“I don’t see anybody I know/I want to find my shadow,” sings Jim Keller on his lilting new single “Find My Shadow,” which he is debuting today on American Songwriter. The former Tommy Tutone member (yes, he co-wrote “867-5309/Jenny”) has a knack for making seemingly simple lines like those sink a little deeper, especially when you add them all up in connection with the world-weary gravitas of his rumbling voice.
“I wrote this song with the great Billy Harvey, a Texas songwriter who spent a few years living in Brooklyn,” Keller told American Songwriter. “Long enough for us to write a handful of songs together. The soul of the lyric comes from a feeling of being out of place.”
Keller can boast an A-list of collaborators who helped him out with the track as well, including legendary multi-instrumentalist David Hidalgo, who adds some vocal harmonies along with his guitar. “The track is so simple,” Keller explains. “It’s mostly just me and my acoustic guitar. David Hidalgo wrapped a dollar bill around the neck of his guitar and just strummed a rhythm percussion part. His comment after: ‘I love to not play anything and have it be the right thing to play.’ There are barely audible hand claps and a few notes that are actually the top of my guitar hitting the buttons on my shirt. (Producer) Mitchell (Froom), I think, plays all of about 6 notes. As always, the rhythm section, Bob Glaub and Michael Urbano, make it seem easy.”
What struck Keller about the track were the subtle contrasts at play. “What I love about the song is the melody is upbeat and happy, like a Roger Miller tune, but the lyrics are really about being lost,” he says. ‘A lot of what Mitchell Froom and I were going for was the simplicity and intimacy. It’s very raw. Not much to hide behind. When that works, it’s great.”
“Find My Shadow” is quite emblematic of what you can find on Keller’s upcoming album By No Means, his first full-length in seven years. In addition to the big names already mentioned, Marc Ribot, Nels Cline and Philip Glass all pitch in some instrumental expertise on the album. But it’s Keller’s songwriting, wry and understated, yet always gently stirring, that holds center court. Look for By No Means on February 12.