Michael Keys' Solo Debut Feels Like Home

Home can be many things. It can be a place, a house, a feeling, a person. There can be many different feelings and emotions — or memories and ideas — associated with home. On his first solo EP, the aptly named Still Go Home, Nashville singer-songwriter Michael Keys digs into what he thinks of when he thinks of home.

Keys builds upon the ideas and themes of his most successful single, February’s “Hang Up.” While the song talks at length about being separated from home and loved ones, and possibly being literally hung up on it, the title track of the EP finds Keys finally returning to his hometown. In his case, home is Chicago, which is evident in the multitude of references (including an impossible to miss shoutout to legendary Bears player Brian Urlacher). For the singer, he finds joy and light like nothing else at home, which answers the song’s question of why he still goes home.

After talking about the current positives of home, Keys goes on a walk down memory lane on “Burnt CD.” He does a masterful job of bombarding the listener with numerous references to musicians all over the musical spectrum – the kinds you might find on old mixtape CDs. The chorus cleverly changes to allow for maximum nostalgia points. The song’s production, due largely to producer Jeff Dombrowski, expertly captures a slightly older country style reminiscent of Rascal Flatts that fits the message of memories perfectly.

“Where I Wanna Be” finds Keys telling tale as old as time: daydreaming about getting out of work. The abundance of wordless “whoas” and everyman message makes the track a surefire concert hit. Dombrowski’s production mixes a big acoustic drum set with a lighter, almost trap-like hi-hat. It’s an interesting choice that lends a bit of poppy tinge to an otherwise straightforward country rock song. Keys’ vocal performance on this song is not to be missed; he is unafraid of using the top of his register and in doing so carries the track.

The EP wraps up with “My City is Country,” a callout to the people disenfranchised between city slickers and cowboys. Keys admits to his lack of a traditionally country upbringing but points out the core features that he and others share. There are a few more references to hits such as Copperhead Road, and shoutouts to the people across the country who are drawn to these aesthetics. The song also features the most fiery guitar work of the EP, with a fun solo mixed well with Keys’ voice.

At its heart, the EP features a man talking honestly about home, memories, and life as it should be. Keys has said that he wanted the project to be “hometown vibes,” and that he hopes listeners will “hear [his] stories through my music and hope they can relate to it as much as I do to where they play the song often and tell their friends about it.” The production is clean and fitting, lending a poppy sheen to country rock songs that complements Keys’ tenor nicely. Whether you like to go home or not, after listening to this EP you'll know why Michael Keys goes home — and you may want to join him.

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