Mar 142014


21 flips

I’m gonna come right out and say it: I hate music festivals. I hate that they’re always in the middle of the fucking summer. I hate the bugs. I hate the sweat. I hate the direct sun and lack of ample shade. I hate the shitty food and beverage choices. I hate the set times and the oft-lacking-in-quality lineups, and, last but not least, I hate the wannabe everybodies that inevitably populate every single inch of the festival grounds to the point WHERE I JUST CAN’T FUCKING GET AWAY.

That being said, I really enjoyed last weekend’s Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa. Other than the nasty sunburn I acquired on my neck (gingers, man) and the lack of hard cider options (Celiacs, man), GMF shone in almost every aspect. I was impressed by the lineup, in that there were actually more than two bands I wanted to see, AND that I discovered new music I ended up liking (Atlantic OceansSwimm, and Good Graeff). I especially love that it’s held in March, pre-intense Florida sun and humidity (the sunburn was completely my fault – forgot the SPF, sigh), and that the food options were aplenty, varied, often fancy, and reasonably priced. It also didn’t hurt, from a whiskey lover’s point of view, that George Dickel Tennessee Whisky was there.

All the locals (I’m new in town) told me that GMF doesn’t “feel” like a typical festival, and the natural skeptic in me just didn’t want to believe them. However, I gave it a shot, and not only was the crowd great, but the lineup was fantastic (Flaming LipsJason IsbellMatt WoodsJ Roddy Walston & The BusinessHave Gun, Will TravelThose Darlins, and Benjamin Booker, to name a few). I was pretty happy to be proven wrong. Tampa should be damn proud.

Official photos below courtesy of Drunk Camera Guy. Unofficial photos courtesy of my drunk ass.







Feb 272014



Have Gun, Will Travel is an Americana band based out of Bradenton, FL that combines folk, pop, rock, and classic country influences. They’re new album, Fiction, Fact or Folktale?, is out now, and they’re performing at Crowbar in Tampa TONIGHT, Thursday, February 27th. I talked to Matt Burke about their current tour, their Daytrotter session, and his writing process.

Can you tell me abut the making of the album cover?

Yeah. My sister, Alex, is a local artist. She makes handmade, original art from salvaged materials. She made the piece and photographed it for the album cover. And her partner, Riley, helped us with the layout and design. We’re all stoked with how it turned out. And now I have the actual piece displayed proudly in my living room.

What was the writing process like for Fiction, Fact or Folktale?

The writing process for this record really wasn’t any different from our other records. I usually bring songs to the band one at a time. Then, we hash them out together and work on the arrangements, and when we have a batch of songs piled up, we start recording. Most of the writing happens at home. I don’t do a lot of writing on the road. There are too many distractions. I need to be in a quiet, comfortable environment, where I can focus and concentrate on what I’m doing.

What was your motivation as you were writing the songs?

Every song has its own story. For example, I wrote the song “Finer Things” as a surprise for my fiance, since I was going to be out of town on Valentine’s Day. So, I recorded a demo version of it at home before I left and left it hidden in the house, then sent her a text on Valentine’s Day telling her where to look for it. Some songs, like “Standing at the End of the World” or “Silver and the Age of Opulence,” are observational. Other songs, like “Trouble” or “High Road,” are born out of feelings of frustration or desperation. Then, some songs are just narrative fiction, like “The Show Must Go On,” “Another Fine Mess,” and “Take Me Home, Alice.” Straight-up storytelling.

Well, it’s working. I think y’all are definitely garnering some more attention with this album, like from Daytrotter, for instance. How did that come together?

I was definitely stoked when we scheduled a Daytrotter session. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while. We knew we were gonna be touring through that part of the country, and our booking agent submitted us. They were able to fit us in on a day that worked into our tour schedule.

That day was pretty rough, though. The temperature outside was, like, 7 below. Once we got all of our gear loaded into the building and up the three flights of stairs, it took a while for our instruments to warm up. But once we got going, it was awesome. We had a good time.

It turned out well. Sounds like it was worth it. You’re on a Big Ass Tour right now. Is this the biggest one you’ve ever been on?

Yeah, the shows on this tour have been bigger than most of the stuff we’ve done up ’til now. It’s been awesome. Aside from the snow storms that have been chasing us around, it’s been great.

That couldn’t have been fun.

No, but we opened up for Shooter Jennings in Marietta, GA which was a blast. Then we headed out toward the midwest and hooked up with Railroad Earth for a bunch of shows. Those guys are amazing musicians, and they run a pretty tight ship. It’s really impressive to watch. So, we’ve had to step up our game and act like we been there before. Playing the role of professional musicians and shit.

[laughs] What’s it been like to play some of these places and with some of these people?

We’ve been lucky to play some beautiful, historic theaters and ballrooms on this tour. We’ve had the fortune of performing on stages that a lot of our heroes have performed on. That has definitely been a highlight for me.

I would think so.

Yeah, and the shenanigans have been relatively minimal this time out, mostly due to the weather. It’s been too damn cold to really get into trouble. It’s been a lot of sipping hot, green tea and bundling up like little old ladies.

[laughs] That ain’t too bad, though.

You can catch Have Gun, Will Travel at
Crowbar TONIGHT, Thursday, February 27th in Tampa, FL, online at www.hgwtmusic.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Feb 252014



Those Crosstown Rivals are a high-energy, high-emotion, straight-up ballsy band out of one of my favorite towns, Lexington, KY. I was stoked for a chance to talk to Bryan Minks about the making of their new album, Hell and Back (on pre-order now), and what it means to them to share their music with fans and friends. Be sure to check back tomorrow, too, for a Ninebullets review.

What is the story behind Hell and Back?

It was painful. The lyrics were written by my wife, Erica, and I during a year where I feel like we’d literally been drug to hell and managed to crawl back out.  Erica was suffering from unbearable pain due to a rare neurological condition.  She’d spent weeks in the hospital, been through three brain surgeries, and too many nights in the ER.  We really didn’t know what tomorrow held, and it felt like there was no light waiting at the end of the tunnel.  So we just started putting those feelings into the songs. The first four tracks of the record really deal with the feelings felt during these dark times (hell) and the idea of uncertainty.  Not knowing what tomorrow holds, not knowing if there will be a tomorrow, and learning how to deal with that. The second half of the record focuses more on the idea of acceptance and hope.  I developed an understanding that even though some paths within life may be forced on you, it doesn’t dictate your destination.  You may just have to take the long way, or you may have to put up a fight, and I’m ok with that. I guess we all have to be. But, those ideas drive the second half of the record.  Living the moment, appreciating the uncertainty, and finding hope and content in whatever path you take.

Wow, thank you for sharing that, and thank you for making a record out of it. I’m sorry y’all went through that, and I’m glad you were able to keep hope. 

Thank you.

Sure. Well, I’d like to know some background on the band. How and when did y’all form?

Back in 2010, we were just a group friends who’d get together to drink and play music.  We all came from musical backgrounds but hadn’t been in bands for years. We’d get together as often as possible, and stay in the basement for hours writing/playing music.  We were really raw, and, at the time, there wasn’t really a vision for TCR. It was just a mish-mash of influences.  We started playing live in the fall of 2010, and shortly after that, put out our first recording.  In 2011, when we started writing Kentucky Gentlemen, we started to fall into our style.  Energy and emotion is something we always put a lot of emphasis on with our live shows. But it is difficult to translate to record, and we’ve admittedly failed at this before.  I finally believe with Hell and Back, the energy and the emotion has translated through, and we’ve fallen into who we are.

I would say I have to agree with you. It’s definitely an energetic and emotional record, which I personally appreciate. Well, hey, tell us what’s going on right now, and what’s coming up?

We finished out 2013 with a tour through the midwest to Colorado, then came back home and played a show with Lucero and Titus Andronicus.  Since then, we’ve been on break for the winter, but get going again here in a few weeks.  I’m pretty excited about the show’s coming up. We’re doing most of March with either Ned Van Go (Nashville) or Jeremy Porter and the Tucos (Detroit).  Both bands are good friends of ours, and we always have a blast with them. Our record release show is going to be on 3/15 in Lexington, KY with good friends Ned Van Go, Doc Feldman, and the Vibrolas.

Any highlights or anecdotes?

All of tour is really a highlight, even the shitty nights.  Most people don’t understand what its like to tour, or they think its just a good time.  Tour is tough. You’re crammed in a van with everyone for hours on end, you play more shit shows than you’d like to admit, you have fights, you get robbed, but it’s all worth it, because, at the end of the day, you get to play your music for new fans and old friends.  And that’s a damn good feeling, and it’s the only feeling that matters.

I’ve been privileged (or crazy) enough to spend a lot of time going on road trips, and I’ve spent time with musicians on tour on some of those, and you’re right. It’s hard, and I’m only with them, like, a few days at a time. [laughs]

Anyway, I was told I should ask you what “like men do” means?

It’s really just a play on pop culture and the diminishing idea of male masculinity. Or maybe its more about us not giving a shit and just being a bunch of self proclaimed bad asses. Boys used to be taught that its okay to be masculine, tough, and aggressive when appropriate. Now you rarely see that portrayed in our culture. Everyone’s too worried about offending someone or setting the wrong example. We really just don’t give a shit. We’re men, we’re southern, and we do manly things. Whether it be playing so hard you throw-up, drinking too much whiskey, wearing leather, 4:00 a.m. party in a cheap hotel’s hot tub, or just being a miserable hungover mess in the back of a van, we do shit like men do.

Wellllll, being a woman and someone who does all of those things, I can’t say I agree with a single thing you just said, but, since y’all don’t give a shit, we’ll just leave it at that. 


You can find Those Crosstown Rivals and purchase Hell and Back here. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 222014


Louisa, KY-based musician Tyler Childers has more talent for his 22 years than his fair share. At least, that’s what I’ve heard people say since he was about 19, and I think I’m prone to agree with them. For those who may not know of him – or even for those who do – here’s a little background. We only had a few minutes, so this really is just “a little background.” If nothing else, I hope it whets your appetite and encourages you to check out his latest EP, Live on Red Barn Radio. Tell us what you think in the comments. We love that shit.

You have an EP out right now, Tyler Childers and The Highwall: Live on Red Barn Radio.

Yup. This is my first real attempt at making a go of it. I recorded another one when I was 19, called Bottles and Bibles. There are songs that got left out, and songs I wish I never put on there, so this one [Live on Red Barn Radio] is, I dunno, just a better go of it. I also don’t play a lot of those songs older anymore. This EP is the first in three years, and we recorded it at Red Barn, which is a radio show out of Lexington.

And there are four songs on it, right?

Yeah, four songs. I was gonna do five tracks and put “Harlan Road” on it, but I dunno, during the recording, there was this click – I guess someone shut a door – and I just didn’t feel right selling it like that.

Do you think anyone would really have noticed?

[laughs] No. probably not, but I did, so… [laughs] And anyway, I’m in the process of laying down a whole album. I got together with Bud Carroll, who’s in a band called AC30 out of Huntington, WV – they’re good – he has a studio, and we’re recording it there. I’ve been trying to get a new record recorded two or three times now, and, really, I should’ve gone to Bud first. I’m real excited.

Last time I talked to you, I thought I recall you saying something about looking for a band vs. continuing solo?

I like playing with a band, but I like travelling by myself. It’s a hell of a lot easier. It was a fun experience, and I learned a lot playing with five people, you know, because I’ve been playing the last three years solo. But yeah, I dunno… I like playing by myself.

Gotcha. Well, hey, where are you from?

I’m from Lawrence County which is about 45 minutes away from here [Huntington, WV]. Growing up, if you wanted to do anything, you went to either Ashland [KY] or Huntington, so I spent a good lot of time in this area.

When did you start writing songs?

Well, I always wanted to write. I always knew I wanted to write. I mainly wrote poems and stories and stuff, but I didn’t start playing guitar and writing songs till I was about 13 or 14, and then I started writing stuff I felt comfortable enough showing people when I was about 18 or 19, and I’ve just been doing that ever since.

Were your parents musically inclined or creative?

Mom has always encouraged me to read and write, but she can’t carry a tune in a bucket, bless her heart.

[laughs] I can’t either. I feel her pain.

Dad sings, though. I grew up in a real religious family. I grew up in church, singing in choir and stuff, but dad was a coal miner and in the mining business a good long while.

He’s alright? That’s a very physically hard job.

Yeah, he’s alright. He didn’t do deep mining. He was a strip miner, worked backhoe a good long while, and then he got, like, a desk job for a good long while.

Well, it’s clear your religious background affects what you write about.

Yeah, it does. A lot. It does affect it. I’ve always been partial to characters in life that are led astray.


Dead Man’s Curve

Tyler Childers is on tour now. You can catch him this Thursday, January 23rd, at Black Sheep Burrito & Brews in Huntington, WV, as well as at various venues through February 2014. You can buy Live at Red Barn Radio here.

Jan 142014

As anyone who follows me on any of my social media sites has probably gathered, I’m a huge fan of Knoxville-based musician Matt Woods. I have to be in a strong state of mind and heart to listen to his music, and anyone who writes songs that make me feel that much is automatically Essential Listening for me. I had the opportunity to interview Woods briefly last time he was in West Virginia, the state I currently (and for a brief period of remaining time) call home. Woods has a lot going on right now. He’s currently on tour with Larry Fulford and Pete Stein and will be going out later this year with Caleb Caudle. He has a 7” out now, called Deadman’s Blues, with a new record due out this spring. On top of that, he’s participating in a giveaway over at Dear Ben Nichols that’s also featuring Lucero and wood carving artist, Bryn Perrott.

Let’s get to it.

You have a new single out right now, “Deadman’s Blues,” with an EP to match.

Yup. There’s an acoustic version of “Deadman’s Blues” on there and a version of “Help Me Make It Through the Night” by Kris Kristofferson. It’s the first time I’ve ever recorded a cover. I wrote “Deadman’s Blues” in the summer of 2011, because I was out of business for a while with my broken finger. While I was down with the broken finger, I hoped to write a lot of music, but I pretty much only wrote that one song. [laughs]

It’s a pretty intense song, lyrically, especially because you tend to write songs that are non-autobiographical. What inspired you to write this one?

Being on the road, mostly, you know. Just, you know… Being away. It’s a very personal song. It’s just, kind of, you know… Part of life, kind of a thing. And, you know, there are always elements of truth in a song. There has to be. It’s a pretty introspective tune, and I don’t always write that way. I mean, sometimes I do, but, like you mentioned, sometimes I write story songs, but even with those, there’s always parts of me in it. The emotions are pretty real, even if the account is fictional. Like, “Johnny Ray Dupree” is a fictional account about a murderer, but the emotions in it are pretty real.

I think you’re good at that too. Not a lot of song writers can write about what they don’t personally know, because I’m assuming you’re not a murderer. [laughs]

Right. [laughs]

I like songs that tell stories. They’re some of my favorites.

I think the thing about it, though, is that if you’re writing story songs… Like, a story song can work for face value, you know, just as this narrative, but I think those songs always work best when there’s subtext in there. You know, when there are more intangible, underlying themes going on. Whether it strikes the listener or not, there’s subtext in my story songs. I hope people connect to those songs in that way, but, ultimately, if they just like the song because it’s about some dude killing people, that’s cool too. [laughs]

Oh, I think it strikes them for sure. The fact that there are underlying emotions and truths to your songs… I think that’s evident, and I think that’s one reason why people enjoy your songwriting and performances so much.

Thank you.

“Port St. Lucie” is an interesting tune. It’s got this happy beat that puts me in a great mood, but the lyrics are not happy at all.

No. No, it’s not, and I think it’s the juxtaposition that makes it. It’s, like, the most cheerful misery you have ever heard. [laughs]


It’s weird, I have this song I’ve played forever. I wrote it in the late 90s. I’ve traveled with it and brought it through all of the bands I’ve had and everything, and now Bryan [Childs] really loves it, so maybe I’ll record it again. I’ve recorded it five or six times. It’s called “Sunshine.”

Oh, yeah, that’s a great one. You should definitely record it again. I know a lot of people who love it, too.

I was playing a lot around Knoxville in those days, when I wrote it, and, for some reason or another, it became apparent that people were connecting with it, and a lot of women in particular would connect with it. They would come up, and be like, “That’s my song!” And they were so happy when I played it. It also kind of struck me as odd that, like, when a lady would come up and be like, “That song, that’s me,” and it’s, like, so sad. The song is really sad, you know, the content of it, and I want to tell them, like, “I really hope not,” [laughs] but it’s cool that it moves them. Sometimes I think it’s mistaken for a happy song, because it really kinda moves along, you now, but if it’s coming from me, it’s probably not a happy song. [laughs]

[laughs] Sad Bastard’s Song Club.

[laughs] Yup.

I think that’s been happening a lot with “Deadman’s Blues.” I see it around, you know. People talking about how they can relate to wanting one thing that doesn’t necessarily coincide with some of their other desires. It’s a very universal, human theme, I think. I think even people who don’t travel for a living can to relate it.

Well, it’s what we hope for, as songwriters, that people can relate.

Matt Woods is touring now. You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for tour updates and news. Enter to win the Deadman’s Blues 7″ and Manifesto CD here.