Million-dollar baby 

Matt Keil is the first one to admit that his day job, owner of a management consulting company for the automotive industry, isn't exactly rock 'n' roll. But the truth is Keil's overwhelming need to kick out the jams has been strong ever since he was a pup taking piano lessons and singing for his small town's youth choir. He discovered Pearl Jam while attending Michigan State University in the '90s, and it didn't take long for him to shed the choir and pick up the guitar.

He's been kicking around the scene for years, playing in bar bands like Cosway and plucking his acoustic as a solo act. He has always known that he needed to rely on something besides music to fill his wallet, especially with a wife and three children. His company — which Keil reports is a seven-figures-a-year operation — has managed to put more than enough food on the table. And yet, the desire to perform music has never gone away. Enter the Matt Keil Band.

"I have too many friends that tried the music thing first without any real experience or a career set," Keil says. These days, he feels like he's finally in a position to focus on what he loves.

The debut record, Lesson One —on his own label, Stork Records — is a grunge-tinged, Southern rock-meets-psychedelic blues exploration. Co-written by longtime collaborator Jim Kirwan, the record revisits familiar rock 'n' roll territory with songs about smoking and drinking; but there's an honesty to the Keil din that makes the music worth a second listen. Such songs as the ever-vulnerable "Positive" are heartfelt tunes written from the perspective of a man who was married and had a baby on the way by the time he was 19 years old.

It took 15 different musicians to create the record, but Keil — who sings and plays piano and guitar — whittled the stable to a six-piece for their first gig, a record release party at the Magic Bag in Ferndale.

Keil has high hopes; he's even planning to record the show and put it out on DVD. Not surprisingly, he runs his band like a business: not only has he assembled what he thinks are some of the finest musicians in the Midwest, Kiel has already hired a crack team of designers to introduce his music to the Web. He's shopping the record out to the majors, but he also has plans to get back to the studio in a few months.

"We've all been in plenty of bands, and we're all sick of playing restaurants and bars," Keil says.

All of this will be a balancing act — one Keil says he's prepared for.

And more importantly, the support of his wife is well intact.

"We have a deal," Keil says. "I can keep doing this until she decides it's embarrassing."


Thursday, Feb. 9, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-544-3030. The Longbo Parker band to open.

Luke Allen Hackney writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to

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