Keaton Henson burns with brilliance

A musician with a performance complex

Katie Morrison

The music industry has similarities to autumn. Things constantly change, always cycling through different tones and tastes. Artists hold their own for a brilliant moment and then fade away, leaving a bit of themselves behind. A musician named Keaton Henson has quietly slipped onto the music scene and is burning brilliantly in a completely unprecedented way.

Keaton Henson, a bearded Londoner, did not set out to become a musician. Originally he worked as an illustrator, creating the artwork for various albums. Henson wrote a few songs, recorded them in his bedroom and shared them with a few friends and something amazing began. The source of this sudden inspiration was the classic muse: love.

The 24-year-old artist has released three albums since 2010, when he first began writing. His trembling vocals and breathy lyrics give Henson that signature folk sound. Those who enjoy artists like Daughter, Bon Iver and Hozier will be drawn in by his songs. But what sets Henson apart from the acoustic crowd is his realness.

In a society of Lady Gagas and Justin Biebers where music is a flashy production, it’s refreshing to settle into a song that simply feels. Keaton Henson sings about the rush of a relationship and about failed love, which both fall under the been-there-done-that portion of music. But he does this in a way that is gentle and genuine. One of his most popular songs, “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are,” seems pointed at an ex’s new man. Henson shares the things he learned about his ex and mourns their uselessness, something anyone who has gone through a breakup can relate to. Fans of his music are mesmerized by his sensitivity and soul.

Keaton Henson, in spite of having an amazing name and a classic artist’s beard, finds himself unable to fit the musician mold. He retreats from the music scene and rarely performs. He suffers from severe stage fright and panic attacks. The interviews he actually allows are usually conducted through email, adding to his mysterious and enigmatic aura. His website biography sums everything up beautifully: “Keaton Henson spends his time alone, writing songs and sometimes drawing. He doesn’t like to talk about himself.”

Although terrified at the prospect, Henson performs shows as a penance of sorts. In an interview with The Guardian, he said, “I’m trying to be realistic. I’ve been given the opportunity to stay in my room and write songs - as a job. I’ll do what I’m asked to do.” Henson sacrifices his own comfort by performing, an act that allows him to continue writing music. I, for one, am grateful.

This fall, as colors change and the semester slips away, challenge yourself. Find something that might draw you out of your comfort zone. Sometimes your greatest accomplishment come from your biggest fears.

Katie is a junior studying business administration.