, Newburyport, MA

January 30, 2014

Musical calling: Local vocalist devotes herself to craft

By Jim Sullivan

---- — Plum Island vocalist Cynthia Keefe began her life’s second act three years ago and has been rocking the house ever since.

“We come to a certain age when we can dedicate ourselves more to the things that we want to do,” said Keefe, 49. “There comes a freedom. I guess it has to do with your kids growing up and getting out and just allowing your mind to go in that creative direction that is good for your soul.”

The Topsfield native and Masconomet Regional High School graduate has been singing all her life. She sang in school groups in elementary school, high school and college. And once she became a mom, she sang to her two sons, James and David, all the time. Then the boys grew up.

“I have an adult son who is autistic,” Keefe said, “And when he was with me, I really couldn’t commit to anything other than making our home life workable. He moved out into a group home, and I was then able to take off singing and committing time to be able to gig.”

After releasing her debut CD, “The Point,” in October, Keefe has been performing around the area quite a bit lately. This past Saturday, she joined 5 O’Clock Somewhere at the Plum Island Beachcoma. Tomorrow, she will appear with her trio, the Bob Kramer Band, at David’s Tavern in Newburyport. The group will also play at Loretta restaurant on Saturday, Feb. 8.

“I used to think I couldn’t go far with it because I had too many responsibilities at home,” Keefe said of her musical career. “Now, I’m thinking that it would be really fun to have it go further.”

Alternating between rock and blues gigs, Keefe counts Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt as influences along with male singers like U2’s Bono and Queen’s Freddie Mercury. Just as she varies her influences, Keefe keeps things eclectic on “The Point,” which features six original songs, five of which were written by her boyfriend, Kevin Kelley.

“It’s folk, Americana and a little bit of rock,” Keefe said. “Because, I find that when I listen to CDs that are put out by groups that are a bit unknown, I don’t like the ones where they all sound too much alike. So we really try to avoid that.

“There’s a good assortment of styles and music on there,” she said. “There is one that kind of sounds like an Irish ballad almost. There are a couple that are more rock-ish, but the stories that they tell are a lot more folk.”

Like any good musician, Keefe, who used to work as a receptionist at Triton Regional High School in Byfield, no longer lives in the 9-to-5 world.

“I’ve worked in an office for a long time,” Keefe said. “And if I want to really push the music thing, it’s all nighttime. To get up early and go to an office, then go out at night, it just doesn’t work.”

Solely a vocalist, Keefe lets Kelley do all the songwriting for the pair, preferring instead to lose herself in the characters of a tune and the story they are telling.

“Right now, I am working really hard on the mechanics of a song,” Keefe said. “How the melody is going to go and the style of how I want it to sound. I have to become comfortable and very familiar in that so the story itself can come out better.”

As the winter winds down, Keefe is looking forward to more shows in the area, but she might consider making a move should the right opportunity present itself.

“I don’t want to go too far unless it’s going to be big time,” Keefe said with a laugh. “If somebody really wanted me to go to New York and make a business out of it, I guess, if the offer was good enough, I would take it.”

Perhaps there is a song in that?

“If only I could write songs, huh?” Keefe joked.

If you go

What: Bob Kramer Band, featuring vocalist Cynthia Keefe

When: Tomorrow at 8 p.m.

Where: David’s Tavern, 11 Brown Square, Newburyport

How much: Free