Showing posts with label John Denver. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Denver. Show all posts

Aug 10, 2020

A Conversation With Skylar Gregg

Photo by Alaina Broyles
By Kevin Broughton

Skylar Gregg engages in a gripping cocktail of hard work, humor, and self-discovery, expressing vivid lyrical imagery and raw grit that soaks into every note of her songwriting. Her third album, Roses, is the culmination of a decade of refinement and refocus wherein she realized “Complicated isn’t always better. Sometimes a simple message can really resonate.”

Blessed with a powerful, soulful voice and a musical pedigree – her folks moved to Nashville so dad could pursue songwriting while mom studied piano at Belmont University – Gregg turned toward a musical career of her own in midstream at Middle Tennessee State. “I changed my major from music education to songwriting in the while I was in college,” she says. “That was when I figured out what I wanted to do.”

The ten songs on Roses – one for each year of the process that got them to completion – tackle heady issues from mortality to addiction to abuse, yet with an undercurrent of contentment; the album closes with the self-evidently peaceful “Everything’s Gonna Be Fine.”

Gregg is thoughtful and sincere – often pondering questions with an emphatic Oh, Man! – and has an infectious laugh as intense as her booming, brassy vocals. In Roses, she establishes herself as a top-tier songwriter on an upward trajectory. We enjoyed chatting with her about the songwriting process, Landfills – literal and metaphorical – Man-splaining, and legalization of the Devil’s lettuce.

Roses is an album of ten songs you wrote over roughly a decade. During that time you put a couple of records out. Over the ten years of writing these, was there something in the back of your mind telling you to hold them back for a while? Were you putting them into a sort of “box” for later use?

Yeah, I think that was what kind of happened. A lot of them I finished later – I’d started them a long time ago. One of them I used to play with a different band, then brought it into my own catalog. So, yeah, I did hold back; I’d think, “Yeah, I’ll tighten this one up a little down the road, when I know what it’s about and know where to put it.”

I wouldn’t call this a purely country album, though there are some straight-up country tunes on it. The PR materials mention hints of the Muscle Shoals sound; I hear a decidedly Memphis vibe at various points. Was there a particular feel or sonic theme you were going for?

You know, originally I set out to make a country album. The producer I used, I think, felt a Muscle Shoals vibe in a lot of the songs and in my voice. And then my husband – who plays bass on the record – is from Memphis. [Laughs] So you hit the nail on the head there. That’s probably the combination that you’re hearing – the influences of those two guys. And I think that gave us some edge, some life, too. Made it a little bit different, you know?

There are times when your voice reminds me of Bonnie Bramblett of Delaney and Bonnie; that big, full, blue-eyed soul sound. Who are some of the female vocalists who’ve been influential to you?

A lot of the sixties and seventies country ladies, like Tanya Tucker and Dolly Parton. I listened to a lot of that with my dad growing up. Bobbie Gentry is somebody I really love, with her soulful, country voice. I was also really influenced by soul artists – I think we all were. Aretha Franklin and Etta James, ladies with those really big voices. And I think that’s the combination you end up with. Also a little bit of gospel; I grew up singing in church.

Something told me you weren’t a stranger to church choir.

Yeah, for sure.

Collecting songs over ten years for an album implies – to me, anyway – that re-working and editing are a big part of the way you write. Can you discuss the way you approach songwriting? For instance, do you set aside a regular block of time for writing, or just grab a pen when an idea or image or phrase strikes you?

I have a block of time every morning when I get up that I dedicate to writing. I try to spend at least a few minutes with my guitar, to try to put together a chorus, for example. I don’t want to force anything, but I try to at least work those muscles in my brain. And sometimes in those moments I’ll hit on something and write it down, and work on it the next day. And sometimes those songs will come out great. But honestly, it’s those times when I’m out in the world and am moved by something, or think something’s funny or interesting…when I get home at midnight or one in the morning and sit on the couch and write those songs? Those are the ones that always end up sticking around, for me. 

Let’s talk about a few specific songs on Roses. I have the advantage of your liner notes, so I’m cheating a little bit. “I Already Know…” Would you like to woman-splain that one? The floor is yours.

[Laughs] Yeah, sure. I was, I guess, just bitchin’ with some of my female musician friends about being man-splained to about cables and guitar stuff. This was at a co-write, and these are both very talented players; to hear them also be frustrated about it…they had learned to say in a nice way, “Save your breath, I already know.” They’ve toured all over the country and played hundreds and hundreds of gigs, but they still have sound men come up and say these things.

I’ve had those experiences as well, in co-writes. You get treated like, “You’re the singer. We’re gonna write this song for you and you can sing it in a minute.”

Ha!

I’d like to add that I get to work with a lot of men -- and have been raised by a lot of men – who have only empowered me and only been loving to me. The song is just talking about men who may sometimes have a moment of…proving themselves, I guess, in those situations.

“Now, where do I plug this cord in?”

[Laughs] Yeah! “Does the round shape go in the round hole?” [Laughs]

“Southern Strain” is about the stigma attached to Mary Jane in our native South. Was there anything in particular that inspired this, like maybe a string of shows in Colorado? And which Southern state do you think will be the first to legalize?

[Laughs] Man! I hope it’s Tennessee! You know, I guess I just I grew up thinking that it’s no worse than alcohol. Everything in moderation, right? I’m not saying do this all the time, but it is interesting how many people – later on in life – you find out don’t have as big a problem with that stuff as you thought they did. There’s such a stigma about it, especially when I was a little kid and thought it was the Devil’s lettuce. Later I realized it’s just not that big a deal, and if somebody want to have a joint after work, we shouldn’t worry about it. Especially these days; there’s way bigger stuff to worry about. [Laughs]

For sure.

“Landfill” is both metaphorical and autobiographical, it seems to me. (And what a sweet horn arrangement!) Did that song morph into something else during the writing process?

Totally. That one was really challenging to write. It’s my favorite song on the record. I love how it turned out; it’s so quirky and I love all the thoughts behind it.

I went to Middle Tennessee State University for college, and 231 is the road that goes from Murphreesboro to where my parents live in Lebanon, Tenn. And there’s this landfill on 231 that I used to drive by, and it was amazing to think about how much trash is in the ground there. It’s insane to me how we’ve figured out how to get rid of our garbage, and so much of it, you know? And I thought it would be a cool song to write, about the landfill and all those visualizations. So I pretty much wrote all the verses while I was in college, driving past it back and forth.

And then about two years ago I started going to therapy. (I don’t know if you’ve been to therapy, but I highly recommend it for everyone.) Anyway, before you go in, they vet you over the phone. And I was telling her, “There’s not really anything wrong with me. I don’t have any trauma; no big issues, I just kind of wanted to check up on my brain and make sure I’m doing okay.” And she was like, “Mm-hmm, okay.” And I got in there and there was a whole lot of stuff to dig up! And she said, “Yeah, everybody says that when I call them.” [Laughs] And through that experience I wrote the choruses, because man, what a metaphor that was for all the garbage in my own brain. And so seven or eight years later, that song got finished.


Go Blue Raiders, by the way. What did you study?

I studied songwriting.

Look at you, putting your degree to work!

Yeah! I really enjoyed my experience in the Recording Industry program there.

If you could change one thing about the music industry right now, what would it be?

Oh, man….

You could outlaw autotune…You could deport Florida-Georgia Line…

[Laughs] Yes, yes! There’s so many things. I’m really enjoying watching the music industry, which got turned on its head when streaming came into play, then it got turned on its head again with COVID-19. Not that I’m celebrating anyone’s gigs getting canceled, obviously. I do think it’s cool the way streaming services and Spotify have given indie artists a voice. And you can really build a small, blue-collar career almost by yourself. I didn’t experience the music industry pre-streaming, but I assume that wasn’t the case then. And being able to record stuff yourself or with a very small team is awesome.

As far as what I’d change now – and I think we’re doing a really good job of lifting this up – maybe just some more female representation? More female players maybe. And we’re seeing a real push for it, and I’m excited to see who else is gonna come up.

Now, you got a heads-up on this one: If you were told you could only listen to three albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Ah, man, this was really challenging. [Laughs] Of course there’s all those classics like Abbey Road and Dark Side of the Moon and Rumors that are so hard to get rid of. But for me, my first album was a John Denver record my dad got for me called Poems, Prayers & Promises which has “Take Me Home, Country Roads” on it. And because it was my first CD and first CD player, I just listened to it so many times. And I hadn’t even thought about it until you texted me that question, but you can probably hear it in my writing.

And the second one I came up with was Bobbie Gentry’s Ode To Billy Joe. And I didn’t really discover it until I right out of high school when I did this country music revue show called “Honkytonk Angels” at an arts center in Cannon County, Tenn. I got to sing songs like “Fancy” and “I Will Always Love You,” and I sang “Ode To Billy Joe,” and thought this song is so cool! So I listened to the whole album, and it’s got all this weird percussion on it. It’s just really cool.

And the third one and more recently, I’m a huge Sturgill Simpson fan. I had tickets to his last show and was super-bummed that I couldn’t go, even though I realize this is the time we’re living in. Meta Modern Sounds In Country Music is just so great. I listen to it all the time. That album is so fun and so great.

Photo by Zach Ward
Lots of artists’ album release dates have been pushed back – some indefinitely – by this dang virus. How has it affected you in particular? Also what’s your best-case, yet realistic, scenario for getting this record out and doing a tour?

I’ve really focused my attention on getting the record out first. And hopefully after that we can re-asses when touring will start. It’s just so hard to tell. It’s interesting, though, watching how COVID has affected a lot of the bigger players in the game, releasing music for indie artists has been it’s been kind of a great time because it’s made a space for me and a lot of my friends. Live streaming shows has been really cool.

We were fortunate enough to have the exclusive premiere of your video in July. I’ve been on some movie sets before, so I know a little bit about all the different takes that all the set-ups require. But I’m just curious…do you lip-sync everything?

I was actually singing, because they told me before, “It looks better if you actually sing it.” So yeah, I’m sure they were tired of hearing me sing that song by the end of the day. [Laughs] I sang it like 50 times.

Really?

Maybe not 50; it was at least 25 times though. [Laughs] They’re used to it though; they do music videos all the time.

Was that your first video?

I’ve actually done a few. We actually did this one around Halloween a few years ago. It was for this song I wrote that was about a black widow – a lady who kept killing all of her husbands.

Mmm-hmm?

…for different reasons. So we did this video. My cousin is a special-effects makeup artist, and she came to do all the makeup for it. And it got so out of control! It was so gory! Facebook wouldn’t even let us run an ad in it. [Laughs]

Well, I have to see this thing now.

I think it’s really fun. I love the Evil Dead-type of ridiculous horror. I think it’s a lot of fun, but a lot of people don’t share that opinion! [Laughs]

[NOTE: It’s right here, and it’s glorious.]  



Roses is available Friday everywhere.

May 17, 2019

Top Gun Country Reaction Gifs

Florida-Georgia Line? I stopped to pee there one time...

When you overhear somebody actually say out loud that Kane Brown is their favorite country singer

Country music has to evolve?

When you're confident in your sexuality and bond with your homie over Kacey Musgraves' music

Why do you love bluegrass so much?

♫ I'm leaving on a jet plane 
  
When she hears that you're a Bucky Covington fan

New Tyler Childers album on the way???

♫ I ain't no holy roller so I just use a bong 

Mar 26, 2019

Live Review / Charles Wesley Godwin / The Vinyl Lounge / 3/14/19



By Matthew Martin

West Virginia ends up being the butt of a lot of jokes. There's poverty.  There's wide-reported drug abuse.  And there's a sense of this almost pride that you're NOT from West Virginia.  But, on the other side of that coin are the people from West Virginia.  If you actually meet folks from West Virginia, they're nothing like those silly caricatures you read/hear/joke about.  They're proud.  They're proud of what the state stood for during the Civil War. They're proud of what the state provided to the country with the mining industry.  They're proud of the unions that began in that same mining industry.  And over the years some of the best Appalachian music has come out of those hills and hollers.

Charles Wesley Godwin is someone I believe will become a household name very soon.  There's nothing but authenticity dripping from every word and chord that pours out of him.  And he has the voice to carry these sincere, heartfelt songs of growing up in West Virginia.  Songs that are so specific to the Appalachian region that you almost feel you're there as you listen to him sing.  This all comes through on his fantastic debut album Seneca.  I was pleased to find out that in a stripped-down, solo live show, nothing was lost.

We went to see Charles at The Vinyl Lounge which is part of the Gypsy Sally's venue in D.C.  We had once seen Sturgill Simpson play solo at this place to about 50 people.  So, this felt similar- like I needed to see Charles Wesley Godwin before he started making it to venues where the crowds were growing.  He began the show around 10PM.  

The first couple of songs were new songs as far as I was concerned ("Jesse" and "Bones").  I don't believe they were from his previous band, either.  These songs were incredibly well-written and true to CWG's young, but quite impressive career.  CWG would then go on to play a great mix of songs from his debut album ("Coal Country", "Strawberry Queen", and "Shrinks and Pills") as well as songs from his previous band's (Union Sound Treaty) output ("Peaked" and "Hazelton").  He threw in a couple of covers as well from folks like Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Martin.

CWG played for those of us there for around an hour and a half.  It was an intimate affair and one that I am incredibly glad I got to witness.  The songs of CWG are smart and emotional.  West Virginia pride is rich in the tradition of the songs.  He wants you to know that WV is still here.  With songs like "Here In Eden" he calls his WV brothers to arms.  You get the idea that CWG would never apologize for where he's from.  And, that's what makes his songs so relatable and so damn irresistible.  We all want that sense of pride of our home.  CWG has it damn spades.

To drive this point home, CWG pulled a barstool out from the bar for his last song.  He stepped away from his mic.  He unplugged his guitar.  And he sang with all of his heart and soul the WV standard: "Country Roads".  We all sang along.  We felt connected.  And, we walked away from the show feeling like we'd just watched something pretty special.

If you are anywhere near CWG, go see him.  It is special.  He's building something.  He will be someone we all will say we remember when he was still building that something.  Until he comes to your place, go buy his music; his solo album and his previous band's album.  You won't be disappointed. 




Feb 22, 2018

Opinion: Stop Presenting Mainstream Country Stars as Saints



by Trailer

Look, I prefer positivity and goodness in life. Despite the snarky, critical persona I take on as the proprietor of this site, family, love, faith, and understanding are high up on my list of things that don't suck. Happy relationships and strong families are of utmost importance in this world. Charity is wonderful and if you can give to the less fortunate, do so. Be nice, tell the truth, do right, and all that stuff. 

All that said, could one of the dudes from Old Dominion possibly get caught naked in a crackhouse with a one-legged prostitute? Can we maybe uncover a chop-shop on Brantley Gilbert's property? Are there incriminating photos of Kelsea Ballerini meeting with Russian informants? Did Thomas Rhett have a lost period of years as a drug mule?

An illegal firearm? Poaching? Jaywalking? Not even a misguided interview response? Nothing? Come on!

Almost to the person, country artists these days are either as plain as ecru painted walls or as sweet as cotton candy, and I'm over it. I miss the days when country artists were packing heat, snorting ski slopes of cocaine, and chasing tail from one coast to the other. 

Can you imagine the memes Farce the Music would have generated in the 70s and earlier? These folks were driving their pimped out Cadillacs with the horns to their mansions with guitar shaped pools and taking all the drugs and drinking all the whiskey. They were having public screaming fights with their significant others at a Shreveport hotel. Even the nice guys were outlaws back in the day - John Denver made Jason Aldean look like Mr. Rogers. In 2018, all the rowdy friends have settled down. 

The only thing safer than the lifestyles is the music. It all has an 80s elevator music quality to it. Every song's gotta fit the same sonic texture as everything else on country radio. It's not about getting the best music out to people; it's about keeping people zoned out and listening so they might pay attention to an ad about erectile dysfunction or mortgage refinancing every now and then. 

And the country music news cycle now… this guy played a charity show, this lady is just so grateful to be liked, this couple adopted an entire town in Niger. Again, all those things are wonderful! By all means, please do good, country stars. I'm not saying they shouldn't. It's just gotten so syrupy sweet and perfectly groomed and PR managed that my eyes glaze over every time a story that should make me smile pops up on the news feed. 

Look, I don't want anybody sinning and being unlawful just for the sake of edginess. All I'm asking for here is realness. Country music is about truth, and truthfully, nobody is as perfect as these people are made out to be. Somebody's cheating. Somebody's nursing a pill habit. Somebody else is an awful diva. 

While some of these truths are understandably a little too controversial for PR people to let get out (not to mention that stars are people and deserve some level of privacy), other glimpses into stars' imperfections would make them more endearing. People probably would've been into Johnny Cash no matter what, but the fact that we knew he was as flawed (or more so) than the rest of us made him that much more relatable and beloved.

Let us see behind the curtain a little. All this white picket fence idealism is not only getting dull, it's insulting. We know better.


Oct 7, 2016

Album Review: Brent Cobb - Shine On Rainy Day

Review by Trailer

The inviting warmth of John Denver, the deceptive simplicity of Kris Kristofferson, and the swampy grooves of Tony Joe White. Comparisons are the crutch of a lazy critic, but I'll be damned if those three traits don't fairly aptly describe Brent Cobb's sound. Throw in a little Van Morrison sublimeness for good measure. If I'm gonna go the easy route, I may as well go all out.

Hailing from a musical Georgia family, Brent Cobb gets both his chosen career path and his sound honest. His dad and uncles were songwriters (in fact, they wrote one of this album's strongest cuts, "Country Bound" when Brent was 5) and cousin Dave, well, you know Dave. He's helmed a few records you might have heard before. He's at the board on this one too, and Shine On Rainy Day stands as a fine first full-album collaboration between the Cobbs.




Distilled to its most central theme, Shine On Rainy Day is an exaltation of home and simple living. Where the typical Nashville writer might see a party spot or a mudding hole, Cobb takes you on a thoughtful stroll through the cattails and dragonflies. It's an appreciation rather than an exploitation; one that shows respect for both the craft and the audience.

You might even say this was a further exploration of the themes of this year's Southern Family compilation (produced by Dave and including Brent and many other rootsy artists). It's certainly similar in atmosphere…the kind of music you'd rather have a front porch seat than a front row seat to enjoy.

"Solving Problems" opens the set with a knowing look at the simple joys of just hanging out with an old friend. "We ain't up to nothing, just solving all the problems of the world" Brent sings, imbuing the moment with an emotional weight that belies the self-deprecation.

"Diggin' Holes" has passed this way before; it's a release from a 2012 self-titled EP and was one of my favorite songs that year. It holds up well, with a sense of humor that recalls Roger Miller and a catchy tune that would fit well in most eras of country radio that aren't this one.

The title cut, previously recorded by Andrew Combs as "Rainy Day Song," is a near celebration of the dark days in life. I know the feeling. It's not about wallowing in misery, but appreciating and feeling the full depth of the lows so you can love the highs …"Laughing ain't a pleasure till you know about crying."

It's a strong and consistent set of tunes without a lull in quality. Shine On Rainy Day isn't a party record but it's light enough for a round of beers on the back porch while the grill smokes away. It's a humid afternoon with a cool breeze. A slow drive down a gravel road on the outskirts of your hometown, with nary a bro in sight. Cobb's debut has all the goods to satisfy both the buzzy ne'er-do-well and the homesick romantic in us all.

---------------
Shine On Rainy Day is available on Amazon, iTunes, etc.

Sep 2, 2016

Country Fantasy Football Team Names 2016


This is the last weekend for fantasy football drafts before the NFL season starts next week. 
Here are some ridiculous and punny, if not funny, country music related names you could 
use for fantasy teams. Or add your own in the comments!
___________________________

Are You Sure Peyton Done It This Way?

Band of Broncos

Odell Where Art Thou

Gurley in a Country Song

Rollerskating Buffalo Herd

Gronk on a Plane

Real Men Love Jameis

Jordy On My Mind

Beatin' Philly and Kickin' Ass

Different for Cowboys

Manning Doesn't Play Anymore

Devonta Wanna Tonight

Dez He Love You

Me and Bobby Griffin III

A Good Year for DeAndre

Finally Sunday

Better as Amari

Quaker City Seahawks

Dak Where I Come From

Le'Veon on a Jet Plane

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