Robert Earl Keen on Montana, Music and Public Lands

Keen to share stage with Lukas Nelson at Aug. 10 Wildlands Festival

By Sarah Gianelli, EBS Senior Editor

It’s not easy to sum up a career, especially that of folk-country legend Robert Earl Keen, but his lyrics “the road goes on forever and the party never ends” comes close.

EBS caught up with Keen in between stops on a tour that never seems to end and asked him about the highlights of his 30-year career, his sentiments about Montana, and the country’s public lands.

Explore Big Sky: You’ve been performing in Montana for nearly 30 years and last played in Big Sky at the 2015 PBR. What changes in the state have you observed over the decades?

Robert Earl Keen: The changes in Montana are many, however, the natural beauty of Montana is second to none.

EBS: How has your songwriting and sound changed over the 18 albums you’ve made since your debut with 1984’s “No Kinda Dancer?” How has the music industry changed since then?

R.E.K.: Like Jesse Winchester said in his song “Rumba Man,” “I’m the same ol’ guy that I used to be, I haven’t changed at all.” Music industry? It’s the same as Hunter S. Thompson said: “the music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

EBS: What has been the most memorable concert of your career and why?

R.E.K.: My most memorable concert was last year at the Hurricane Harvey Relief Benefit with George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, Mathew McConaughey and me. Great artists, incredible band; that show helped raised over 70 million dollars for the hurricane victims.