoes and put in at Boone Lake. Paddle hard against the current for an hour, then float gently back downstream for a couple hours as the sun sets. Revel, then take out and head home. Sleep in a hammock, if possible.”