Emily Keener - I Do Not Have to Be Good Album Art

“This is delicate, reflective music that demands to be heard.” – Paul McGee, Lonesome Highway

CLEVELAND (February 17, 2020) – Cleveland indie-folk artist, Emily Keener, announces the May 22 album release of I Do Not Have to Be Good. On her upcoming album, Keener colors her plaintive and introspective lyricism with a frailty that longs for connection and understanding. Filled with darker, richer tones and unapologetic lyricism, the album is a call to free censored desires and doubted truths.

Three years in the making, when Keener began working on the new album with Dalton Brand at WaveBurner Recording, she consciously broke away from the belief in perfection and purity as being necessary, or even possible. She says, “Despite a loving family, my personal experience with a Christian upbringing led me to develop deep self-censoring, self-doubt, and the belief that I must always present as kind and good regardless of how I feel.”

Keener chose the title as a response to the line in Mary Oliver’s poem, ‘Wild Geese,” which begins, “You do not have to be good.” Keener says, “I remember reading the first line of the poem and saying quietly to myself, ‘I Do Not Have to Be Good.’ It is such a simple statement, but it was so revelatory for me to comprehend as a relentless self-doubter.” The seventh track on the album, “Mary, I Love Her” Keener wrote it as a tribute to Oliver a couple of weeks after she passed away. The first line of the song mimics the album title and Oliver’s poem (“I Do Not Have to Be Good”). The song serves to convey Oliver’s appreciation for the natural world and her ability to listen to what the world around her was saying.

The album revolves around themes of discovery, desires, overcoming doubts, and appreciating the natural world much like Oliver did in her poems. “Do You Love Me Lately?” emerged at an intersection where Keener felt creatively lost while also reflecting on owning her desires as she navigated her early twenties. In contrast, “Elbow” retreats from desires and into tones of desolation as an erratic piano plays on the mental states with strangeness and unpredictability.  “Nap” reveals an evolution in spirituality while forfeiting traditional dogmas associated with Christianity.

I Do Not Have to Be Good Track Listing

  1. Nap
  2. Do You Love Me Lately?
  3. I Know (feat. Cathalyn)
  4. I Don’t Know Anything
  5. Boats
  6. Static
  7. Mary, I Love Her
  8. Elbow
  9. Comfort

About Emily Keener

By age 12 Keener was writing and performing music professionally, often playing at wineries and bars under her mother’s guidance. It’s been nine years since Keener got her start as a professional musician. Through those years she opened for numerous established artists including Jessica Lea Mayfield and Leigh Nash. In 2013, she released her debut album. This followed with the 2015 EP, East of the Sun, recorded with the regional Ohio band, The Womacks. Her latest album, Breakfast, earned her No Depression’s 2017 Singer/Songwriter Award. On the upcoming album, I Do Not Have to Be Good, due out in May 2020, she subtly sheds her Americana roots and embraces atmospheric moody indie folk, equally tender and powerful as it unfolds. 

Live Streams

Wednesday, June 3 @ 8pm (Emily Keener Instagram)


Praise for I Do Not Have to Be Good

“This is delicate, reflective music that demands to be heard.” – Paul McGee, Lonesome Highway

“Emily Keener’s sophomore album ‘I Do Not Have to Be Good’ marks her return with unbridled honesty, intimate reflection, and a hauntingly poignant indie folk sound.” – Mitch Mosk, Atwood Magazine

“…heart-wrenchingly beautiful in its grace and overwhelming honesty.” — Atwood Magazine