ROBERT EARL KEEN
ROBERT EARL KEEN
"The road goes on forever …"
It's not always easy to sum up a career — let alone a life's ambition — so succinctly, but those five words from Robert Earl Keen's calling-card anthem just about do it. You can complete the lyric with the next five words — the ones routinely shouted back at Keen by thousands of fans a night ("and the party never ends!") — just to punctuate the point with a flourish, but it's the part about the journey that gets right to the heart of what makes Keen tick. Some people take up a life of playing music with the goal of someday reaching a destination of fame and fortune; but from the get-go, Keen just wanted to write and sing his own songs, and to keep writing and singing them for as long as possible.
"I always thought that I wanted to play music, and I always knew that you had to get some recognition in order to continue to play music," Keen says. "But I never thought of it in terms of getting to be a big star. I thought of it in terms of having a really, really good career and writing some good songs, and getting onstage and having a really good time."
Now three-decades on from the release of his debut album — with well over a dozen other records to his name, thousands of shows under his belt and still no end in sight to the road ahead — Keen remains as committed to and inspired by his muse as ever. And as for accruing recognition, well, he's done alright on that front, too; from his humble beginnings on the Texas folk scene, he's blazed a peer, critic, and fan-lauded trail that's earned him living-legend (not to mention pioneer) status in the Americana music world. And though the Houston native has never worn his Texas heart on his sleeve, he's long been regarded as one of the Lone Star State's finest (not to mention top-drawing) true singer-songwriters. He was still a relative unknown in 1989 when his second studio album, West Textures, was released — especially on the triple bill he shared at the time touring with legends Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark — but once fellow Texas icon Joe Ely recorded both "The Road Goes on Forever" and "Whenever Kindness Fails" on his 1993 album, Love and Danger, the secret was out on Keen's credentials as a songwriter's songwriter. By the end of the decade, Keen was a veritable household name in Texas, headlining a millennial New Year's Eve celebration in Austin that drew an estimated 200,000 people. A dozen years later, he was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame along with the late, great Van Zandt and his old college buddy, Lyle Lovett.
I was born in Washington D.C. but grew up in La Porte, Texas. I started playing the trombone in the school band in sixth grade. I began playing the bass guitar a couple of years later and by the end of high school I was playing in bands around the gulf coast.
I moved to San Marcos after school and kept on playing at clubs and dancehalls all over Texas. I started writing songs and performing them with bands and solo. In ’95 I had the opportunity to audition for a job with Robert Earl Keen. I got the gig. Playing with Robert has been a great opportunity. My fellow band mates are great musicians and it’s a challenge to perform at such a high level. I’ve gotten to write some songs with Robert and have recorded a few. Playing on the road is tough, but the shows make it all worth while. I still live in San Marcos with my wife, Kim. My son, David Beck, is a great musician. His band, Sons of Fathers, is doing well. My daughter Katy is studying voice at Texas State, where I went. I look forward to many more years of recording, traveling, and performing with Robert.
TOM VAN SCHAIK
TOM VAN SCHAIK
Tom makes a living doing what most parents tell their kids to stop doing... hitting things.
Born in Claremont, New Hampshire, Tom's family lived in Vermont and Connecticut before moving to Dallas when he was 10 years old.
There he began a formal study of drums and percussion which continues to this day. He attended St. Marks School in Dallas, where his father was Head of the Science Department. After graduation, he attended University of North Texas to study music, earning a Bachelors Degree in Jazz Studies and minoring in Music Theory. Freelancing around Dallas/Ft Worth since he was 17, he eventually joined a little band from Texas - the Dixie Chicks. His tenure with the girls stretched from 1991-96 including "3 records, many TV shows and countless shows in the US, Japan and Europe". After leaving the Dixie Chicks, he joined the Robert Earl Keen Band in May 1997. "I am so fortunate to be able to tour around the country all these years with my best friends (all incredible musicians) and play such great songs every night. What other job could you have where a crowd of people is cheering and going nuts just because you are going to work?". He is endorsed by Innovative Percussion (sticks, brushes, rods, & mallets), Aquarian Drumheads, Mapex Drums and Sabian Cymbals. Tom lives in Austin, TX with his wife and their dogs.
For a more in depth bio and information - please go to tomvanschaik.com
Tom is a pesca-tarian. No...not a Star Trek character ... think vegetarian + fish. His wife goes fishing in Alaska every year with her father, bringing home hundreds of pounds of fish.
Tom enjoys woodworking and has made the entertainment center, fireplace mantle, closet organizer, etc. for his home renovation... not to mention the official smushball court for the REK tour bus.
Tom has played for every President since Gerald Ford.
As a child, Tom tapped maple trees to make syrup in Vermont with his grandfather.
Tom is related (distantly, if you've ever seen him dance) to Gene Kelly.
While teaching at the Arts Magnet High School in Dallas, one of his students was Norah Jones.
First band = Storm Warning ... a horn band in high school. We played mostly Chicago and some Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Born in the Houston area, Brian began playing violin at age 8 then soon after switched to fiddle. He later began playing guitar, bass, mandolin, and other instruments in local Houston/College Station bands.
After high school, Brian moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas but was quickly sidetracked and joined the South Austin Jug Band and toured the U.S. and Europe for 5 years. After SAJB, Brian toured with the likes of Bruce Robison and a host of other Austin bands before striking out with a new project, Milkdrive. Releasing 3 studio albums and a live record, Milkdrive also toured Europe and the U.S. extensively and still play occasionally when the stars align!
In 2015, Brian started playing fiddle with REK and has loved it ever since. Being a lifelong fan himself, it is a real treat to get to play songs he grew up singing along with.