Showing posts with label Austin Lucas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Austin Lucas. Show all posts

Mar 20, 2019

Austin Lucas Sheds Blood in Austin

By Robert Dean

When Austin Lucas made his way through Austin for his annual South by Southwest show, he was not fucking around. Playing to a capacity crowd at Austin’s legendary Continental Club, Lucas ripped through favorites spanning the totality of his records, but playing fan favorites like, “Alone in Memphis,” “Run Around,” “Go West,” and new banger “My Mother and The Devil.” 

Lucas and his band smoked through the set, turning new festival-going faces into interested parties. More than once, I overheard people asking who he was, and at one point, as Lucas stood at the edge of the stage, singing to the crowd without a mic, slowly strumming his guitar, some drunk bro’s were talking too loudly, but a woman told them to can it. 

There’s an interesting line between Austin Lucas and what he’s perceived to be. While most people think of him as a country singer, there’s a lot of The Clash going on in that mix. Lucas’ punk roots are shining through more than ever, which I felt was self-evident as took in the show: when the songs go off, they really go hard, and I’d have loved to see him crank that telecaster and fuzz pedal way up so when the dynamic parts hit, they dropped like atomic bombs. If there’s one thing you can say about Lucas’ it’s that he knows how to craft a punchy, yet powerful hook that again, screams punk rock rather than Waylon or Willie. 

I hope in the sea of drunk festival goers, he landed a few new fans. That performance was too good to be just a “highlight,” instead it was easily one of the better shows I’d taken in all SXSW. With a tight backing band that could rip the hinges off a work truck, no reason should keep you from hitting and Austin Lucas show. He deserves to play sold out bangers every stop of the tour. His work ethic deserves payback. 

Mar 3, 2017

Exclusive Song Premiere and Interview with Austin Lucas

FTM Exclusive

Coming to a living room near you: Austin Lucas puts intimate twist on crowd-funding forthcoming album

By Kevin Broughton

It had been about eight months since we last spoke.

“Hey, Austin! How you doing? How’s Sally?”

A reasonable question, as ubiquitous as she was on his website, his publicity photos, his tour. She curled up in his guitar case on stage, periodically getting up and moving closer to him as he sang.

“Sally died, man.”

Ugh. For a guy who’s been so up-front about his struggles with depression and anxiety, it could’ve been a crippling blow to Austin Lucas. But it hasn’t been. Such loss – on the heels of a messy label breakup that delayed the premiere of a wonderful record by a couple of years – forced him to confront his sadness and pain, and he’s emerged both hopeful and innovative.

Lacking the financial punch a guy of his stature would have from a major indie label, Lucas has come up with a twist on crowd-funding: He’ll use a “House by House” tour to finance the production of his next record, Immortal Americans, with all kinds of goodies and contribution levels available. You want value? How about $25 for an in-person house show and two records? Please visit his site here, now.  

And because he’s a fan of our site, Lucas has given us an exclusive premiere stream of the demo of “Between the Leaves.” It’s a very Austin Lucas song.

So, Austin Lucas, you had a pretty good record last year. We ranked it highly in our critics’ poll. Want to catch people up on what’s happened in your life since the release of Between the Moon and the Midwest and the tour you went on to support it?

Well, as a lot of people know I guess, Sally passed away. She was my dog who toured with me and was onstage with me when I played, so that was a big life event. I also fell in love with an amazing woman, which is wonderful, but she’s also had her share of health problems. But I can’t say that I’m sad; it’s been tough, but it’s also been one of the most rewarding periods of my life.

I’ve been able to use songwriting to describe a lot of things that were happening in my life, and have come out, luckily, feeling pretty good about myself. A lot of people know I’ve had my own share of problems, and as time has gone on, I’ve gradually become a healthier person, both physically and mentally.

Tell me what led to the idea of crowd-funding your next record with an interactive component. Seems like the listener – when geographically close enough – gets tangible value under your scenario.

I was driving a lot and having a lot of conversations with my tour manager in Europe. It was a pretty crazy tour last winter; Sally died while I was on that tour. I don’t want to get too deeply into it, but it was a very dark period in my life. Thinking about making my next record, I knew I needed to raise the funds for a real publicist and real marketing. I wanted to birth something, and give this one something my previous albums never had.

I asked myself what was it that I really enjoyed doing, and could I offer some of that to other people. And the answer is, I could come into their lives directly – I’ve always loved doing these house concerts – and give them something tangible when they go home.

It’s obvious that intimacy with your audience is something you really dig.

Yeah. [House shows have] been sort of a stop-gap to make a little extra money between gigs on tours in the past, but I love being in a room full of people who actually give a damn about me.  At club shows I do get to interact some with my audience; but with house shows there’s a limited amount of tickets and the opportunity to actually look every person in the eye. And engage with them, shake their hands and thank them for caring.

Good dog. Rest in peace.

Sort of a voluntary captive audience.

Yeah, exactly. It won’t be folks who paid a cover and walked in because they wanted to have a drink.  I suppose it’s easy for some folks to take for granted that their music is important to people and that people care. It’s never been that way with me; it’s always blown my mind that people like my music.

It’s impossible to respond to every single person who does a post about me or sends me an email, but I spend a good portion of every day trying to respond to as many as I can. Making real connections in these intimate settings with people who care is rocket fuel for a guy like me.
It looks like you’re going to start in Memphis March 10 then head generally toward Austin in time for SXSW. How many of these house gigs are solidly locked in? Put another way, will the venue of your March 31 in Seattle show – for example – be decided between now and then, depending on interest level from that city?

No, these venues are all pretty much locked in. If you look at that calendar – I think there are about 50 dates on there – maybe five of them are even remotely flimsy. I’ve been working on this tour since December.

And the way it’ll work is, when people donate to my crowd-funding campaign, they’ll get an e-ticket or tickets, depending on the level of the contribution. We’ll send out the address for the show via email – the only way to get the address is to buy a ticket. There will still be a limited number of tickets for certain shows available from my website. But there are a lot of perks that come with contributing. For instance if you buy a ticket, you get a recording of the show you go to, plus you get a copy of my new album once it’s finished. So, pay $25, see a show and get two records, basically.  

How will your next album, Immortal Americans be different from Moon/Midwest? And if you’re about to say this one will be “more personal,” the last one seemed pretty introspective in its own right.

All records are introspective, man. I’m the kind of songwriter who writes about human emotions, and the ones I understand best are the ones that come from inside me. I think this will be more profound than the last one, and the focus will mostly be on my guitar and my voice. Also, I’m not in production yet, so the record I’m thinking of may not end up being the record I make.

Do you have a tentative production schedule?

Right now, the plan is to be in the studio sometime in mid-May.

How many songs do you have written right now?

Man…that depends on what you consider to be “a song.” [Laughs]

Well, I’d consider “Between the Leaves” to be a song.

Yeah, that’s close to a completely finished song. Completely finished? Right now maybe 12. Best guess, when I go into the studio in May I’ll have around 15.

Okay, Farce the Music peeps, it’s time to step up. We do two things here, and we do them well: bust on disgraceful, no-talent hacks; and promote deserving artists trying their best to bring integrity to country music. It’s an uphill fight for guys like Austin Lucas. Let’s give him a boost. Here again is the link to his funding page. And if you’re in one of these 50 or so cities, get a ticket. I can tell you that seeing him in an intimate setting will have a profound effect on you. Thanks.  

Jan 3, 2017

Trailer's Top 30 Albums of 2016

We'll turn loose of 2016 with one more post. Trailer's Top 30 of 2016. This is what the "Top Albums of 2016" list would've looked like if we didn't do a group vote now. 

 1. Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial
2. Lori McKenna - The Bird and the Rifle
3. Flatland Cavalry - Humble Folks
4. Brandy Clark - Big Day in a Small Town
5. Cody Jinks - I'm Not the Devil
6. Justin Wells - Dawn in the Distance
7. Austin Lucas - Between the Moon and the Midwest
8. Caleb Caudle - Carolina Ghost
9. Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide to Earth
10. Brent Cobb - Shine On Rainy Day
11. Kelsey Waldon - I've Got a Way
12. St. Paul and the Broken Bones - Sea of Noise
13. Gojira - Magma
14. Lydia Loveless - Real
15. Luke Bell - s/t
16. Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter
17. Paul Cauthen - My Gospel
18. Rob Baird - Wrong Side of the River
19. Mark Chesnutt - Tradition Lives
20. Quaker City Night Hawks - El Astronauta
21. Bonnie Raitt - Dig in Deep
22. Miranda Lambert - The Weight of These Wings
23. Western Centuries - Weight of the World
24. BJ Barham - Rockingham
25. Metallica - Hardwired… to Self Destruct
26. Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book
27. Robert Ellis - s/t
28. Hayes Carll - Lovers and Leavers
29. Loretta Lynn - Full Circle
30. Erik Dylan - Heart of a Flatland Boy

Dec 27, 2016

Kevin's Top 10 Albums of 2016

We won't necessarily post every contributor's votes for best album, but we'll share with you this week some of our individual top albums lists. Here is Kevin Broughton's.

Broughton’s Top Albums, 2016

1.  Austin Lucas, Between the Moon and the Midwest.

One of two or three genuine country music masterpieces in a year of hearty competition, I wrote in May that “somebody better pack a lunch if he wants to displace this as the best country album of 2016.” Several worthy folks did, yet here’s your champ.  Lucas didn’t write and arrange; he composed. The heartache is real, the vocals brilliant. Oh, and as a bonus it packs the finest duet of the year, with Lydia Loveless.

2.  Brent Cobb, Shine on Rainy Day.

A terrific breakout album from a kind and humble Georgian, this record’s beauty lies in its simplicity. Yes, Nashville, it’s possible to sing about the joys of rural living without sounding forced, contrived, and stupid. Country music needs more Brent Cobbs. Maybe a dozen.

3.  Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.

I’m probably in the minority, thinking this record is better than the blockbuster Meta Modern Sounds in Country Music. Then again, the Grammy folks grew a brain and made it an “album of the year” nominee in addition to best country album. Sturgill does it his way again, while telling the Nashville suits to pound sand. He’s the baddest ass in music, and we should all thank him.

4. Jack Ingram, Midnight Motel.

It’s the Texan’s best work yet, by a wide margin. And man, it’s sad. Wistful in some spots, forlorn and outright hopeless in others, the one upbeat number is “I’m Drinking Through It.” (“Sometimes you’re thirsty, sometimes you just need a drink.”) Not an album you’ll listen to on a regular basis, but its authenticity shines through in Ingram’s soulful vocals and sparse arrangements.

5. Flatland Cavalry, Humble Folks.

“Easy on the ears, heavy on the heart,” according to the band’s website. Yep. Bossman Trailer nailed it in his review. This one’s a real keeper.

6.  Robbie Fulks, Upland Stories.

Let’s get this out of the way: Robbie Fulks is a bona fide musical genius and a real man of letters. It’s fitting that this album was inspired by James Agee’s nonfictional literary triumph, Let Us All Praise Famous Men. The record’s first track, “Alabama at Night,” snagged a Grammy nomination for best folk song. Fulks, an elder statesman at the iconic Bloodshot Records, is the true triple threat: Guitar virtuosity, brilliant lyrics, and a pure high tenor. If he has a peer in the craft, I’ve yet to hear him.

7.  Cody Jinks, I’m Not The Devil.

Another genuinely great country album in a year when the “neo-traditionalists” are gaining traction. Packed with spiritual themes, this record should be an exemplar to any bros out there who’d like to try something real for a change.

8. Blackberry Smoke, Like an Arrow.

Their best record yet, and it straddles the country and rock worlds with perfect balance.

9.  The Handsome Family, Unseen.

It’s weird and wonderfully addictive. I dare you to find a comparison. Go ahead. Try.

10.  The Flat Five, It’s a World of Love and Hope.

It’s five of Chicago’s best doing the happiest album of the year. Everybody needs to listen to this album once a week.

Dec 22, 2016

Farce the Music's Top 20 Albums of 2016

 Our "Best Albums of 2016" was voted on again this year by all Farce the Music contributors: Jeremy Harris, me (Trailer), Matthew Martin, Kelcy Salisbury, Kevin Broughton, Robert Dean (and friend Chad Barnette as a tiebreaker).

1. Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide to Earth
I’m probably in the minority, thinking this record is better than the blockbuster MetaModern Sounds in Country Music. Then again, the Grammy folks grew a brain and made it an “album of the year” nominee in addition to best country album. Sturgill does it his way again, while telling the Nashville suits to pound sand. He’s the baddest ass in music, and we should all thank him. -Kevin Broughton

If you were turned off by this album's not completely inherent country-ness, I highly suggest you revisit this one with an open mind.  This may not be Sturgill's best album, but it's damn close.  Every song from start to finish is a homerun, making the album as a whole quite the emotional powerhouse.  And, of course knowing the context of the album- written as a love note to his son- only helps the listening experience.  "Call To Arms" is probably now my favorite Sturgill song and by the time I got to this song on the album, I couldn't sit down.  Such a barn-burner, such a wonderful way to end a wonderful album. -Matthew Martin

Behold world, Sturgill has done it again. Buy A Sailor’s Guide To Earth right now and help us throw gasoline on the establishment while Sturgill Simpson is the preaching madman we’ve all been waiting for. Let his church welcome all those who are lost and share his message: get weird, or die tryin’. -Robert Dean

2. Cody Jinks - I'm Not the Devil
Another genuinely great country album in a year when the “neo-traditionalists” are gaining traction. Packed with spiritual themes, this record should be an exemplar to any bros out there who’d like to try something real for a change. -Kevin

There's really not a best song on Jinks' 2016 album. It's a steady and moving collection without a single droop in quality, much less a weak moment. Jinks is blessed with a wonderful voice and possibly even better songwriting talents. He'll be a star in this realm of music for years to come. -Trailer

 3. Lori McKenna - The Bird & The Rifle
We had a casual poll about 2016 music a month or so back. Lori McKenna led the way on the "Best Songwriter of 2016" voting, and it's no surprise. With observant, incisive songs like "OMYM" and the others on her brilliant The Bird and the Rifle, McKenna stays at the forefront of American songwriting. She has the ability to put the listener into a situation they may have never even dealt with and make them think "Yes, this is exactly how that feels!" The Bird and the Rifle is a master-class and for me, "Old Men Young Women" is its centerpiece. -Trailer

4. Brent Cobb - Shine On Rainy Day
Brent’s pleasing voice and well crafted songs combine for a true knockout punch. From top to bottom this is a very strong album and would top many lists in any year. - Jeremy Harris

A terrific breakout album from a kind and humble Georgian, this record’s beauty lies in its simplicity. Yes, Nashville, it’s possible to sing about the joys of rural living without sounding forced, contrived, and stupid. Country music needs more Brent Cobbs. Maybe a dozen. -Kevin

5. Austin Lucas - Between the Moon and the Midwest
One of two or three genuine country music masterpieces in a year of hearty competition, I wrote in May that “somebody better pack a lunch if he wants to displace this as the best country album of 2016.” Several worthy folks did, yet here’s your champ.  Lucas didn’t write and arrange; he composed. The heartache is real, the vocals brilliant. Oh, and as a bonus it packs the finest duet of the year, with Lydia Loveless. -Kevin

6. Justin Wells - Dawn in the Distance
The former frontman of Fifth on the Floor lets his songwriting and strong voice shine through in his debut. I would’ve thought Justin’s voice was more suited for the rock style he was accustomed to but with this release he proved me wrong and really showed his full potential. -Jeremy Harris

7. Flatland Cavalry - Humble Folks
"Easy on the ears, heavy on the heart" reads the description on Flatland Cavalry's website, and that couldn't be more accurate. Their sound is an easygoing mix of red dirt country, pop melodies, laid back swing, and heartworn folk. And there's so much fiddle. Lord, but I love me some fiddle and I love Laura Jane's fiddling. It's all a perfectly accessible approach but one that doesn't scrimp on the craftsmanship and songwriting.  Humble Folks is a great album, well worth your listen. It's a familiar sound, but one that with repeated listens will reveal deeper layers and twists of melody you haven't heard before. These songs are sure to make you think, smile, hurt, and tap your foot. Sometimes all at once. That's what good music does. -Trailer

8. Drive-by Truckers - American Band
There is not a more important album in Drive-By Truckers' repertoire.  This is an album written by deep-red-state Southern men about issues that many in this region turn away from.  This is DBT taking their implicitly political music and making it as explicit as possible.  And, in the process, they made a few fans turn away from them.  But, the band didn't back down and, to my way of thinking, we're much better for it.  This is the album we needed in 2016, and will continue to need as we move forward.  It's ok for us to have differing opinions and as Cooley says, "if the victims and oppressors, just remain each other's others," then where will we be over the next few years.  So, this album is an impressive call to arms for everyone to look ourselves and those who differ from us in the eye and figure out how to find some common ground, while also calling bullshit on those who wish to divide us.  "What It Means" is already in my top 5 favorite DBT songs and to me, this is the best song of the year.  The best song of the year on the best album of the year by one of the most important Southern bands of our time. - Matthew

9. Blackberry Smoke - Like an Arrow
Their best record yet, and it straddles the country and rock worlds with perfect balance. -Kevin

10. Caleb Caudle - Carolina Ghost
This is the closest thing to a mainstream country album I've heard and loved in a long time. Best listened to as a whole, but be sure to check out White Doves Wing along with Steel & Stone. This is what modern country sounds like done right. -Kelcy Salisbury

Caleb Caudle has given you a gift: it's ok to want to pop on a record and drink a beer in the yard. You don't have to be at the juke joint, or pine for the days of the Armadillo in Austin. Nope. This is about as fucking Americana as it gets: good tunes, simple music and honesty worn like a badge of courage. The exact thing folks try to do but seemingly end up sounding like shitty copies of Bruce Springsteen. Carolina Ghost inspires those moments where it’s ok to slow dance to the radio, or just shut up and let the music do the talking. -Robert

11. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here… 
Thank You 4 Your Service
It's a shame that this is Tribes' farewell album. It's as strong as anything they've ever done. I'm going to miss their existence. ATCQ is kind of like the Big 10 of hip hop. I may not like everything they do, but the genre as a whole is better when they're at the top of their game.  -Kelcy

12. (tie) Jeff Shepherd and The Jailhouse Poets - s/t
Every song Jeff has ever written has came straight from his heart. Knowing this makes you wonder how so much heartache can be packaged in one young man. Jeff finally gets the chance to lay his heartache on the masses with a super strong debut that shows a bright future for the sad song writer. -Jeremy

12. (tie) The Sword - Low Country
Stoner metal kings take a slight detour with more prominent 70s & electronic (and acoustic) influences. The results are epic.  -Kelcy

When is the last time you heard an acoustic record that rips that wasn’t straight country or some guy with a beard in a flannel? This is a throw back to the 70’s and makes drinking beer super easy.  -Robert

14. Luke Bell - s/t
This was the best debut of year and one of my most listened-to albums of the year.  Every song on this album is perfect cowboy Country.  Luke Bell is the natural progression through the years from Buck Owens to Dwight Yoakam, and now to Luke.  If Paul Cauthen and Luke Bell are the future of Country, then we are going to be A-OK, y'all!  "Bullfighter" is a perfect example of Luke Bell's mastery of capturing every day moments in his songs. - Matthew

15. Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial
I've tried to review the album this song is from about ten times this year, but I just don't know what to say about it that would make any sense or sound like I vaguely know what I'm talking about. Just know that it's badass and it was my favorite album of 2016. -Trailer

16. Brandy Clark - Big Day in a Small Town
I'll admit I was a little concerned when Brandy led off this album era with "Girl Next Door," a pop-country tune with a disco flavor. That song eventually grew on me - and the album itself blew me away. Brandy takes the most banal moments of everyday life and makes them sound like plot points in an epic soap opera (in a good way). She finds the unique in the commonplace, dripping a heavy dose of verbal poison in with the sweetness. -Trailer

17. Elizabeth Cook - Exodus of Venus
The most diverse and mature release from Elizabeth to date. Great songwriting and several songs that have a gritty rock sound make this a must listen to album for fans or anyone for that matter. -Jeremy

18. Rodney Parker and 50 Peso Reward - Bomber Heights
Lyricism won the day for me. With Bomber Heights Parker and his band, 50 Peso Reward, have created a masterful, literary, cinematic statement. The album begins with "Steppin' Into Sunshine."  The song offers a series of visuals such as "...there is a priceless work and a box knife" that contrast images of beauty and destruction, light and darkness, before the quietly triumphant line "I'm steppin' into sunshine".  It sets up the album perfectly. -Kelcy

19. Arliss Nancy - Greater Divides
This is the only kind of album I ever want Arliss Nancy to make.  I hope they continue to do this exact sort of thing for years to come.  The band is tight, the music is wonderful, the songs are as good as any the boys have ever written, and this album is one of their best.  - Matthew

20. Quaker City Night Hawks - El Astronauta
Quaker City Night Hawks made the driving album of the year with this slice of 
greasy, Texas-fried retro rock goodness. -Kelcy


Other popular selections:
Paul Cauthen - My Gospel; Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter; Mark Chesnutt - Tradition Lives; Chris Stalcup and the Grange - Downhearted Fools; Metallica - Hardwired… to Self Destruct; The Handsome Family - Unseen; Jack Ingram - Midnight Motel; Erik Dylan - Heart of a Flatland Boy; Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker; Courtney Granger - Beneath Still Waters.

Oct 7, 2016

Matt Woods: The Farce the Music Interview

An Interview With Kevin Broughton

I had never heard, heard of, or seen Matt Woods until a late July gig at The Earl in Atlanta, when he was touring with Austin Lucas.  Just how out of it was I? I texted the Boss Man a picture of their cool tour poster, and he replied, “Oh, cool. Matt had FTM’s favorite song in 2013.” Uh, derp. 

But it was Woods’ across-the-board authenticity – on stage and off – that impressed me. The dude is real. July saw him fine-tuning a bunch of heavy country songs that make up the album How to Survive, released today on his own label, Lonely Ones Records. Did I mention that these are heavy songs? Just to make sure, I compared notes with the Boss Man. “If you'd rather be lied to or be sold a rosy view of life and love, you'd best steer clear of Matt Woods,” said Trailer. “His confessional lyrical style pulls back the curtain on the heartaches and struggles of real life.”

And, Bingo. While his previous two albums, The Matt Woods Manifesto and With Love From Brushy Mountain, were sprinkled with a hearty mix of story songs, murder ballads and love songs, today’s release is all about relationships. There are some aspirational love songs, but it’s weighted down with heartbreak – and reality. When you hear “To Tell the Truth,” or “Born to Lose,” there’s no question that these songs are both autobiographical and from a dark place. And it’s not insignificant that the song Woods says is truest to him – “A Good Man” – is a soul-crushing confessional; so much so that it took some coaxing for that to be divulged.

We caught up with Woods out in the west Texas town of El Paso, and talked songs for the downtrodden, dark thoughts of bodily harm to percussionists, and how being covered by Dean Ween is a dream.

One of your earlier albums is called The Matt Woods Manifesto. That strikes me as both an awesome and ballsy concept. For our readers unfamiliar with your work, what flag were you planting, and were you satisfied by the reception?

Yeah, I was definitely happy with the reception. I had spent a good many years bouncing around in rock ‘n’ roll bands. That record came out in 2011, and I guess it was sometime around ’09 that I realized I was gonna move away from the bands and start working on things under my own name. And what partly informed that was my writing, which was taking itself in a different direction. That led me to getting back to my roots, and back to my love of country music.

That’s why I did the Manifesto; it was a departure point.  

Having listened to some of your work, I think I have a good idea, but who are some of the songwriters who’ve influenced you?

I’ve been influenced by a great number of people in one way or another.  The easiest  to name, over the life of my writing, have been Kris Kristofferson and John Fogerty. I’d also have to give a nod to Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. 

You’re like the eleventy-billionth artist about whom I’ve said, “WTH isn’t this person on radio?” Without going too deeply down that rabbit hole, when did murder ballads and cheatin’ songs go the way of the dinosaur, in the minds of Nashville suits and program directors?

As far as mainstream country is concerned, I think that all started happening in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At that point you could still find some music that still used what would be considered traditional country themes. But it was also sort of the birth of…party country. You know, “everything’s alright and let’s just have a good time.” That’s when things started leaning that direction.

You’ve done some really good murder ballads. How To Survive is made up – except for “The American Way” -- almost exclusively of relationship songs.  Did you go at this album thematically, or did it just organically evolve that way?

It did happen organically, but there’s a certain theme. We were going for a more intimate deal, and it’s a more introspective album as it turned out. Any time I go into the studio to record an album, there are always more songs than can fit on it. So you’re trying to take the best ones and make them fit together into one thing, instead of just a collection of songs on a piece of wax.  And I try to keep that in mind and pair songs together that complement one another.

Some noteworthy artists have addressed the disenchanted/disenfranchised, hard to re-adjust veteran. Isbell did it a couple times, McMurtry hit a chord with “Can’t Make it Here” a dozen years ago. Steve Earle did it with “Johnny Come Lately” in 1988. Describe your approach to “The American Way,” because that song hasn’t been secret, and the video’s been out there a while. Obviously there was some deep meaning for you.

Yeah, we released that video on the Fourth of July. I started working on that song in the summer of 2015. For me, it’s just the state of the union. It reflects parts of my childhood in rural East Tennessee in the 80s and 90s, and how things just sorta stay the same, you know? I wanted it to be a snapshot of how things are for blue collar people; folks who are just trying to live.  

The album hits all the bases: love songs of the aspirational, affirming or cheatin’ type, and even a heart-stomping I don’t love you song, “To Tell the Truth.” They’re all pretty sad & heavily laden with minor chords. I assume this was purposeful?

Yeah, I uh, I feel pretty comfortable working in a minor key, and I’d say I definitely do that more often than not. I think there’s something about the minor keys that definitely ring a little truer…well, maybe “truer” isn’t the right word. Maybe “profound.” I think songs in minor keys strike people more profoundly.  And as such, maybe, I think they can give folks something a little more concrete to hold onto.

There are plenty of good traditional songs with the 1-4-5 progression, but I think it’s the sad ones, the ones in minor keys, that people keep going back to.

And you definitely lean toward the sadder stuff here; granted I’m new to your body of work, but it seems like there’s even more of an emphasis on How to Survive.

I don’t know, I always tend to lean toward the more downtrodden, darker side. Even on a lot of my story songs…well, there are more story songs on my last two records, and some of them do come at you with an upbeat feel.  But these are definitely from the darker side of things.

Is this album serious empathy across the board, or autobiographical? Maybe a little of both?

It’s fair to say it’s a little bit of both. It’s certainly a little autobiographical. And it’s a good bit more introspective and personal than the last two were.

Is there one song that’s more autobiographical than any other on the album?
Oh, man. Ha. That’s a difficult question. (Lengthy pause.)

You’re free to take a pass, and that’s fine. But I mean, I can see several candidates. It ain’t like you just made all this stuff up…

(Laughing) Yeah. I know…there’s certainly some real shit in it. And some of it has to do with stuff I promised myself I wasn’t gonna talk about in the course of promoting this record, so…

Okay, that’s cool. And as we move away from this question I’d just observe that there are several songs…well, “Fireflies” is certainly inspirational and aspirational.  I’m guessing there were some songs that were hard to write. Looking at “To Tell The Truth,” I don’t think that song was written in a vacuum. Is that fair?

Yeah. That’s fair. That one’s got pieces of me in it, but they’ve all got pieces of me in them…

Okay. We can move on…

…man, this is hard to talk about, hard to say. But I’d say the most telling one on the album is “A Good Man.”

Structurally, you place your bridges as points of emphasis, often in different spots. Do you have any kind of guiding philosophy in that regard?

My guiding philosophy, I guess, is just to be efficient. I don’t tie myself into any formulaic songwriting. You know a lot of folks are all about verse/chorus; verse/chorus; bridge/chorus; out. With me sometimes they fall that way, sometimes they don’t; I try not to be superfluous…I try not to fill the time if it doesn’t need to be filled, you know? If I’ve set up what I needed to with one verse and it’s time to get to that poignant/conflict part of the song maybe I’ll go ahead with the bridge right there. It just depends on what the song calls for.  But yeah, I look at the bridge as really being the heart of the song.

I’d like to switch gears for a minute and ask you about the inspiration for some of your songs. You made a couple references at the Atlanta gig in July; for instance, I believe “Bed Sheets” is something of a send-up of one Conway Twitty. Expand on that a little.

Sure. I think “Bed Sheets” is really the only sexy-time song on this album (laughs). And there was actually a point as I was finishing it up where I was like, “Man, can I say this? (Laughing) Am I going too far?”

But I’ve always been a fan of Conway’s, and that was what I thought: “Well, shit, here’s a man who had no qualms about taking a song into the bedroom.” And I was coming to terms with the fact that I’m probably the same age as he was when he was on Hee-Haw when I was watching as a kid, you know what I mean? I told this story in Atlanta. I remember watching Conway, sweatin’ under those stage lights with one of those skinny 1970s microphones, singin’ bedroom songs. (Laughing) And I was old enough to realize, “Well, shit. Maybe I need to do some of that,” you know?

Back to the Manifesto, was writing “Port St. Lucie” a reasonable alternative to doing bodily harm to a former drummer? Am I remembering that correctly?

Yeah, man. One of those bands I was in, we were on the road and had van trouble in Port St. Lucie. You know…being in a band, it’s good and it’s frustrating all at the same time. You start bands with your buddies and…you see how far and how much you can damage that relationship (Laughing), how much you guys can just damned hate each other.

Out of boredom?

No, not out of boredom. You know, when you’re young, it takes you a while to figure out that everybody has their own set of priorities and interests and quirks…eating habits and drinking habits and everything else. And trying to get all that to work together is sometimes a struggle, especially if you’re in a band with a bunch of dudes.

And not to ruin the illusion, but rock ‘n’ roll ain’t that glamorous and there’s not much money in it. You go for a stretch of time of sleeping on couches covered in cat hair and not making any money, and something’s gotta give. We had that van stuck in Port St. Lucie with no shows to play, and it was about as hot as it could get in Florida in August. And I just realized, “Man I gotta get out of this situation before I kill this damn drummer. (Laughs) And I’m sure he had his own thoughts on the situation, you know.

I’m glad we got a nice song out of it, instead of tire-tool justice in Southwest Florida. You produced this album. Was that the first time producing your own work, or anybody else’s?

No, I’ve produced all of my albums. And recently I got to produce an album for my buddy Jeff Shepherd and his band the Jailhouse poets. We got them into the studio in Knoxville and it was really cool to be able to work with them. I really enjoy it, and just like being in the studio and want to be able to do some more of that in the future.

I see Jeff sang backup on “Bound to Lose.”

Yeah, he actually wrote that song with me. Jeff and I were on tour together in the Spring of 2015. We were on our way to Florida, and damned if it didn’t snow all over Mississippi. (Laughing)

You recently pulled up stakes from your native East Tennessee & moved to Nashville; I think you and Chelle Rose might have passed each other? Was that a move for convenience’s sake?

Yeah, Chelle and I apparently traded spots.  Not really convenience, man. I’m from East Tennessee, I love it there, and I’ve spent the last 22 years in Knoxville.  But for the last five, I’ve pretty much been on the road about ten months out of the year. Circumstances came about that enabled me to sell my house, and once I had done that I didn’t see the need to just start over in East Tennessee. So I just took advantage of that; Nashville’s a happening town and there’s a lot going on there.  And it’s at least as well positioned for touring as Knoxville is.

Word has it you’ll be touring with a full band this fall. How long has it been since you did one of those?

I’ve been doing some band touring about twice a year. I try to take a band out on the road during the spring and fall, and the last one was in May. I had some of the same dudes with me I’ll be taking out this fall, and this one will be fairly extensive; it’ll be about six weeks covering the eastern U.S.

Lightning Round:

Have you ever been in a joint and heard someone cover one of your songs?

I have. I did just get word from a friend of mine who was at Adam Lee’s and Josh Morningstar’s show in Detroit last night that Josh played one of my songs. And something that really tickled me, I don’t know if you’re a Ween fan, but I met Dean Ween in Pennsylvania and he let me know through social media that he had covered one of my shows at his standing gig. So I’ve been covered by Dean Ween!

The one person in the Outlaw Country/Alt.Country scene you’d love to work with one day?

(Pauses) Man. I’d love to sit down and write songs with Jamey Johnson. I think he writes really sharp songs.

An artist you’d recommend to all your fans?

I don’t know if you’re familiar with Sam Lewis; he’s pretty fantastic. He was living in Knoxville when I met him, and at that point he would have been in his really early 20s. He was writing really sharp songs and performing them really well. I guess he’s been in Nashville six or eight years and starting to get the recognition he deserves.

You said in an interview, with Riki Rachtman of all people, that you didn’t really like the term “outlaw country.” How would you describe your music?

Aw, man. I guess I’d call it Southern…American…songwriting? (Laughs) How about “Appalachian heartbreak music?” Let’s go with that.

I love this! I’m learning new terms all the time, and they’re all so fluid. Describe touring with Austin Lucas.

Fantastic. Touring with Austin was fantastic. We had been trying to get something together for years, and we were finally able to make it work last summer. He’s just immensely talented, and so kind and thoughtful. I had a great time with him, and running around with Sally the dog was great, too.

The ubiquitous Sally. Top five albums of all time regardless of genre?

Alright. I’m glad you hit me with this earlier, because that’s a moving target. I got it down to seven, so I’ll give you the five.

Tell you what, then, let’s make it top seven.

Guns ‘n’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction. Randy Travis, Storms of Life. Kris Kristofferson, The Silver Tongued Devil And I. Any Creedence Clearwater Revival album. (Laughs) If I only get one, I’d go with Chronicle, a greatest hits record with about 20 songs on it. Pearl Jam’s 10.

As I was thinking through that list, there are a couple on there I haven’t listened to in a while, but there are a couple others I can’t imagine being without: Two Cow Garage’s Sweet Saint Me, and Glossary’s Better Angels of Our Nature.

Why is How To Survive your best work?

I think the simple answer to that is I’ve been able to apply everything I’ve learned thus far (in my career) and apply it to this album. I think if you release a record and you don’t think it’s the best one you’ve ever done, then you’re not doing your job. With How to Survive, I think because of its introspective nature, there’s something in there that just about everybody can relate to.

Writing love songs is not something I typically do a lot of, but there’s some of that mixed in with all the heartbreak. What it lacks in story songs and murder ballads, I think it more than makes up for with truth and emotion. At least I hope that’s how people perceive it. 

How to Survive is available today on Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, etc


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