The songwriter behind “Merry Christmas from the Family” is welcoming fans to an out-of-this-world take on music and fun. “Countdown to Christmas: Lunar Tunes & Looney Times,” which begins at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Jefferson Theater, honors the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the space-race years with a custom blend of music, humor and laid-back fun.
“We’ve done the show for about eight years now, and every year, we pick a theme,” Keen said. “Once we pick a Christmas theme, everyone picks an artist to represent and a costume to salute the artist. We create a set based on the theme.”
“It’s just really kind of a hayride sort of variety show,” he said. “It’s just having fun with what we have.”
The starting point is his holiday song, “Merry Christmas from the Family.”
“The only standard Christmas song we’re singing is the one I wrote,” he said. “It’s a jubilant and celebratory time, so we’re just celebrating that time.”
These days, Keen stays busy not only with his songwriting and performing, but also with his new podcast, “Americana Podcast: 51st State.” Since its launch on April 30, which Keen proudly points out is Willie Nelson’s birthday, the podcast has exceeded 70,000 downloads.
The monthly podcasts, about an hour long, spends time with guest artists, blending conversations with the artists’ music. A “Word on the Street” segment includes talks with music journalists, club owners, recording studio owners and other insiders.
Keen enjoys working with his 25-year-old daughter on the podcasts — and seeing their results strike a chord with fans. “We’re Number 17 on the Apple podcast chart,” he said.
Keen, who’s newly inducted in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, is writing a novel based on “Merry Christmas from the Family.” He’s penning the book with Virginia author Inman Majors, and it’s scheduled for an October or November 2020 release.
“Inman is the guy,” Keen said. “He has exactly the right ability to handle the dialogue. I really enjoy working with him.”
It’s a different animal from the record creation process, which Keen says is “like swimming in a stream of mud.”
“It takes about six months to really make a record right,” he said. “Then you have to tour behind it, so you’re talking about two years of your life.”
Keen is grateful for the accolades he has accumulated over the years, but he keeps a healthy perspective about success.
“I have the most upside-down career of anyone,” Keen said. “As long as this is fun, I’m going to do this.”