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5 Questions with Derek Keeling

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Derek Keeling channels the Man in Black for a Johnny Cash tribute show benefiting HospiceCare at South Charleston's LaBelle Theater Saturday.
WANT TO GO?Johnny Cash tribute showPerformed by Derek KeelingWHERE: LaBelle Theater, 311 D St., South CharlestonWHEN: 7 p.m. SaturdayTICKETS: $35 (a portion of the proceeds go to HospiceCare) INFO: 304-356-1654_____CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Scott Depot native Derek Keeling has kept busy since his third-place finish on NBC's reality competition "Grease: You're the One That I Want" in 2007. Since then, he's performed on Broadway and spent a year touring as Johnny Cash in "The Million Dollar Quartet." Last year, he left the tour, re-embraced his musical roots and took his turn as Johnny Cash in a new direction. On Saturday, he brings the music of the Man in Black to the LaBelle Theater in South Charleston. The gazz spoke to Keeling about this new musical path he's on, which turns out to be an old one.Q: How long have you been back in West Virginia?A: I came back earlier this month to get some knee surgery taken care of. Touring kind of wore me out a little bit. I like to come home to get stuff like that done. It's easier to get it done than when I'm in New York or L.A.Q: You were on tour with "The Million Dollar Quartet" about a year ago. How did that go, and what have you been up to since?
A: Touring was amazing. We went all over the country and then went to Japan. It was amazing.I had no idea the tour was going to be like that, and it kind of changed me a lot in the sense that, when I was a lot younger, I played a lot of music. I used to think of myself as more of a musician, but then I got into the theater world and became more of an actor.On the tour, we probably played like five gigs outside of doing the show, and we had these promotional gigs, as well, whenever we'd do a show. I just played with the band a lot, and it kind of brought me back to where I used to be as a writer and a musician.
Once I left the tour, I went straight to Nashville, and now I'm writing music for a publishing company and doing concerts.Q: What kind of show do you do?A: I'm still kind of doing Johnny Cash music, as well as my own. It's what led me back to performing music, and it's amazing how much the audience gets on your side when you say the words, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash." That's really a pretty amazing testament to who he was as a performer. He's been gone for, like, 10 years.Q: How did you get involved with the HospiceCare benefit?A: My mom. She's a nurse, and both of her parents went into HospiceCare and they really helped out. It's a rough transition in life, and helping out Hospice just seemed like a great thing to do.Besides, the business I'm in is kind of selfish. It's all "me, me, me," and I don't like that side of it. I really want to do shows that are tied to some charity. This time, we're doing a show with Hospice, but maybe next time we'll do one with someone else.
Q: Have you given up acting?A: I'm pretty much focused on music. I'm not saying I'm not going to do any acting, but I'm just not going out of my way to get acting jobs at this point. But I'll probably come back to acting.Right now, I'm focused on writing. I've got a record I made, which we'll have for sale at the show, and I hope to have another one next year. After this show, I'm playing a bunch of shows in California, and then I'm doing a tour in Texas.Sometimes, you just have to hit the road to make things happen. Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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