MARYSVILLE — What started as a little karaoke now lands Keith Taylor in front of a microphone and up to 40,000 people a couple of times a year.
Taylor, a Marysville fire captain, started singing in the mid-1990s, around the time he got out of the Air Force and joined the fire service.
He and some friends started doing karaoke at a now-shuttered downtown Everett bar, he said.
“We said, ‘Hey, this sounds pretty good. Let’s take this a step further,’” he said.
That turned into a couple of bands, and eventually: Safeco Field.
About five years ago, the Seattle Mariners were looking for someone to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” as part of a 9/11 commemoration.
Taylor’s name came up in firefighter circles, and a fellow Marysville fire captain encouraged him to apply, he said.
He recorded a quick demo in his bedroom on his laptop.
He emailed it to the team.
“They called me like a half-hour later,” he said.
And they’ve kept inviting him back.
At baseball games, he likes to sing the anthem “straight up,” traditional, he said.
“It’s a great honor to do it,” he said. “For one, being an Air Force veteran, it has a lot of meaning for me, the national anthem. I take it very seriously.”
Taylor does get a couple of free tickets. Sometimes friends, family and fellow firefighters get to accompany him on the field.
His first time singing at Safeco Field took a few hours of practice, he said. It takes about a second and a half for his voice to travel through the stadium acoustics before he can hear himself.
The crowds also took some getting used to, compared with the festivals and bars where he’d performed before.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking,” he said. “Over the years, it’s been easier and easier to do.”
Taylor, 41, lives in Marysville with his wife, Mollye, and their four sons. He works out of Fire Station 62 along Shoultes Road.
His next performance is scheduled tonight for the Everett AquaSox game starting at 7:05. The game also marks Firefighters Night for the AquaSox, and many other retired and active firefighters are expected to attend.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.