Sunday, July 14, 2024

Keith Wallen Talks New Solo Album, Tennessee Football, And ShipRocked

Keith Wallen is an American musician who is the rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist of the award-winning rock band Breaking Benjamin, former guitarist and backing vocalist of Adelitas Way, and was the co-founder, lead singer and guitarist for Copper in the mid 90’s. He is also in the midst of continuing his solo career.

In 2014, Breaking Benjamin came back from a hiatus, re-emerging as a quintet with Keith as a backing vocalist and guitarist. The band’s sound has the likeness of hard rock, post-grunge, and alternative metal. In the United States alone, Breaking Benjamin has sold more than 19 million units, earned three RIAA-certified platinum records, two gold records, several certified singles, including three multi-platinum, three platinum, and six gold.

Keith began his solo career in 2014 with his first EP, Allies. He continued to release singles until 2021, when his first solo album, This World or the Next, made its debut. Keith just released two new singles off of his upcoming album Infinity Now that is set to release on May 3rd of this year. The songs are “Strings” and “Headspace Holiday,” both of which will hit home for many listeners. 

Keith Wallen was one of the most fun and down to earth people we have gotten to interview recently. It was a pleasure getting to talk to him about his favorite ShipRocked moments, Tennessee Football, his new solo album, Infinity Now, and his favorite artists to write with. 

Keith Wallen Talks New Solo Album
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

I think we were at college in Tennessee at the same time. I went during the Peyton years. I graduated in 99. What is your best memory of being at UT and what does your perfect day in Knoxville look like? 

Oh my God, are you kidding? My best memory of being at UT was just being at UT. I had some really great times. I met so many great people, so many lifelong friends. I would say the perfect day in Knoxville would have to be a game day, of course. A nice, crisp fall afternoon morning. I think that’s a perfect day. 

I would probably go to Gus’s Good Times Deli. I’d get roast beef with muenster cheese. Then they steam it, of course. I went there so many times that I’d walk in and they’d be like ‘roast beef, muenster cheese.’ I’m like, ‘yep.’ They just know my order and start steaming it. 

I like playing Knoxville. I love when I have a show in Knoxville.

Keith Wallen Talks New Solo Album
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Tell me about “Strings” from your new album.

The first single of my new album is called “Strings,” and it came out a couple of weeks ago. It’s a refusal to conform to any kind of outside agenda. We’re just bombarded by all kinds of things, whether it’s in music, TV, the news. 

I feel like there’s just constantly some kind of hidden message and you don’t even know what to believe or what to trust. This song is basically about that and thinking for yourself. Living isn’t living if you can’t live free. That’s actually the lyrics in the song, ‘You won’t tie your strings on me.’ 

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

What can fans expect from the new album, Infinity Now?

Just 100% pure badassery. No, I’m just kidding. I mean, maybe, hopefully. Hopefully they like it. I think there’s a little bit of everything for everybody. We’ve got songs that are kind of more riff heavy. I have a song called “Headspace Holiday.” That is my quote unquote radio single. It’s got riffs and lyrics that affect me and they’re part of my life. 

Sometimes we all need a mental vacation from life’s noise more than ever. So that song is about that. I’ve got a song called “The Wolf” that is slower and kind of more of a, I hate to say power ballad, but f*ck it, man. It is kind of a power ballad with a touch of country, but not too much. 

Keith Wallen Talks New Solo Album
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Is there a Breaking Benjamin music update?

So Breaking Benjamin has two songs recorded, and we’ve got a bunch of songs written, and we’re just kind of lining up the time to kind of get in there and record it. You know, we love to get out there and tour. We’re kind of juggling all that at the same time.

You’ve traveled all over the world. Any hidden gems you want to recommend?

There’s a bunch of places I would love to go that I haven’t been. I’m sure there would be many hidden gems. I’m dying to go to Japan. I’ve never been.

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

What’s your favorite place to play with Breaking Benjamin? 

I’d probably say the coolest place we’ve ever played is Red Rocks. That was pretty cool. It’s magical. I would love to play the Gorge. That’s one place we’ve never played. Maybe I can get there solo.

What’s your favorite ShipRocked moment from the past or present? You’ve done a lot.

Last year during The Stowaways, I was watching some of the other musicians play, and Randy Blythe was singing “One” by Metallica. They were just in the middle of the song. The band and him, they were all locked in, and it just got to the ‘darkness, imprisoning me’ and it was so sick that that was my favorite. It was so sick. I was like, ‘God, that’s awesome.’ The band was just tight as hell.

Keith Wallen Talks New Solo Album
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

So how do you pack for the cruise?

I kind of had a difficult time with that because we had a tour before the cruise, so I had to pack for the tour with winter coats and winter clothes and then the cruise was completely opposite. I got like a winter coat and then flip flops and sh*t. If I’m just packing for the cruise like last year, tank tops, fun party shirts, flip flops, some sunscreen. 

What are your must have items to pack on the road in general?

Vitamins. Some good boots, some good jeans. 

Why boots?

I bought some cowboy boots last year. I had those last summer. They were fun. They’re pretty comfortable. My hero is James Hetfield of Metallica. I’ve seen so many pictures of him from the 90’s, and he’s rocking cowboy boots and I’m like, ‘F*ck yeah, that’s my guy.’

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

What do you do during downtime on the road?

What’s that? If I’m not doing Breaking Ben, I’m doing solo stuff. I do a bunch of writing on the side. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to write with some really great people and have some cool songs come out of it. I try to do as much music stuff as I can. But if I do have off time, I love to exercise, I love to hike. I hang out with my wife and my cat and grill out. 

Oh my god, you have a cat. I’ve been writing about everybody’s cats. What’s the name? Why is he special? 

His name is Theo. Well, he’s just my little baby boy, that’s why. He loves to just lay on his back and be cute when he wants your attention. How could you resist that? I miss him.

Keith Wallen Talks New Solo Album
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

You’ve co-written with so many amazing artists from all sorts of genres. Is it different every time you write or do you follow a process no matter who you’re working with?

I think it’s different every time because it’s different people, different mindsets, and different goals. The one thing that is universal is wanting to write the best and the coolest thing we can and something that’s the most genuine, from your heart, something that you’ll feel good about singing and getting behind.

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Do you have a favorite person you’ve written a song with? 

I think it’s a cross between…I don’t know if I can say because I don’t want to have a favorite. But I will say I really enjoyed writing with Adam Gontier. We wrote their song “Devastate” together, which I’m just so stoked about how it came out. I’ve written a bunch of songs with Dorothy. We wrote so many songs together, it’s hard for me to remember which ones.

I don’t think she’s really recorded them all, but I’ve got a bunch of demos and some of them are great. So hopefully she does something with them. We just really hit it off. She’s a buddy, she’s a pal. I’m such a fan of her voice, same with Adam. I’ve been a fan of his since 2003 when I bought my first Three Days Grace record. 

Keith Wallen Talks New Solo Album
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

What is your dream vacation?

I went to Maui, Hawaii. I had such high expectations of Hawaii and I was like, ‘Man, I hope this doesn’t disappoint.’ And I got to tell you, it did not. It was amazing. It exceeded my expectations. I would definitely go to Hawaii again.

What’s in store for 2024?

There’s going to be some Breaking Benjamin shows. There’s going to be some Keith Wallen shows. I’m just going to try to get out there and get this new album in people’s hands and perform it for people. It’s coming out May 3rd, it’s called Infinity Now. Keith Wallen, Infinity Now, May 3rd.

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Amy Harris
Amy Harris is a writer and photographer who has been traveling for 20 years and flown over 2 million miles to visit over 80 countries on 6 continents. She is a freelance photographer for Invision by Associated Press, AP Images and Rex/Shutterstock. Her work can be seen in various publications and websites including: Rolling Stone, AP Images, National Geographic Books, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Forbes.com, Lonely Planet Travel Guides, JetStar magazine, and Delta Sky Magazine.

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