Writing from the heart has always been paramount for Raleigh Keegan. Pulling from him his atypical upbringing, the country newcomer is unafraid of telling pointed truths about his story. This unfiltered honesty and love for the genre’s sonic traditions are on full display on Keegan’s brand-new album, Clocks Roll Forward.
The 13-song compilation, produced by Ryan Gore (Jon Pardi, Old Dominion), features Keegan as a co-writer on all tracks, alongside hit songwriters Kyle Jacobs, Leslie Satcher, Phil Barton, Brice Long, and more. “Way Back,” the album’s first track, is a breezy, roll-down-the-windows melody that cordially welcomes listeners along for the journey with Keegan. The rollicking song “Easy on the Trigger” combines country and rock & roll. On the toe-tappin’ “Sure Like Lovin’ You,” pure euphoria is delivered over an infectious melody.
While Keegan’s sophomore record contains plenty of upbeat and feel-good songs, the singer also does an excellent job at balancing it out with autobiographical ballads that tug at the listener’s heartstrings with standouts such as “Our First Goodbye” and “Like My Daddy Was.”
Both songs narrate the Ohio native’s atypical childhood. He was born in a prison hospital as his mother was incarcerated in an Ohio State Penitentiary on drug charges, before being adopted by a loving family just a few days later. He dedicates the former song to his birth mother—who passed away from cancer two years after they finally met when Keegan was a teenager—and adopted parents. On the poignant latter, Keegan reveals the ugly truth about his biological father and how he wishes to avoid being “like [his] daddy was.”
Sounds Like Nashville spoke with Keegan for an exclusive Q&A about Clocks Roll Forward, the inspiration behind writing select tracks, and his growth as an artist. Check it out below!
SLN: Was there a theme or idea you had for Clocks Roll Forward?
RK: Throughout the making of the album I noticed a theme of time, my story, upbringing, and reflectiveness running like a thread through the album. I didn’t do this intentionally at the beginning, but what I have found in my creative process is that if you just start creating, patterns will form and themes poke their heads out of your art. I did have to cut down a ton of songs to make this album what it is. At the time, there were over 200 songs in my catalog I could’ve chosen (now there are even more), so it was very difficult. I went with my gut – with what I wanted to say at the time.
How did you decide on the album’s title?
One of my favorite lines in the album is on the song “Way Back” where we wrote “and we [know] that clocks roll forward but somehow we always find our way back”. Not only do I love that line, I think it ties in the themes of family, my upbringing, change, and the passing of time.
“Way Back” is a breezy and invitational opening to your album. Would you talk about writing that one?
I wrote this with Kyle Sturrock and I remember this one falling out of the sky for us. It’s funny how the songs that come the easiest are usually the ones that stick, and this was a song that was stuck in my head forever after writing it.
You co-wrote the very, very emotional “Our First Goodbye” with Kyle Jacobs and Brice Long. What was writing that like? Was it something y’all had planned on sharing or was it just on your heart that day?
It was not something I planned on writing that day, as it was the very first time I met Kyle and Brice. I thought we would write an upbeat country tune but we ended up connecting on a much deeper level. Both Kyle and Brice have people in their lives who have gone through the adoption process or have raised adopted kids. My story hit home for them and we decided to tackle it that day. Unlike “Way Back” this song took the entire day almost until dinner to write. I think all of us felt the gravity of writing this song. We wanted to tell the story accurately and give hope to parents out there who are in the midst of hard decisions like whether to give your child up for adoption or not.
In the same vein of family ties, what’s the story behind “Like My Daddy Was”?
In contrast to “Our First Goodbye” which is all about redemption and honoring my birth mother and Mom and Dad that raised me, “Like My Daddy Was” is an honest reaction to how I felt about my birth father on the day of writing this song. One thing I strive for is authenticity and honesty, even if [it] isn’t always pretty. I think people connect with what’s real, and this song is about as real of an emotion as you can get.
“Sure Like Lovin’ You” reminds me of an Elvis Presley song. It’s got such a feel-good element to it, with a bit of that rock and roll sound. What inspired this song, which you co-wrote with Leslie Satcher and Phil Barton?
This was really fun to write because we finished this song in about 30 minutes. Leslie, Phil, and I were on a writing retreat and we had already finished a song that day and had some extra time. Leslie and I started hammering out the chords and melody, and the lyric just came out effortlessly after that. Leslie told us that the second song on the fly is always the best song, and with Phil’s undeniable talent mixed with my hook idea, this song was a blast to write. It was one of those where you think “how did that just happen?”
What do you hope listeners take away from listening to Clocks Roll Forward?
I hope they hear my distinct voice as an artist. I hope that they hear that I strived to simply be me, and that I was bold enough to tell the truth.
Lastly, as you embark on another career milestone, what’s one thing you’d tell your younger self just starting out on this musical journey?
Calm down, it’s all going to be okay. Don’t be so anxious, and don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
Stream Raleigh Keegan’s Clocks Roll Forward below.