Down home soul: The feel good groove of Soul Track Mind

Soul Track Mind in Action

Witnessing a Soul Track Mind performance is like stepping out of time and space. Their recent show at Mishawaka’s Midway Tavern felt like a great party onboard a funky time machine. The 8 piece band took the crowd back to the classic era of 60’s soul music, a time where hungry artists with something to prove stepped out of Gospel churches and brought spirituality, passion, polished performance, and ingeniously crafted songs to stunned and inspired audiences. Like soul archaeologists, Soul Track Mind dug deep to unearth those forgotten ways and lost rituals and brought them into the present. Their horn driven show was a vivid exposition on just how joyous live music can be. “We have been able to build a shared feeling between the audience and us. Sharing that kind of relationship almost has a spiritual effect. It’s high energy, passionate, sweaty, emotional,” says front man Donovan Keith, a graduate of Penn High school who now lives in Austin Texas.

Soul Track Mind and Keith’s ability in particular to inspire and entertain the audience was striking. When asked about this gift for connecting with the crowd Keith says “So many people can sing well but they can’t put on a show. It’s an element that has been missing for many years. We use that element to try to distinguish ourselves as a band that can really put on a great show. It’s helped us stand out in Austin. There are better singers out there and there are performers with more energy but I won’t let anyone out sing and outperform me. I won’t let anyone beat me at both.” says Keith, exuding all the confidence and enthusiasm of someone born to front a band.

When asked about the evolution of his unique performance skills and onstage antics, Keith offers a surprising answer. “The Showmanship came from my theater days, theater and comedy specifically. I did improv. I did stand up. I have always been very physical in performing. Chris Farley was always a big comedy influence. If you look at my comedy or musical influences they always have a big physical presence.” Keith cites musical inspirations like Otis Redding and Sam Cooke as particularly strong influences as well. “Sam Cooke for the songwriting and vocal phrasing and Otis Redding for his live show” says Keith.

As for why he became a soul singer, Keith says “I liked other music but would always keep coming back to soul. It is probably the most uplifting music when it is played correctly. Something about that energy level and that kind of spirituality was very appealing to me. The music is more gospel based than blues would be and the singer has to have a good voice to pull it off.” When asked to define soul, Keith offers an insightful answer. “There is soul music as its own genre of music, then there is soul as a term where someone sings with soul or has a soulful voice and I don’t really link the two. I think people who sing with soul are being open, honest, simple, and expressive. If you take those things and match them with soul music you have the best combination.”

Not content to simply imitate, Soul Track Mind seems determined to forge its own sound. At their Midway performance the band captured the audience by relying on original music, adding infrequent but perfectly timed covers. “We have our own voice now and we are writing the music and the words and it doesn’t sound like anything else because it’s our own completed ideas”. This fact is apparent on the band’s impressive debut CD “Ghost of Soul”. It is a great debut crammed with inventive arrangements and crowd tested songs. The CD manages to sound like fresh new music that could have come out on Memphis’ classic Stax label circa 1971.

As Soul Track Mind’s Midway performance proved, seeing a great soul band is a truly uplifting experience. “Our shows are where people who havn’t danced at all or havn’t danced often come to dance.” Says Keith. “So many times we have had people come up to tell us that. A woman came up and said “My husband hasn’t danced with me in 20 years and he finally danced with me.” He continues “Then this metal head guy said “I just want to let you know I’m a metal head, I never dance when I see a show… but you guys made me dance!” says Keith. He seems to thrive on channeling such inspiration. He adds “The performance aspect, being in front of audiences, the rush of sharing your voice and music with the audience and having them reward you with their energy, there is nothing else like it”.

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