An Interview with Chris Knight

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Chris Knight - Red 11 Music

The music of Chris Knight has always meant a lot to me. His albums and songs have rode shot gun with me through hell on more than one occasion, so when given the opportunity to interview him, I of course jumped at the chance. Chris was my true entry way to Country music. While I had always enjoyed the likes of Johnny Cash and Elvis’s Country offerings, it wasn’t until I dug deep into the catalog of Chris Knight that I finally understood the genre, truly. All of that being said, what it boils down to is this: music lovers will always have their favorite songs, favorite albums, and of course – favorite artists. Beyond that, some of us have artists that are particularly special to us. For one reason or another, their words resonate, and sometimes their music will define or even soundtrack entire portions of our lives. For better or worse, certain places and memories will always be tied to their music, and for me one of those songwriters is Chris Knight. And so, it is my pleasure to feature Chris Knight today. No matter what happens, it’s something I will always look back on fondly. If you would like to learn more about Chris, his music or his upcoming tour, you can check out all of that via his website here. For now, enjoy this interview with Chris Knight. Also, check out the link to the song “The Damned Truth” at the end of the article. You can’t possibly tell me it’s not a song to define our times. That’s all for me, for now. Dig it.

Andrew:
Chris, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during all of this?

Chris:
Yeah. Been rough for a lot of people. We’re doing fine.

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Chris:
Always loved music. Started playing and singing for family and friends at 15. Started writing at 26. I got on a writer’s night in ’92 and met Frank Liddell. He got me my first writing deal in ’94. Signed me for my first record deal in ’96.

Andrew:
As a musician, who are some of your earliest and most important influences? How did you develop your signature style?

Chris:
I heard a lot of Pop, Rock and Rythm and Blues growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. I still listen to stuff all up through the 90’s. But around age 12, I started to gravitate towards singer songwriters and Southern Rock and Folk rock. I was listening to Rod Stewart when I was around 12. Every Picture Tells a Story. We had that album. The Eagles. My oldest brother went to work in the mines when I was 13 or 14 and bought a Pioneer sound system and a bunch of records like Charlie Daniel’s, John Prine, Johnathon Edward’s, Bob Dylan, J J Cale Jackson Browne, Neil Young. Picked up guitar at 15 and learned to play whatever I could. Learned a lot of John Prine songs. I tell people he taught me how to play and sing. I’d say John Prine and Steve Earle were my biggest influences. Hank Jr. was real important back then too. “Country Boy Can Survive.”

Interview: Chris Knight Discusses New LP, 'Almost Daylight'

Andrew:
You didn’t begin to write songs until you were in your mid 20’s and didn’t begin to perform until you were 30. Finally, you got your first record deal (with Decca Records) when you were 37. You’re a bit of a late bloomer from a musical standpoint. Tell us why it took a bit of time to get rolling for you.

Chris:
I did it when when there was no way that I wouldn’t. It was just time. I left a 10 year career in the mining and reclamation field. Took a $10,000 a year cut in pay. For some reason I just thought I could do it. If it didn’t work out, I figured I could go back to what I was doing. It wouldn’t have happened if I’d done it before.

Andrew:
Your first album, Chris Knight, is such an underrated classic. It’s a real gem. Songs like “Framed,” “House and 90 Acres,” “Love and a .45” and “It Ain’t Easy Being Me” feel like they should have been huge. That being said, what do you remember about the recording of your debut record? What was the inspiration at the time?

Chris:
I had a great time doing that record. We started doing preproduction on it in the fall of ’96. Guitar vocals that ended up being the Trailer Tapes. We drank a lot of beer doing that. Started out in my trailer where I lived. That’s where I wrote most of the songs. We took a while recording the record in the studio. We’d be in the studio from 10 AM til 10 or 11 PM then take off to some bar for half the night. Had a good time around Frank Liddell and Greg Droman and all the players. It was all pretty new to me.

Andrew:
Heart of Stone has always been a favorite of mine. That record is so gritty and real. Tracks such as “Hell Ain’t Half Full,” “Heart Of Stone” and “Danville” have such depth of songwriting. Where did you pull from for the songs on this record? What was the recording process like?

Chris:
The songs came from the same place they all do. Thinking stuff up, things I’ve seen and done, things I think. If I liked it but got stuck, I’d get with Dan Baird or Gary Nicholson or somebody and we’d just work on it ’til it was done. Every record I recorded with Dan was a hell of a lot of fun. We got a lot of live stuff. One song we were about to give up on (“Homesick Gypsy”) we just took a guitar vocal and built the track from scratch. One thing at a time.

Chris Knight - Almost Daylight - Amazon.com Music

Andrew:
Your newest record, Almost Daylight, features some of your most poignant songwriting. “The Damn Truth” is biting and “Go On,” as well as “Almost Daylight” take the listening directly to the scene you’re painting. With this newest record, what was your through line? That is to say, what was the overarching message you were trying to convey to your listeners?

Chris:
I was just trying to get the best songs that I had at the time down. That’s really all I’ve ever done.

Andrew:
As a songwriter, you often touch on some powerful and heavy subject matter, and you have a way of painting such vivid and relatable scene with your lyrics. I know often times songwriters lyrics can be deeply personal, and other times they’re merely telling stories. Which is it for you? Over time, how do you feel you’ve progressed as a songwriter?

Chris:
There’s usually something personal in my songs. Sometimes it’s more personal. It could be an emotion or something I’ve done or seen, or know about.

Andrew:
Your work has evolved so much over the years, but your delivery and style still shines through. What would you say the through line is which overarches your work?

Chris:
I just try to sing the songs like I mean it. 

Chris Knight's New Song 'William Callahan': Listen - Rolling Stone

Andrew:
Let’s talk about the state of the music industry a bit. What are a few things you would like to see change for the betterment of both the fans and artists alike?

Chris:
The music industry does what it wants to do. Get out and build you a fan base and do what you can with it. I’m not in to making businesses do what I want them to do, unless they owe me money. It’s pretty much on you to get out and make things happen.

Andrew:
In a world dominated by capitalism and social media, can indie artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Chris:
If you have the talent and the drive, you have a better chance of succeeding.

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most you and why?

Chris:
I just listen to older stuff. Running on Empty and Harvest are two. Souvenirs by Dan Fogelberg. It was great 70’s music. I was in my teens, learning to play. I was really in to music then.

Andrew:
Who are some of your favorite artists? Ones that mean the most to you.

Chris:
John Prine, Jackson Browne, Steve Earle, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Andrew:
With all the downtime we’ve been experiencing, can we hope for some new music from you soon?

Chris:
Have to wait and see.

Andrew:
Last question. You’ve maintained a strong DIY approach throughout your career, which is awesome. That said, what advice would you have for young artists just starting out? How do bands stay afloat in a world that seems to be so abhorrent to creatives?

Chris:
When you can, get out and play as much as you can. Work with good people. Keep your overhead down and try to build a fan base.

Songwriter Session: Chris Knight – Niangua Coffee

Interested in diving deeper into the work of Chris Knight? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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2 thoughts on “An Interview with Chris Knight

  1. Cracking interview with one of the best singer-songwriters in music. Been a fan of Chris’ since hearing Framed in ’97. Going to head out for a drive somewhere and listen to the Chris Knight album today, then take it from there.

    1. Hey Emma. Thanks for this awesome comment. Couldn’t agree more that Chris Knight is one of the best. He is consistently Chris Knight, which is one of his best qualities. His music is what got me into Country in the first place, and he’s become a staple in our house. Can’t wait for the world to be normal to get out there to see him live some day. I hope you get that chance soon too! Until then, enjoy your car rides listening to one of the greats!

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