The 52-year-old Kentucky singer-songwriter chatted with us earlier this year about the gritty-yet-accessible sounds of his latest album, 'Little Victories.'
BY HUNTER HAUK
Cowboys & Indians
PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY DRIFTER’S CHURCH RECORDS
Chris Knight: I’m just pulling in my driveway at home right now, in Kentucky.
C&I: How have your shows been going lately, now that you’ve got a new record to play?
Knight: They’ve been going real good; we’re starting to play more new songs off the record. I’m pretty much touring all the time. Things don’t change a hell of a lot, especially when I have a new record out.
C&I: Do you always try to have a full band or at least a few players with you?
Knight: It depends. I did two shows last week, one acoustic and one with full band. Acoustic shows this weekend, band shows next week. It’s different all the time.
Knight: It’s all age groups, different types of people. I go a lot of college towns, but don’t draw a huge college crowd. People come out of the sticks to come to the shows. They drive a long way, you know. Reminds me of the first time I played up in this little hippie town in eastern Tennessee. They kind of had a built in crowd. A lot of regulars. So they were expecting the regular turnout. But I told ‘em, “You ain’t gonna have no regulars tonight. These people come out of the hills. You wait and see.” And I got to the show later, and they had already thrown, like, 15 hillbillies out of there. Guy said to me, “Yeah, you were right.” That’s pretty much the way it is. I like it, myself.
C&I: Well, I want to compliment you on Little Victories. The album’s easy to love, and it’s even easier to connect with the lyrics. What’s your assessment of it now that it’s out?
Knight: I think it’s a good record overall. There’s always something you wish you’d have done differently or sang better. Because, you’re not playing them much on the road before you record. Then you get out night after night playing on the road. … With the exception of a few songs, I could go back and do all my records again and they’d be 10 times better than when we recorded. Because I’ve been playing some of this stuff for 14 years.
C&I: Is it the evolution of the arrangements, or is it more your own comfort level with the songs?
Knight: Sometimes it’s just a rhythm thing, or the way that I sing something. A new guitar lick, or whatever, you know. That’s another fun thing about it, though. I can do what I want to. I had this song called “Another Dollar” on the Heart of Stone record that sounds good on record, but since I’ve been playing it live, we started screwing around with it at acoustic shows. My guitar player grabbed a mandolin, and it rocked as much as the full version. And there’s not even a mandolin on the recording.
C&I: Oh, you can always add mandolin. You recorded the new album with your touring guys, right?
Knight: Yeah, I recorded with my road band that we’d had together for close to 5 years at the time … probably more’n that. … This one, to me, was a little grittier and we were scratchin’ and clawin’, and I think you can hear it. That’s what I wanted. I wanted it to be more intense.
C&I: What was it like working with John Prine on the title track?
Knight: It was a lot of fun having him come down. We didn’t talk a whole lot. I didn’t ask him everything I wanted to ask him or say. I figured he knows all that anyway. But it was great. I’ve listened to John Prine since I was 13 years old, so to have him come play and sing on my record is a big deal.
Find a list of Chris Knight’s upcoming tour dates here.