Kiefer Shackelford, a San Diego-born, L.A.-based multi-instrumentalist, can’t remember the first time he was perched up on a piano bench, because his brain didn’t have the capacity to remember anything yet. His father, a piano player and jazz enthusiast himself, introduced young Kiefer to the icons of jazz before he could do basic math. “My dad put me up to the keys when I was a baby,” Kiefer says. “There are videos of me standing on the piano bench when I was barely old enough to stand.” As a result, in middle school, he was more intrigued with the ins and outs of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps than the rise of Lil Wayne and Kanye West.

Kiefer’s recently-released KickinIt Alone, documents the months that followed the heartbreaking end of a relationship. At the age of 25, his work brings with it all the richness that comes from two decades spent learning how to craft music, drawing influences from nearly every end of the Black American music spectrum.

We spoke with Kiefer just after he finished giving a piano lesson—which he does at least twice a day, seven days a week. At the top of our call, I realize I forgot my notes and ran to get them. When I returned, Kiefer was humming a tune. Maybe it’s something he just taught. Maybe it’s a new composition he’s working on. It could be a deep cut from a Miles Davis record. Whatever the case, it’s clear that Kiefer just can’t escape music, but I don’t think he minds.

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