Nat Keefe of Hot Buttered Rum Talks Influences, New Album, 2019 Butter Fall Tour And More

SAN DIEGO, CA – Bay Area bluegrass power-house Hot Buttered Rum is kicking off their 2019 Butter Fall Tour at WinstonsOB this Friday, September 13th.  Tickets are $15 in advance/$18 night of and can be purchased by clicking here.  Doors are at 9:00pm and the show will begin shortly thereafter.



We couldn’t think of a better way for Hot Buttered Rum to celebrate twenty years of bringing music and happiness to the world than by recording a new album.  As if the news weren’t good enough, some of the tunes on the album will be original material from twenty years ago never before recorded!  Sound-Fix was lucky enough to sit down with Nat Keefe this afternoon to take a look into what’s been happening in the recording studio and how Hot Buttered Rum is preparing for their 2019 Butter Fall Tour!


Sound-Fix:  Let’s dive right into the new album since you’re taking time from the mixing sessions to talk to me today.  Where is the inspiration to put these songs on tape coming from? Where are you recording the album?  I know how that can be a part of the artistic process.


Nat Keefe:  This is our 20th year of being together and it’s pretty amazing.  I feel like in music almost everything works against a band staying together for a long time.  There’s pressures from families, marriages, kids, and it’s hard to get above water financially.  For those reasons, we’re grateful to still be together, still be getting good gigs, still really good friends and still like hanging out together which is amazing.  I’m thankful for every minute I get to do this. At this stage in the game, it’s sort of like being a baseball player where you’ve made it in the big leagues and even if you’re sort of a grizzled veteran, you just want to stay in the game even if you aren’t hitting as much homeruns.


*both laugh*


NK: So this album we recorded up at Panoramic House Studio which is this mansion up on a hill above Stinson Beach in Northern California.  We went up there for a week and just made some sounds and it is actually a mix of some completely new songs and a couple songs from 20 years ago, like some of the first songs we ever wrote.  One of them is “Dovetail Joint” which was the first song we ever played together and we never put it on a record.  We actually hadn’t played it for about 10 years either, but it still works and I think it’s going to be a part of our repertoire again.


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SF:  I love when an oldie comes back into rotation.  Did you go into the studio with any new material written or was getting together in the studio a part of the song writing process?


NK:  We did a lot of pre-production where we had a long list of possible tunes, some of which ready, some of which were half formed but we had the direction for.  I think we knocked it out of the park on this album by doing the right amount of preparation.  We got into the studio knowing exactly what we wanted to do and were able to do it, but we spent a lot of time before we got to the studio playing through stuff and hashing through different options so that once we got to the studio, it was just a matter of production not artistic choices which is the best way to do it. In some ways, that’s not the story people want to hear.  Much different than the Rolling Stones, we didn’t do any drugs and get in any fights while recording the album.  Fortunately for us, it was just good fun hard work.


SF: So 2019 Butter Fall Tour starts this weekend at Winston’s in San Diego which culminates around New Year’s Eve in Sebastopol, CA


NK: Yeah, we got areally full west coast tour which is going to be really fun!  We got a bunch of good dates, a bunch of good venues and we know how to do this.


SF: What’s your favorite part about being on the road with Hot Buttered Rum?


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NK: You know, it’s hard to say whether it’s the sex or the drugs. It’s hard to put one of those first. I’d have to say the sex AND the drugs.


*both laugh*


NK: I still really enjoy being on the road but I enjoy it for different reasons then I used to.  When I was 24, there was a novelty of simply playing music for people.  Now that I’ve done that thousands of times, I really enjoy trying to work on my higher game of music.  I try to hit the stage having 100% positive thoughts, my voice in good shape and with the goal to sing relaxed through the whole show.  I try to have my guitar playing be relaxed, energetic, on point, on time and I really just try to groove as hard as I can. Maybe all that stuff goes without saying but I’m so grateful for the opportunity to play music live that I want to strip away some of the peripheral stuff.  I still enjoy the socializing, seeing my friends in different towns, and seeing all these different places but all that used to be a little more important to me.  Now I spend the whole day concentrating on trying to make that 3 hours of performance completely focused and positive.


SF: I have to ask because I’m curious, what is it like being a bluegrass musician in the Bay Area?  I feel like that story is seldom told, but it’s intriguing.


NK: Well obviously bluegrass music started in the South East then in the 60s it spread throughout the whole country.  There’s a story of a lot of the second generation bluegrass musicians like David Grisman and Tony Rice and a number of other people, Laurie Lewis, Peter Rowan, all those people live or have lived in the Bay Area.  There was a scene here in the 70s and 80s of really top notch bluegrass going on.  I draw a lot of inspiration from our West Coast bluegrass forefathers and I think in ways we’re a part of that story.  We are also very much into the first generation of bluegrass musicians, especially Ralph Stanley.  That’s really our touchstone in old bluegrass music, more so than anybody else.  We’ve studied a lot of The Stanley Brothers and even recorded a full album of The Stanley Brothers.


SF: Let’s get back into the new music that Hot Buttered Rum is recording.  I want to know where the inspiration to write these tunes comes from.


NK:Well the one that we’re mixing now is called “Highway Sign.” Whenever I’m driving down the road, I kind of have this weird fantasy of shooting every highway sign that goes by with a gun.  I’m not a big gun person, it almost has more to do about geometry than it does with any sort of violence.  I wrote this song because I couldn’t get it out of my head and it has this romantic, panoramic image of rolling down the road with this cool and crazy lover who is shooting every highway sign with a 22.  I don’t know if it’s going to appeal to other people, but for me it’s just the coolest thing in the world and I hope it conveys an image.  Another tune on there is called “Good One Gone.”  I wrote that one after our friend Andy Gosselin from Railroad Earth passed away.  It was just one of those bolt of lightning from Zeus songs where you get a complete image of what the song needs to be and then it’s just a matter of writing it down and executing it.  For that one we had the great Holly Bowling come and play which was really special.  I really like music to be of service to other people and of service to a social situation.  I think I get that from playing music in West Africa where music usually has a social purpose for a specific setting, a specific time and place.  I really like to write songs for occasions, usually for happy occasions but sometimes for sad occasions like this one.


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SF: Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to talk music with us.  Are you excited to kick of 2019 Butter Fall Tour in San Diego this weekend?


NK: Coming to San Diego is always a highlight for us.  At WinstonsOB, we usually tap into some lower chakra, late night energy and it’s going to be a lot of fun!


If you’re in San Diego, be sure to stop by WinstonsOB this Friday for an evening that will fill your soul!  Hot Buttered Rum will continue up the West Coast and be on tour until New Year’s Eve in Sebastopol, CA.  For a full list of Hot Buttered Rum’s 2019 Butter Fall Tour dates, check below!


Hot Buttered Rum 2019 Butter Fall Tour

09.13 WinstonsOB | San Diego, CA

09.14 The Wayfarer | Costa Mesa, CA

09.20-23 Camp Deep End | Navarro, CA

10.05 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass | San Francisco, CA

10.26 Hopland Hop | Hopland, CA

11.01 Humbrews / Humboldt Brews | Arcata, CA

11.02 Lost On Main CHICO California | Chico, CA

11.08 Moe’s Alley, Santa Cruz | Santa Cruz, CA

11.09 Arena Theater | Point Arena, CA

11.14 Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub | Sacramento, CA

11.15 CVIC Hall | Minden, NV

11.16 HopMonk Tavern Novato | Novato, CA

12.12 WildCraft Cider Works | Eugene, OR

12.13 Mississippi Studios | Portland, OR

12.14 Nectar Lounge | Seattle, WA

12.15 Volcanic Theatre Pub | Bend, OR

12.31 HopMonk Tavern Sebastopol | Sebastopol, CA



About author

Zach Schwartz

Born and raised in Upstate New York, and residing in Southern California for the past 5 years, Zach has a vast taste and passion for live music. In 2018, Zach graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelors degree in Communication. Aside from music journalism, Zach is working hard at his blossoming career as a Lighting Designer. Feel free to contact Zach with any comments, questions, or concerns regarding anything music related!