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This Queer Artist Demands to Be Seen and Heard

Talia Keys’ "We're Here" is the Fight Song for the Next Queer Generation

By Ben NelsonPublished 9 months ago 4 min read
Talia Keys by Stefan Poulos

Talia Keys’ trademark fire and brimstone stage presence is an amalgam of her journey, identity, and musical influences.

Growing up, she and her brother were raised by a single mother in Utah. Her dad struggled with addiction and his battles forced Talia to grow up sooner than typical kids her age. Still, she was gifted with a big imagination and whether she was pretending to be Michael Jordan or impersonating Elvis Presley, Talia could entertain herself for hours. She began piano lessons at age 9, drums at 11, guitar at 16 and mandolin at 22. Music was always very prevalent throughout her youth, beginning with The Beatles and turning to Bob Marley in middle school. Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, and Talking Heads were some of the other artists that played a big role in her musical development. She even had a Kris Kross phase (and yes, she wore her clothes backwards for a time). It opened Talia up to rap and hip hop and she became a huge fan of Tribe Called Quest, The Fugees and Blackalicious.

Today, Talia Keys is a musician, writer, producer and entertainer, and still resides in Salt Lake City. She identifies as a pansexual woman and use She/They pronouns.

What do you like best about being an independent musician?

Talia Keys: There is no place I would rather be than on a stage or in the studio. I use my music to connect my heart to fans and I love being independent because I get to create whatever I want! I don't have anyone I have to answer to except myself. I love the freedom I have to record any song of mine and release it on my own time.

Photo credit: Stefan Poulos

Are there challenges to being indie?

TK: Oh, yes! I think the biggest is reaching a larger audience. I do all the booking, managing, tour managing, arranging of the music, producing and so much more. Having a team would be very beneficial and I hope to assemble more people to help stay independent and reach a much larger audience.

How have you learned to navigate those challenges?

TK: By finding a good balance between work and creative time. I wish creativity far outweighed the work and hopefully, someday, I’ll make that happen. I also love going out into nature. Time spent away from social media is crucial.

Tell us about your latest single and music video, "We're Here."

TK: The song is a feel-good anthem that calls for today’s queer generation to be loud and proud in who they are. It is reggae inspired and its message it that we need to fight the status quo, because like it or not, we’re Queer, we’re here and we aren’t going anywhere.

The video features several Queer and Transgender artists.

TK: It stars Madazon Can-Can, a gender non-binary drag king, burlesque dancer and clown that I first met when they performed at our local Pride. I was captivated by their ability to entertain and when I began visualizing the 'We're Here’ video, I immediately thought of Madazon.

Did you wait to release the video in time for Pride?

TK: I did. The song came out several years ago. I always dreamed of making a big video for it but never found the time. Silver lining type of thing, last July, we were able to do a safe shoot in the empty theater because it wasn't being used due to the pandemic.

Has being an out artist been helpful or even more challenging to your indie career?

TK: Both. Helpful because I am happier now than I ever was. I am proud. I am true to myself. It has also closed some doors for me for which I am actually thankful. I don’t need to play places that can’t accept me for who I am.

What are some of the big themes that you explore in your latest album, Lessons?

TK: We talk about everything from Facebook fights to love, racism, sexism, colonialism, homophobia, depression, religion, being true to who you are and how existence is a resistance.

Is there a particular stand-out song on the album?

TK: I love “Born in the Light” because of the horn lines and its powerful message. I also love “Come Back Down” for the reality check it gives religious folk who hi-jack Jesus for hate.

Where can fans see you this summer?

TK: I have some shows in the Utah area, but if you can’t make it out, we have four new music videos for the Lessons album coming out soon and we are working on three more.



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