Kashy Keegan: British Singer-Songwriter
Kashy started taking piano lessons aged seven to learn the rudiments and around the age of 10 had written his first song. As a teenager he worked any odd job to afford time in a recording studio. Songwriting was his life and an all-consuming passion that has remained to this day. His songs characteristically contain strong melodies and meaningful messages. He takes inspiration from all of life, the good, the bad, the rise and the fall for he sees it all as having reason and purpose.
Kashy is a true reflection of his music. He puts every ounce of his heart and soul into his singing and songwriting. He has sensitivity for emotion that is authentically expressed throughout his many compositions. Using music to help empower others or to try and provide some form of hope, comfort or healing has always been at the core of what has driven Kashy to write songs.
“Most of the songs that I have written are encouragement songs, talking about self belief, self acceptance and inner strength. Writing songs for me has always been a therapeutic escape. The songs were my way of trying to inspire some hope and inner strength to rise above many of the negative situations that I faced growing up. I found that remaining strong mentally was the key to not being dragged down and, for me, music and listening to certain empowerment songs were my main way of achieving this.” In total it took Kashy 15 years before he got his first break. His story really is one of perseverance. (Taken from Kashy’s website)
The birth of “This Is My Dream” began in 2007, and has been on a great journey in Kashy’s life since it was first recorded.
Firstly, it was used as a motivational song for the London Olympics back in 2012. In 2013, the song gained popularity in Hong Kong as an anthem for an anti-government protest. This led to an invitation to perform the song there, followed later with his own concert in February 2014.
In December 2014, Kashy got signed to the record label, Evosound. Within a week from release, “This Is My Dream” entered the Top 40 in Hong Kong charts (reaching no. 1). It was picked to be the theme song for the HK reality show, The Challenge and the theme song for the channel.
In November 2016, Kashy recorded a Mandarin version of the song.
TSM: Hi Kashy, it’s great to have you back for another interview in TSM. Thanks so much for your time.
KK: Thanks for having me back! I really appreciate all that you’re doing with TSM to spotlight new talent. I wish there were more like you!
TSM: What inspired you to become a musician, and at what age did you start playing the piano and writing songs?
KK: I was inspired by songwriters who had the ability to reach me through their music when it felt like nobody else around me could. Through that I recognized how powerful music could be in providing healing and comfort for people and it inspired me to want to have a go at writing songs myself.
I have always been a very emotional and sensitive person. Music immediately struck a chord with me because it gave me a release for everything that I was feeling inside. I really need that outlet to express myself otherwise I would just go crazy. I started playing piano aged seven, I took a few lessons but then taught myself. I wrote my first song about the age of thirteen. However, I didn’t start pursuing songwriting seriously until I wrote the song ‘Make It Real’ in 2005.
TSM: I read that your name Kashy means “Soul” in Persian. What a fitting name for you because your music truly does touch the soul of so many people. Personally, I find your music very uplifting and healing to the soul as I often turn to it for inspiration and a lift. What’s your process for writing lyrics and where do you get the inspiration for your songs? Are all your songs based on personal experiences?
KK: Thank you for that. My driving motivation for wanting to write songs has always been to try and inspire others. So, to know that I am reaching people in that way through my music is really fulfilling for me. Kashy is a name that I didn’t like when I was younger because it was so unusual. However, I think I have grown into it and I hope that I am able to do the meaning of it some justice through my songwriting.
I do write a lot from personal experience and I tend to bare my soul quite a bit through my writing. Each song really is like an extension of my soul at the time. I find life a constant source of inspiration. We are always evolving and there’s always something more to learn or experience. There’s seldom a time when I don’t have something to say or write a song about. I think it also relates back to what I mentioned about being an emotional/sensitive person. The need to express everything that’s building up inside is what inspires me to write most of the time.
Most of my songs have messages in them. I try to pass on, through song, anything that I have learnt about life that has helped me to grow spiritually and emotionally and anything that helps me to rise above and stay strong in the face of adversity. The lyrics and the messages they contain are probably the most important aspect of writing songs for me.
TSM: You’ve released four albums to date: self-titled debut album, Looking In, This Is My Dream and your latest, Inner Song. Tell us about Inner Song and the inspiration behind the title. And how do you think you’ve grown as a singer-songwriter since you first started out?
KK: My latest album Inner Song was written and recorded in Hong Kong in 2016. The songs were inspired by the huge changes in my life. I ended up moving to the other side of the world in 2014 after a song I’d written years ago, “This Is my Dream,” unexpectedly topped the iTunes chart in Hong Kong and so I relocated there from the UK. The past six years have been a crazy time for me – moving to the other side of the world and having a number one song. There have been so many highs and lows and sources of inspiration so I decided to call the album Inner Song because these songs are my account of all the changes from the inside out.
In terms of how I’ve grown as a singer-songwriter, I hope I better understand the craft of writing songs compared to when I first started out. But the core of having that sensitivity for emotion and expressing my honest truth remains the same. I just write about whatever is in my heart at the time; I’ve never tried to write songs that I think people want to hear or try to cater to a specific market; I only write about what I know and what I honestly feel inside. I also still write all of my songs entirely on my own at the piano. That is pretty rare since most songs you hear in the charts these days are written by at least three or more people.
TSM: Your song “This is My Dream” really did change your life since this is the song that propelled your success in Hong Kong. This led to your move there and getting signed to a record label. I also know it took years for you to get to this place with your music as you went through years of rejection and struggles. So, after all this came about, did it change your outlook about really never truly giving up and continuing to chase dreams no matter what obstacles got in the way?
KK: Great question! Yes, the beautiful thing about the whole experience of my song “This is My Dream” having some success was that it was entirely unexpected. It happened at a time when I’d pretty much given up on pursuing a career in music after more than ten years of rejection and struggles. Ultimately, the experience has taught me about the value of keeping an open mind. You never know when or how life might surprise you. It took me more than ten years to get my first big break. But if you keep on persevering, something will eventually give.
For so long I was convinced that the music industry wasn’t open to people like me who didn’t know anyone on the inside. Still to this day, the best part of the whole experience, for me, was that I’d received hundreds of rejections over the years; I literally came from obscurity with no manager, no label, no publicist or anything like that. Yet, because someone on the other side of the world believed in my song enough to use it and give it a decent amount of exposure, I was able to defy all the odds and score my first number 1. It was very validating and immensely surreal at the same time.
TSM: What was it like recording a Mandarin version of “This is My Dream?”
KK: Recording the Mandarin version was a challenge, but one that I really enjoyed. It was always going to be a challenge as Mandarin is obviously not my mother tongue. But I hope I did it justice. I took some Mandarin lessons and my teacher was great. I’ve had quite a lot of feedback from people saying that my pronunciation is actually not bad. That was a relief! I loved being able to share my song in another language. I think, overall, people appreciated my effort.
Mandarin video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_TPi2y2404
TSM: Since being in Hong Kong, you’ve had the chance to perform in a whole variety of places. How has it felt for you to be performing again?
KK: I am loving having the opportunity to perform so regularly. I have been more active with my music and performing here in Hong Kong than I ever was in my entire time living in the UK. It has opened up so many more doors for me and given me lots of new opportunities. I never really saw myself as much of a performer and preferred just writing songs, but I have a new found confidence for it and I’m really enjoying it. I think, as with most things, the more you do something the more it becomes second nature for you. I would say that I enjoy performing almost as much as I enjoy songwriting now.
TSM: Can you tell us about some of the recent venues you’ve performed at, and what the experiences have been like for you performing in those places?
KK: I had a memorable time performing at a Thai Songkran Festival a few years ago. It’s tradition to throw water over each other and so I got absolutely soaked to the bone as I was performing but it was great fun! I’ve also performed at several schools here in Hong Kong for thousands of students and I am particularly pleased to be able to share my music and story with younger people.
There have been many other festivals, charity events, universities that I have performed at too. I also staged my own show back in April 2014 that was me sharing some of my current and new songs at a really nice and intimate venue in Hong Kong called Backstage.
More recently I got the chance to perform at the MacPherson Stadium in Hong Kong. That was definitely a highlight as the arena was huge. I never dreamed five or so years ago after I’d pretty much given up on music that today I would be performing on stages on the other side of the world. It’s amazing how drastically your life can change in such a relatively short period of time.
MacPherson Stadium performance: https://youtu.be/yjnBHftpLrc?t=125
TSM: You have also judged a talent show for the very first time. What was that like?
KK: I have been doing some guest singing classes at a local performing arts school for young people here in Hong Kong called HK Talent Star. I was invited to be a guest judge at one of their talent shows and I felt really honoured to do it. I got the chance to perform a couple of my songs with them too and was really amazed at how they knew most of the words already, even though English isn’t their first language.
I am no Simon Cowell, but I hope I was able to give them some constructive feedback. I can tell that the kids already really work so hard at their craft and practice for many hours. I love teaching and being around the kids – it’s really rewarding to see them develop and have fun at the same time. They make me laugh and I really enjoy teaching them. I wanted to do my bit to help inspire the next generation and pass on some of the techniques and knowledge that I have gained over the years.
TSM: Who are some musicians you admire and look up to?
KK: I appreciate good vocals because I think the human voice is such an amazing instrument and I’m in total awe of people who have big ranges and a lot of flexibility to their voice. I really love that song “Hero” by Mariah Carey. That song literally changed my life. It inspired me to believe in myself and to want to try and write a song that might reach someone else in a similar way to how that song reached me. I really like George Michael’s voice and lyrics. The late Eva Cassidy for the purity and depth of emotion that she was able to convey through her singing. There are so many musicians that I admire but the vast majority of them are soul/gospel artists.
TSM: I know that you initially wanted to pursue a career in journalism and this led to interviews with big names such as: Nsync , The Spice Girls , Ricky Martin and Steven Spielberg. However, today you do in fact combine a career in both journalism and music. Tell us about your early journalism experiences interviewing the big names mentioned.
KK: That’s right, I was a young journalist before I started in music. Today I juggle both the journalism and the music. I used to write for some of the pop magazines in the UK back in the ‘90s like Smash Hits and Top of the Pops. I started around aged twelve and had the time of my life interviewing some of the big pop stars at the time. These included Spice Girls (I remember Scary Spice gave me a big kiss on the cheek!), Ricky Martin, Steps, to name a few. More recently, in 2013, I got to interview superstar singer, Celine Dion at the Dorchester Hotel in London. She was brilliant. There was no hint of any diva; she was completely down to earth and after the interview she even offered to take a few selfies of us together.
TSM: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?
KK: I wish I had the power to abolish poverty or to find a way to lessen the massive disparity between the rich and the very poor. Aside from that, I would love to be able to give everyone the gift of self-love. I think so many people struggle with self-esteem related issues (myself included) and I would love to be able to empower everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin and to feel proud of who they are.
TSM: What is one of your favorite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?
KK: That’s a tough question because there are so many quotes that I draw strength and inspiration from. I think one of my favorites is definitely by Mother Teresa – “All the time you judge you have no time to love.”
TSM: Anything else you’d like to share? And where can readers find out more about you and your music?
KK: Please connect with me here:
TSM: Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview, and wish you continued success in all you do in the future.
KK: Thank you so much!