By Olivia Munson
Vietnamese American singer-songwriter Keshi has not had many opportunities to showcase the talent he has cultivated over the years.
In early November, he performed on what could be his biggest stage to date: 88rising’s Head in the Clouds festival in Pasadena. Now, he’s ready to show the Valley what he can do.
He will make his way to Phoenix’s Arizona Federal Theatre Phoenix on Friday, November 12, when he and Salem Ilese will open for Lany.
“After having been cooped up for two years, it’s nice to see that all the numbers and comments and likes online are tangible,” he says. “You just have to go to a show to realize that.”
Born Casey Luong in Houston, Keshi worked as an oncology nurse at the Texas Medical Center for two years before deciding to pursue music full time. He released his first songs on SoundCloud in 2017, and his following skyrocketed from there.
Keshi has garnered more than 1 billion streams across several platforms, with over 4.6 million listeners on Spotify. In 2019, he inked a deal with Island Records.
With four EPs, multiple singles and a featured track on the soundtrack of “Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings” under his belt, Keshi is now honing his performance skills.
“I had some kinks to work out when I first got on stage, but I now know what resonates with fans, what doesn’t work and it’s all been an amazing learning experience,” he says.
Citing Frank Ocean and John Mayer as influences, Keshi recently released the single “Somebody,” the first from his upcoming debut album. “Somebody” blends Keshi’s signature lo-fi and pop sensibilities with his distinctive falsetto voice and textured beats.
“I feel like with the new record, I’ve taken this step that I haven’t had before in the past, which is collaborating with another producer for every single track,” he says.
“I feel like we’re really trying to diversify the discography and I feel like (Elie Rizk) as a producer has really unlocked the full potential of what Keshi is supposed to sound like.”
Creating the album was daunting, however, but it was a learning experience.
“When I was making the record, it reminded me a lot of what I intended Keshi to be when I first incepted the idea,” he says. “It was very exciting; it was very liberating to make music again in this sort of way. For a while, it had been really formulaic, and I was hitting a bit of a wall.”
Of the songs he performs on this tour, his set closer, “2 soon,” is his favorite, Keshi says. The melodic R&B song has served as a gateway track for many listeners, he says, and its reception on tour has been amazing.
“I love closing with it every single night, and it’s been such a blast to hear the reception of it and have the audience engage with me as I do it,” he says.
As 2021 closes, Keshi is relaxing at home in Texas before gearing up for a potentially busy 2022, keeping his debut and a large-scale tour in mind.
“I’m very excited to finally meet all of the fans worldwide that I haven’t been able to say ‘hi’ to yet,” he says.
Touring has been a dream come true for Keshi. He’s hoping the set will pique the Phoenix audience’s interest.
“I hope they get a taste of who Keshi is as an artist, and I hope that I can convert some of them into listening,” he says.
Lany w/Salem Ilese and Keshi
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, November 12
WHERE: Arizona Federal Theatre, 400 W. Washington Street, Phoenix
COST: Tickets start at $29.50
INFO: 602.379.2800, arizonafederaltheatre.com