Thrive Global – Keegan Connor: “Never Change”
“I wish someone told me that you don’t have to make your music to please others. Just tell a story from the heart and others will listen to the tune or message.”
“I wish someone told me that music isn’t the same experience for everyone! It’s different how you set up a song, the tempo, the lyrics. It’s a different experience for each of us in creating our music. There isn’t just one way to make a song.”
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Keegan Connor.
Fourteen-year-old Singer/Songwriter Keegan Connor shares her message for EQUALITY in her first pop song, Dark Eyes. Keegan hopes her song helps us all see beyond color because we’re more alike than we are different. She planned to release Dark Eyes in 2019, but she unexpectedly was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and underwent a new spine surgery called VBT. Upon her recovery this year, she released Dark Eyes and created her nonprofit Keegan Cares to help fund therapy dog programs and advocate for scoliosis awareness because therapy dogs helped her recover.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Music and musicals have always been in my blood as I was born steps away from Broadway in New York City and then lived on Long Island. In NY, I grew up with friends from around the world. As a kid, I’d round up friends for my backyard concerts strumming my princess guitar with my karaoke machine, and would make up songs about whatever I was doing. I’m usually at rehearsal having been in more than 20 Broadway-style musicals and take voice, ballet, tap, and jazz. Music is my sport!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Since I can remember, I express my emotions through song. When my family moved to the Midwest, I noticed kids with blue eyes got compliments and my dark eyes never got mentioned. I started to write about this feeling of having dark eyes. As I continued with the lyrics, the song became more for all people with dark eyes and I realized there’s no shame in having dark eyes. We are more than the color of our eyes and skin. Dark Eyes became a symbol that no matter how we appear to others, we’re more alike than we are different. Dark Eyes is my first song and music video. I realized through this experience that I am a singer/songwriter.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I wanted to take voice lessons but didn’t know of anyone in my area. So we found a site that offered music lessons and I did a few online with Laura Leighe out of LA before zoom was ‘cool’. I happened to be headed to CA for a competition and thought it’d be fun to meet her and do a lesson in-person. The night I flew into LA was the best time for us to meet, and it was nearly 10 pm (my time) by the time we got to her apartment. We did the lesson practicing the cover song I’d be competing with and then she said, ‘Hey what about your song? We have a booth in our extra room, you should record it!’ I thought, ‘ok’ even though I’d never done anything like that before. While I did several takes, my mom fell asleep on their couch on their Sponge Bob pillow! By 2 am (my time), the song was done and Laura and her husband handed me my CD! It was the highlight of my life that what I drafted on paper came to life, and became a real song.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I enjoy doing pageants because of the ‘talent’ category. I usually sing a pop song. I don’t wear heels too often and in the evening gown portion of the pageant; I was walking across the stage and as I turned toward the judges my heel glided on the slippery shiny floor. I didn’t fall, but it was one of those motions where your arms go out to catch your balance and I made a funny face like ‘whoa’. In that quick moment, I realized I probably just blew it yet I also couldn’t help but laugh because it was a good ‘save’ if I say so myself! Well, I didn’t place in the pageant, but I learned a fumble isn’t the end of the world. We all stumble now and then and the important thing is to ‘save’ yourself the best you can, pick yourself up, and move on!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m working on a new song! My songs take time because I wait for an inspirational moment. I write about a meaningful event or a feeling that moves me as I did with my 1st song, Dark Eyes.
I’m also competing in NAM nationals in their ‘Talent’ division where I’ve composed a medley of 4 songs in 2 minutes.
And because I love dogs, in the last year I created my nonprofit www.KeeganCares.com. It helps fund therapy dog programs and advocates for scoliosis awareness because, after my recent VBT spine surgery, therapy dogs helped me recover. I design and sell fun dog bandanas (Care’danas) on my website, at community events, and speak to groups on how to spot the signs of scoliosis.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I love this question because my song Dark Eyes is about EQUALITY so I feel strongly about diversity as well in the entertainment industry because it’s the right and best thing to do!
1. TV/FILM REFLECTS CULTURE: Diversity matters because we are more alike than we are different and one of the easiest ways to show that is through what we all watch daily, TV! Culture influences TV and TV programs reflect culture. Now is the time to increase diversity in TV and film to represent the communities they serve so we experience progress in accepting others. When we see stories that people face of all races, we understand and feel more for each other. If we don’t see diversity, then fear may set in about those who are not like us because we can’t relate.
One of my favorite TV shows is Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve binge-watched all the seasons during COVID! I love this show is because they include the real struggles of people from all backgrounds. I’d like to see more shows like this.
2. KID PROGRAMMING: I’d love to see more diversity in kid’s programs like cartoons, kid channels, G, and PG13 rated movies. Young kids don’t naturally have a bias. At a young age, if you’re exposed to diversity then it feels normal.
3. A VOICE on SOCIAL MEDIA: As a kid, I know many of us get our news more from social media like Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube than the news itself. I think this format helps kids become influencers to promote diversity on a platform. I enjoy watching people from around the world come together to help us see there is more to a person than meets the eye!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. I wish someone told me that you don’t have to be perfect for your song to be great. I’m a perfectionist and I’d be less critical of myself if I ‘let go’ more. That at some point, to stop revising a song and just release it.
2. I wish someone told me to learn more piano because even though I created my song Dark Eyes on the piano, I wish I had expanded my knowledge on how to play the piano.
3. I wish someone told me that you don’t have to make your music to please others. Just tell a story from the heart and others will listen to the tune or message.
4. I wish someone told me that a song can be promoted in several ways! You can launch it yourself, and create products. If I waited for a producer to sign me, my song might still be on paper. Thank goodness for modern music platforms that help us get our music out to the world. I also made crop top hoodies and tee shirts, and that’s been fun to help share my song’s message of equality.
5. I wish someone told me that music isn’t the same experience for everyone! It’s different how you set up a song, the tempo, the lyrics. It’s a different experience for each of us in creating our music. There isn’t just one way to make a song.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
We’re all busy. We rush here and there and are on timelines to be productive. I believe it’s okay to take your time in the creative process. I can get anxious so I create a schedule of what I’m doing on certain days to help me from feeling overwhelmed. I put my tasks on a whiteboard on my desk. Some days I don’t work on music at all and just do schoolwork, dance classes, play with my dog, or watch Netflix. It seems to be in these times I think of lyrics or a tune in my head. I can’t force creating a song but can manage my time and my mindset. We can’t always be ‘working’ and I actually get more ideas when hanging with my friends or even going through a tough moment.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement is EQUALITY! It’s at the core of my song, Dark Eyes. In it, I write how, “We are brave, we are nice, we make the whole world different in a single night, we will never stop believing, we will never disappear into thin air — at last we are finally free.”
Eyes are the windows to the soul so we just have to look through each other’s eyes for the good before we judge someone.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m grateful for my mom because she’s been a huge help to me. She never lets me give up because she believes in me! When I was writing my song, Dark Eyes, I got frustrated with finishing the bridge and went to my room to cry. She saw I was upset and came to my room to say how my song doesn’t need to be perfect, it just has to be me. And, that seemed to free me from making it to please others. I could just tell the story of how beautiful and worthy dark eyes are. It’s okay however people respond to it. I then could finish my song! I hope you relate to the message and want to share it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My quote for myself is, “Never Change.” I even put that saying on my phone home screen! That phrase reminds me to always just be me, love myself just the way I am for who I am, and to never change!
It’s tempting to get caught up in wanting more or thinking we need to look a certain way so I remind myself, “Never Change!”
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
If I could have lunch with someone, it’d be with Joshua Bassett! Okay, he’s really cute! But, I’m even more attracted to his values, his talent as an actor, and that he makes the best songs! I’d be so grateful and blessed to meet him! His songs make me so happy because he’s such a positive person! I would ask him, “How do you come up with your songs? With your success, how do you stay grounded and not care what other people think? And, how do you not get wrapped up on social media?” His posts mainly seem to be funny, and silly.
How can our readers follow you online?
My music and info is at:
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!