The Black Keys Take Their Act To Nashville

It’s been a tough year for Ohio. First The Buckeye State lost LeBron James. Now The Black Keys have headed south, too, leaving Akron for the Music City, where singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney recently bought homes.

The duo considered a short list of finalists before settling on Nashville.

“Honestly, if Miami had given Pat and I the amount of money they gave LeBron, we would be living in Miami right now,” Auerbach joked.

Photo: Doug Seymour
Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia, Pa.

Like Akron native James’ eventual decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, where Auerbach and Carney landed was a subject of media scrutiny over the summer with magazine writers and bloggers speculating over the possibilities.

Why the buzz? Nashville is best known as the heart of country music, but The Black Keys’ arrival gives the city quite the rock resume these days that boosters are cheering over. Nashville hosts Jack White’s Third Man Records. Kings of Leon started its trek to arena-filling stardom here. And the Keys arrive just as the band is reaching a peak in popularity that has them front and center in the music world.

Auerbach and Carney just received six Grammy nominations – tied for third most among all nominees behind Eminem (10) and Bruno Mars (seven).

The band’s sixth album, Brothers, recorded in Muscle Shoals, Ala., was considered among the year’s best. Rolling Stone placed it second on its 2010 list, Amazon ranked it third, Time seventh and NPR hailed it as well. Rolling Stone called Brothers “their best record yet: vivid tunes stripped bare and rubbed raw, with hot splashes of color and hooks popping through like compound fractures.”

The love has been universal.

“That’s new for us,” Auerbach said. “We sort of used to get that kind of like indie record store clerk vote, you know what I mean?”

Auerbach was familiar with Nashville after frequent childhood visits with his father, an antique dealer, and found it had everything he was looking for – a family atmosphere in which to raise his daughter, and music that served as the soundtrack for his childhood.

“Every time I’d go I’d see some guitar player that would blow my mind,” Auerbach said. “(I’d) go see The Don Kelley Band and that guy consistently has just the most amazing guitar player playing with him. That’s always fun. And then the Station Inn to see bluegrass. I mean I was raised on bluegrass music. So that’s just always a thrill for me.”

Auerbach has almost completed a new studio he modeled after “the old classic rooms, the old rooms that I love.”

“Every major city I go to I’ve pretty much been to all the major studios, you know,” Auerbach said. “I like to always poke my head in and check it out. It’s really nice on the inside. It looks like a jail from the outside.”

Photo: AP Photo
Lollapalooza 2010, Grant Park, Chicago, Ill.

Like White’s thriving operation, Auerbach’s studio will be in downtown Nashville. It won’t have the public component that Third Man Records has with its record store and concert space. But like Third Man, Auerbach’s studio will become a nucleus around which other acts will circle. Auerbach is a busy producer and he says he’ll also lend the space to friends for their own projects.

“I think just moving there and building a studio is investing. It certainly feels that way, you know,” Auerbach said. “And I’ve got a lot of friends in the community. I know that I’m going to be doing a lot of business there, making a lot of music there.”