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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: Keb’ Mo’

Four-time Grammy Award winner Keb’ Mo’ earned his most recent Grammy for “TajMo,” his collaborative album with blues legend Taj Mahal. The Americana/roots singer/songwriter is currently touring the U.S. with his new album, “Oklahoma.” 

Where do you come up with your best ideas? 
There is no place. They come when they come.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received?
Last weekend [June 2, 2019]. I got an honorary doctorate at Williams College.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given?
Gosh, I don’t know. Good lord. Are you God? [laughs] You’re God, aren’t you.

“I love the sound of that thing plucking. It’s probably just annoying the crap out of anyone else.”

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Being a good husband, being a good father. Understanding my wife. Having empathy.

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do?
Death. [laughs] I couldn’t be anything else.

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made? 
Well, my most stupid mistake was I was with a group of people and we were going to start a company, but none of us had credit. So they told me to apply for the credit card. I applied, and, they said no of course. I said to my friends, “See?” Then like 4, 5 years later, American Express called me when I was about to tour, and said, “We want to give you a card.” So I got an American Express business card. And I was, like, 40.

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had?
One was in Nashville. I went to Whole Foods, and I was in the parking lot and this guy walking toward me looked kind of familiar and I said, “Hey, Jason!” It was Jason Isbell. He’s in glasses, trying to be all incognito. [laughs]

Oh, I got another. This was really strange. In the 80s, I was driving at like 1 a.m. in L.A., no one was on the street. This guy was hitch-hiking. It was a guy I’d known since first grade!…So I guess my answer is: running into people in odd situations.

What opportunity do you regret passing up?
Going on the road with Jimmy Cliff.

How do you relax?
Meditation. Or playing the banjo. I love the sound of that thing plucking. It’s probably just annoying the crap out of anyone else.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
Bangkok. I’d party my ass off. 

What is your most indelible childhood memory?
One time my mother left me home to go down the street. I was 5; I was a responsible 5. This was the ’50s. On the radio, the song “Get a Job” came on. [Sings part of song.] And I started dancing all over the house. I said, “Music is cool, man.” [Sings more of song.]

What’s the most valuable thing you learned in school?
Music, number one. Number two is a question I was asked. I didn’t know the answer to it then, and I’m still working on it today. Ms. Willard asked: “Who are you?” And I didn’t know. And I don’t know why that hit me so hard. It became so important in the years to come. I turned in a blank paper, and was like, Wow. Dude.”

When you’re stuck how do you get unstuck?
I don’t shave. I don’t cut my hair. And I look really ugly. And when I realize what’s wrong, I go clean myself up.

What is your proudest moment?
I guess last weekend, again, at Williams College. That was a big one.

What would you like to experience before you die? 
I can’t tell you on the phone. [laughs]

As told to Lauren Daley. Interview has been edited and condensed. 

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Photo by Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

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