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Hal Ketchum in DL Thursday

Hal Ketchum has been infatuated with music for most of his life.

"I learned to hum before I could talk," says the country music star, who visits Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre Thursday night for a one-night-only performance. "I used to crawl over to the radio when I was two years old, just to listen."

And somewhere along the line, he learned to create songs for other people to listen to and sing along with as well.

"I wrote a poem for my mother when I was about 9, and she liked it," he says of his introduction to songwriting. "I realized it was a great way to get attention, so I just kept on doing it."

Eight CDs and 15 top 10 hits later, he's still at it. And he's as infatuated as ever.

"It's very gratifying to realize that people come out to hear me perform these songs -- it's the greatest feeling in the world," Ketchum says. "The live response (of an audience), there's nothing like it."

When asked to pick a favorite from among all the songs he's written, Ketchum says simply, "My favorite is usually the last song I wrote. They're all my children. I love them all.

"It's like I've got my own radio station in my head, and every once in a while the static clears... I feel like Harland Howard, who once said, 'God writes the songs, I just hold the pen.'"

His latest CD, "King of Love," was released about a year ago.

"I wrote everything on it, for better or worse," Ketchum says. "That record took about a year to write and record. It's usually about a one-year cycle... I'm working on a new one right now."

As yet untitled, the CD is slated for a September release.

"We've just about finished it," he says. "We have 14 songs recorded... we're just trying to get it polished up and finished in the next 2-3 weeks."

But first things first. This morning, Ketchum and his band boarded a tour bus bound for Detroit Lakes. They'll be performing four shows in Minnesota before heading back down to Nashville to finish up work on the CD.

"My bass player and I have been playing together for 23 years," he says, adding jokingly, "I've fired him three times, but he keeps coming back. He's a nuisance, but a great bass player."

More seriously, Ketchum adds, "I've got a great band... some of my dearest friends in the world. I'm really lucky to travel and perform with people I love, they're great musicians and just wonderful performers."

Ketchum says they play "all kinds of material," from his early hits like "Small Town Saturday Night" and "Five O'Clock World," to his most recent, "Just This Side of Heaven," as well as a few covers.

"We try to play the hits, because that's what people want to hear," he adds. "And if someone shouts out a request, we'll take a swing at it.

"Once we set up, we keep playing until they pull the plug on us. They'll have to tell us to stop."

Ketchum's Thursday night show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 on the day of the show, and can be purchased at the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office, 826 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes, or by calling 218-844-SHOW (7469).

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454