Music pioneer Keith Burns: his journey from stage to film


Keith Burns. Photo courtesy of Keith Burns

Music artist Keith Burns chatted with Digital Journal’s Markos Papadatos about his latest projects.

He went from hitting all the right notes in music to hitting his mark on film sets. For cowboys like singer, songwriter and actor Keith Burns, it’s just another day at the office these days. He landed a nice role in John Schneider’s new movie Poker race. This project is the continuation of Stand on it, a Smokey and the bandit tribute film which Schneider had written and directed, which also starred Burns.

Of course, the talented musician will always return to the stage. He and his wife, Bonnie, put in lots of miles every year on stages across the country where Burns makes music with friends and puts on high-energy shows. He says: “My wife and I have met so many amazing people who have become family.”

The world knew Keith in the 90s, when he founded the ACM & AMA and Grammy-winning band Trick Pony: “We made great music,” says Burns. “And we were able to build a really solid fan base.”

Keith’s songwriting ability has landed his music on the charts on several occasions. He had three Top 10 songs for Trick Pony and Joe Diffie… and also wrote several Top 40 songs for Hootie & The Blowfish, Sammy Kershaw, Burns & Poe and Moe Bandy.

In recent years, Burns has combined his talents and often performs with fellow music outlaws John Schneider and Cody McCarver, all of whom are longtime friends. They have done many shows together and many more are planned for the future.

It only made sense when Schneider, along with his wife and producing partner, Alicia Allain, invited McCarver and Burns into their latest film projects.

We spoke with the talented wanderer about life on the road with his pals and how their adventures led them to John Schneider Studios to work on movies.

Keith, let’s start at the beginning. When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in music?

I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a performer. I sat in front of the mirror with a bottle of Brut and acted like I was Elvis and Neil Diamond. I can’t think of any other path I could have chosen other than music.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

I love every part of what I’ve had the chance to do. The fact that I can create something from scratch in the writing process, drop it in the studio with great musicians, and then perform it is an absolute dream come true. Sometimes the journey can be difficult, but it is worth it. I have gypsy in my blood.

How did Trick Pony start?

I started Trick Pony in 1996 after writing a song for Joe Diffie called “Whole Lotta Gone”. This song was in Joe’s top 15 hits and allowed me to move forward and start my own project, which was Trick Pony. Funny thing… I went from a 40ft tour bus to a van and trailer. But I had complete faith and it worked.

How has the music business evolved since you started?

The music industry has changed dramatically since I moved to Nashville in 1990. Cell phones were still a few years away, so you had to pull over on the side of the road and use a payphone to call radio stations. The biggest change, however, has been music streaming… the introduction of iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and all sorts of playlists. Too many to mention, to be honest.

The days of family radio stations are over, so getting on the radio is getting harder and harder. It just means you have to work harder and work smarter.

How did you and John Schneider start working together?

John and I had worked together several years ago with Trick Pony. I had met John in Irvine, California at a concert and we got on really well. We called him and asked him if he wanted to do a music video with us in Las Vegas and he said absolutely. He presented himself as a true professional made the video for free.

Fast forward about 10 years and John was coming to Nashville and cutting a lot of songs. I met him during the week of the country music seminar and we picked up where we left off. Since then, I’ve done a few films and written several songs for John. It is an absolute pleasure and an honor to work with him. He’s a top notch actor as well as one of my favorite singers. He’s also a pretty strong writer, which most people don’t know about.

Tell us about your role in John’s film Poker Run and how you got involved in John’s films?

In the movie poker tower, I play a redneck bar room biker who likes to cause trouble, especially if someone is a celebrity. I had already written several songs for the film Stand on it and John and Alicia asked me if I wanted to play that part in that movie. I guess it worked out pretty well because they asked me to play the same character in poker tower. I had a lot more lines and a lot more screen time and it was a lot of fun. I can’t wait to do it again.

What’s the difference between working with John on set and when you’re on stage together?

It’s very different to work with him on the set of a film than to share the stage with him for a concert. On stage, live in front of a crowd, I feel like we’re equal up there, whereas on the movie side, he’s 100% comfortable and in charge and knows exactly what he does where I don’t know anything.

He was extremely helpful when it came to my scenes. He just walks me through it and lets me be me. So far it seems to be working pretty well.

Do you like to play?

I love playing. It’s a bit like what I already do on stage in front of a lot of people. Most of the time I have cameras on me rolling even during live shows, but acting is something I still have a lot to learn. I think every time I’m in front of a camera, I feel a little more comfortable. So we’ll see. Definitely, enjoying it and wanting to do more. I could see a western in my future.

What new projects are on the horizon for you?

As for new projects in my future, I’m working on a brand new CD in the spring probably around March or April. I’ll be releasing another song on the radio around the same time, and I think I’ll be working on a new movie with John and Alicia coming up as well. And as usual, I’ll be on the road non-stop all year round. I have no intention of slowing down anytime soon.

His latest single “Everybody Loves a Comeback”, co-written by Inside the edition Lisa Guerrero, first introduced to a national audience on the show.

To learn more about Keith Burns and his music, visit his official website.


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