Keith Pulvermacher is a Survival Artist
The Milwaukee musician and former LoveMonkeys guitarist just keeps performing -- and that’s good enough for his many fans.
There’s a dirty “C” word in the music world.
No, not that one. The other one. Cover.
It’s a label hoisted upon musicians who dare play the work of others. A giant, scarlet “C” for “cover bands,” that’s supposed to make the musicians feel inferior because they’re not creative enough, not talented enough to write their own works.
“A lot of people like to have labels. They like their comfort zone,” says longtime Milwaukee guitarist Keith Pulvermacher. He’s had that title thrown at him before, even by his tenants, and it doesn’t faze the former LoveMonkeys guitarist in the least. As he points out, “Train is a cover band, Kid Rock, a lot of country bands, Led Zeppelin was a blues cover band, Grateful Dead was a blues cover band.” Not exactly bad company.
For Pulvermacher, playing covers isn’t for a lack of creative talent. The Butler native can write original material with the best of them. His first solo album, the 2014 release Midwestern, is a genre-bending, emotional roller coaster of life and love. Country, folk, blues, pop, it has elements of all of it. It blurs styles so much that the designer for the album, Kyle Kummer, labeled it “Midwestern” music, and Pulvermacher has taken that newly-coined genre and ran with it. Showing his humility, he admits that he’s not the first person to play “Midwestern” music, citing John Mellencamp as one of the pioneers of the fusion style.
This multi-genre mash up comes from a songwriting process that involves listening to the music of others, boiling it down, seeing where the inspiration originates, and applying it to his own thoughts and ideas to answer the questions: “how can I tell a story better? How can I say I love you better?”
To launch his solo career, Pulvermacher turned to the crowdfunding site IndieGoGo. He raised just over $19,000, blowing past his primary goal of $14,000 to fund the creation of the album, and falling just short of a secondary goal to create a follow-up EP. For him, it was an almost spiritual experience, knowing he was connecting with his fans and they were behind him.
“Crowdfunding really tells you if you’re doing your job with your supporters. If you take them for granted, they won’t care about you, and I don’t know if they should.” It’s a lot of work to fulfill the perks for over 300 funders. For example, Pulvermacher mentioned that he was still working on handwritten lyrics for some of his backers. Ten percent of the money raised went to the I Back Jack Foundation, a childhood cancer nonprofit created in memory of one of Pulvermacher’s former students, Jack Barstoz, who passed away from cancer in 2012.
Speaking of students, Keith regularly gives lessons to 30 students, and he goes beyond simply teaching an instrument; he teaches music making, as well. Two of his young students, one as young as nine years old, are working on EPs with help from their teacher and Midwestern producer Ryan Rossebo. Pulvermacher himself started out very young. He picked up his first guitar at age six, and was surrounded by music his entire life. Keith’s father is a musician, whom he credits as his biggest influence. “If my dad was building hot rods, I’d be building hot rods right now, too.”
And the musical family has continued on to the next generation. This past Father’s Day at Sandbar Sports Pub in Pewaukee, both Keith’s daughter and dad joined him on stage for a triple generational Pulvermacher music experience.
It’s that all-inclusive attitude in action again. Pulvermacher is not one to be embarrassed by who he plies his trade with, especially his family. For him, it’s not about rising to stardom or winning the WAMI anymore, it’s about making a living doing what he loves (though he supplements his earnings with rental properties he owns). Not that those accolades wouldn’t be welcomed, but as the man says, “I’m too old to give a crap. You know who needs validation? The bank.”
And on he plays. Sometimes it’s originals, sometimes it’s covers, sometimes it’s a mix of both, but you can be guaranteed one thing: No matter what you think of it, it won’t bother him.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to see Keith Pulvermacher in action, he plays shows in the Milwaukee area regularly, often with other area songwriters like Willy Porter and Grace Weber. Tomorrow, on June 26th he will be at Summerfest with Ryan McIntyre at the Uline Warehouse Stage. Even though he fell short of the secondary crowdfunding goal, he is still working on a follow-up EP, but a release date is still pending.