Updated: Jun 17, 2022
* FOR FANS OF BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, LEONARD COHEN, NEIL YOUNG*
San Francisco singer/songwriter Ken Newman has been striving for change through his acts in the entertainment business for decades. With forays into the world of acting, magic and music, Newman is always making an impact in every aspect of his life.
Newman’s debut album WHAT AM I AFRAID OF? features a collection of tracks filled with love, heartbreak, fear and more. Each track has its own independent story and introduces his message to the world.
Kicking off with the title track, it’s an invitation to overcome challenges and soar to new heights with its catchy guitar riffs, motivating lyrics and melodic vocals. The chorus gravitates you into the song even deeper and you find there’s no turning back now. Leading into the next track, “Nothing To See Here” produces a guitar-driven track inspired by an unfortunate situation. Ken explains the inspiration behind this song came from when he was driving down the street in San Francisco where a shooting had just taken place and a police offer said, “Move along… There’s nothing to see here.” Ken states, “His tone, at once tired and impatient, really stuck with me. It spoke of how many times he’d likely seen things like this and had to say those same six words.” With the undertone of the meaning behind the track, it becomes more truthful and leaves you with thoughts of how quickly we move on from such situations.
Traveling further into the album, we’re graced with “Talk To You”, was originally a stab at social media, encouraging listeners to explore life without constantly being fixated on phones and screens. As the song was written before the pandemic, Ken soon found himself relying on social media to stay connected, as did the rest of the world. “I couldn’t possibly have known that about a
year after it was written, I’d be relying on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Zoom to
connect with the world, in business, in music and personally. Social media became
pretty much all I had ... all ANY of us had.” Creating the perfect visual for the track, the music video for “Talk To You” challenges us to envision life without phones and social media. Some face-to-face conversation is what we all really need. With sounds of blaring horns and jazzy riffs, this song will have you dancing all night.
Previously released single “I Can’t Breathe” expresses demand for change with its powerful lyrics “it stops today.” Inspired by the story of Eric Garner, the song was originally released in 2014 through a YouTube video and Ken ended up getting a call from someone very special. It was Erica Garner, daughter of Eric explaining that she found Ken’s song on YouTube and although he thought she was calling to ask him to take it down, she was absolutely moved by it. The family of Eric Garner were so moved by the track that they asked him to play it at Eric’s memorial.
When asked to front a San Francisco cover band called Last Bastion, Ken was challenged with how to split up $150 between five band members when he was struck with the thought of charity donations. After years of donating any money made from music to local charities, Ken was inspired to start his charity,Blanket The Homeless, an organization that improves the lives of people living on the streets by handing out blankets, socks, first-aid kits and other essential items. “We Should Do This Again” was born out of people reconnecting with each other along with taking action to save lives. With swaying piano sounds and calming melodies that make you swoon, this song is sure to motivate you to take action in your community and make change happen.
“My hope is that ‘We Should Do This Again’ throws a little light on reconnecting with humanity and see the neighbors living in our streets.”
Nearing the end of the album, “Away From You” takes us back in time sounding like an 80s New Wave hit with its acoustics and repetitive drumbeats, setting up for a melody that somewhat sounds like Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire.” Though in no way is it lyrically the same, the overall vibe of this song is just feel-good and encourages you to move and shake. Lyrically, it’s about trying to move on from a breakup and leave someone behind. But the melody is so contagious that you can’t help feel naturally amazing during it. Closing out WHAT AM I AFRAID OF? Is a less produced acoustic version of “I Can’t Breathe” which was decided when singer/songwriter and friend of Newman (Mya Byrne) heard the original track and thought the production covered up the sadness and truth of the story. Thus, the track was stripped down and ends the album beautifully.
Expressing his love for change through music, a portion of the proceeds of WHAT AM I AFRAID OF? Will go directly to Blanket The Homeless. On April 24, Ken celebrated his album at a sold-out show at Hotel Utah in San Francisco where he was accompanied by musician friends as well as other performers that was a one-of-a-kind night for entertainment. ALL of the proceeds for the show went to benefit Ukraine relief.
"I'm deeply committed to using my musical efforts to effect change."
With an artist so deeply committed to utilizing his musical efforts to change through music and charity, we’re forever thankful we’ve found Ken Newman… And we’ll of course be playing WAIAO? On repeat until he releases his next project. You can learn more about Ken, order and stream his album and follow him on all socials below!