Spotlight of the Week: Keith Watling

Keith Watling is a jazz guitarist and instructor who has performed both solo and in ensemble. He is one half of the duo String Theory, who do an eclectic range of covers encompassing jazz, blues, Latin, and classic rock.

ME: How did you get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?

KEITH: Well, it was quite some time ago. I had a gig at the Tosa Farmers Market and I got an email from Allison asking about performing various functions; she was trying to put something together and was asking technical questions…that had to be like three years ago. But that’s how I found out.

ME: Right on. And you play in String Theory…tell me more about that.

KEITH: Yeah, it’s a guitar duo with myself and Gare Hofstad. We play a repertoire of jazz, blues, some classic rock and Latin, and we try to skew those genres depending on where we’re playing; we even play some classical music because we do weddings. But we’ll play a lot of popular music for those kinds of venues…we have a steady gig at Corvina Wine Bar and there we mix it up more.

ME: How did you meet Gare?

KEITH: That was quite a few years ago. I met a guy that plays mandolin, Tom Schwark, and we did a gig together…he said he had a friend I should meet that was into the same things I am. So we got together and hit it off, and we’ve been playing since then.

ME: Very nice. Do you guys do originals at all?

KEITH: Not really; we do mostly the covers and spend our time trying to polish those up. Hopefully down the road we might get into that a little bit. I’ve got some ideas that are kicking around, but for right now…no.

ME: I see. I was actually going to ask you about Corvina Wine Company; I’ve never been there but it looks like a nice place.

KEITH: Yeah, it’s a wonderful place. I got introduced to it with another acquaintance of mine who has a jazz combo with a violinist, and they do Gypsy jazz, which is another one of my passions. We got introduced to it and I really liked the place, and then a couple years later when COVID started winding down, I talked to them and we wound up getting a gig there which ended up becoming a bimonthly thing. They’ve got a tremendous selection of wines and various collections; in the summertime they’ve got an outdoor spot to play in. It’s cozy and intimate…kind of nice for what we play. They also have small plates with cheese and sausage – pairings to go with the wines.

ME: Great. I’ll have to add that one to my list; I’m sure it’d be a fun date night.

KEITH: Oh yeah, I’d say so. It lends itself to those activities.

ME: Sounds like it!

ME: My last question is, what will you be working on in the next couple months?

KEITH: Well, besides our steady gig at Corvina, we’ve got a wedding coming up in May and then another gig coming up in July with a vocalist, Julie Thompson…she’s fabulous. We’re going to play at a beer garden in Menomonee Falls. I’m trying to work new things into the program; I’ve gone from my hybrid picking – a flat pick and fingers – to more of a finger-style…I’ve been working on that and it’s been a big changeover. We’re also constantly introducing new songs in our String Theory repertoire.

Visit Keith Watling’s website here.

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