Interview with author Keith Buckley | By Brittany Moseley
After more than 15 years of fronting Every Time I Die, Keith Buckley is trying on a new role: published author. Buckley’s debut novel, “Scale,” is out this month through the independent publisher Rare Bird Books. The story centers on Ray Goldman, an indie musician with a rising career and a sinking will to exist. Buckley—who studied Shakespeare in college—serves as Every Time I Die’s principal lyricist, but wanted a new outlet. “It got to the point where if the band isn’t writing music, then I’m not writing lyrics,” he explains. “I found that [writing] was really something I loved doing, and I couldn’t wait for other people to do something to facilitate my writing. I had to take the reins and do it.”
When did the idea first come to you to write this book?
I’ve always known that I wanted to. I just never really had an idea. I think about three or four years ago, I started taking very detailed notes on tour. The idea of putting it into a story that didn’t go in a linear pattern—that kind of alternated between chapters, that kind of tied two stories together—just kind of came to me out of nowhere. I was pretty thankful for that one. Once I had that idea, I was able to start plotting what went where. A lot of those stories are composites. I had to take a bunch of things that happened on tour and put them into different timeslots and condense them into different characters.
Were you already thinking, “I’m going to turn these ideas into a book”?
Not at all. The one thing I definitely didn’t want to do was write a tour diary. I didn’t just want to make it a story about stuff that happened on the road. I really needed a plotline and some interesting characters. I knew that I couldn’t just draw specifically from my life, because, to be honest, my life isn’t all that interesting. So, I really had to think of some things that would make a good story. Once I really started understanding the form that it would fall into, it was cool to see these characters emerge from themselves.
When people read this, they’re going to think, “Is Ray supposed to be Keith?” Are there similarities between you and Ray?
The background is kind of similar in that it’s just very average. There’s no big trauma that made him do anything. It was just a natural progression of very slow-moving events that conspired together and formed into this pattern of his life. I’m not trying to mask the fact that there is a lot drawn from my life, but there are probably just as many differences. He’s very humorless; he takes himself very, very seriously as an artist—which I definitely do not. [Laughs] That’s the most glaring dissimilarity. Anybody who knows me might be able to pick certain things out, but luckily, a lot of people don’t know me very well.
So, they’ll just assume all kinds of crazy things?
[Laughs] Yeah. I mean, I’ve been a victim of assumption my whole life, so keep it coming.
Ray has a lot of critical opinions about the music industry, yet he’s also guilty of falling into the traps he’s supposedly rallying against. Have you felt that way in your music career?
I don’t think I’ve necessarily fallen into that, particularly because my personal experience has never really been to sell out. I’ve never really been called upon to do that. I use that term loosely: the idea that I have to do something I don’t like doing because someone’s making me. Luckily, Every Time I Die has never had to do that. But I have spent time around people who have had to do that and have come clean, like, “I fucking hate this. This isn’t me.”
Do you look at Ray as a sellout?
Yeah, a little bit. I definitely think he’s very lost and he’s just sick of being broke and unhappy, so I think he’s just jumping at any opportunity. I don’t know that he necessarily agrees with it in himself. I think that selling out means you are completely enlisted in this faux army, and I don’t think he ever really gets there. I think he’s sort of pushed to, and I guess he’s sort of asked to by his circumstances, but I don’t think he ever really gets the nerve to. And that’s the thing, the noncommittal thing he’s very much guilty of is just really never being able to give himself entirely to anything, even the bad stuff.
Did you approach writing this book differently than you approach songwriting?
It’s a lot harder than I thought it was gonna be, and in different ways than I thought it was going to be hard. It’s very difficult for the obvious reason that when an instrument stops playing, you don’t have to write lyrics anymore. But in this, there was no parameter set by drums or guitars, so you just have to really hone in on “Does this feel finished?” You really gotta sharpen that intuition. I’m not in any way saying I’ve mastered that, but this is the first book of I hope many, and I’m just getting started and getting my feet wet.