Las Vegas Sun

December 10, 2023

Songwriter, singer finds the right mix for his life

There’s time to make toys for the grandkids as well as a new album


Publicity Photo

Singer-songwriter Hal Ketchum will perform some songs from his upcoming album Saturday.

If You Go

  • Who: Hal Ketchum
  • When: 8 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Santa Fe Station
  • Tickets: $27.50 to $32.50; 658-4900

Hal Ketchum has found a perfect balance in life — writing, performing and woodworking.

“I still do carpentry,” Ketchum, 55, said from Albany, N.Y., where he was performing. “I’m a serial porch builder right now. I’m building a lot of screen porches around my house. That’s my latest endeavor.”

Between the porches, he found time to record an album that is due to be released Sept. 1. “Father Time” was cut quickly in Nashville, Tenn. It has 14 songs, 13 written by Ketchum.

“It’s kind of like very acoustic driven, has a lot of drums on it,” he said. “It’s kind of returning to what I was doing growing up, in a way.

“There were no overdubs. We did it the old-fashioned way, just went in with nine remarkable players and singers and did it in two days.”

Some of the songs will be on the play list when he brings his show to Santa Fe Station this weekend.

Ketchum has been a musician most of his life.

“I used to play five-string banjo, did a lot of bluegrass,” said Ketchum, who grew up about 40 miles from Albany but now lives near Nashville.

He said he was most influenced by Van Morrison, the Irish singer who delves into rock, soul, blues, R&B, jazz, gospel and country.

“Van is so open-minded about his music,” Ketchum said. “He lets it come to him. He’s a consummate singer, a great player, and he puts great bands together. He was a major influence in my life.”

Before making it big in country music Ketchum was a cabinetmaker by trade, which took him to Austin, Texas, in 1981.

“I was chasing a job,” he said. “I started working wood around Austin and fell in with some of the greatest songwriters who ever lived, which led me to writing songs and making records.”

One of the biggest influences on his career was Lyle Lovett. “When I started writing songs I would kind of bring the songs around to Lyle and he said, ‘You can do this, man,’ ” Ketchum said. “He kind of became my mentor.”

Ketchum writes most of his own songs, but has no preference between writing and performing. “It’s all part of the same chain for me.”

Ketchum is on the road about half the year. The other half he’s at home. He plays with his kids and grandkids and works in his workshop.

“I’ve gotten to the point where I build toys for my grandkids,” Ketchum said. “It’s fun to do now. When I was doing it for a living I had to satisfy my customers. Now, I’ve got a workshop at the house and I putter around and do what I want to do. It’s much more enjoyable today.”

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