NEW SINGLE FOR AISHLING AS TV DEBUT BECKONS ON GLÓR TÍRE
With 2022 shaping up to be the biggest year yet in her young career, rising country music star AISHLING RAFFERTYis set to get the year underway with a brand new single. With a first television appearance to look forward to when she takes to the GLÓR TÍRE stage under the mentorship of country superstar MIKE DENVER in the coming weeks, the Tipp lady is about to treat her ever-growing legion of fans to her take on SUDS IN THE BUCKET.
The song was a hit for American artist Sara Evans back in the early 2000s, a period now regarded by many as coming at the end of the country genre’s most recent golden-age in the States. Evans was one of the biggest names on the scene at the time, and Suds In The Bucket gave her a #1 back in 2004. Close on two decades later, and as her career continues to bloom here in Ireland, there’s every chance that Aishling – who is certainly putting her Tipperary homeplace of Knockshegowna on the Irish country music map – will take that song back to the top of the charts.
“We’ll see what happens”, laughs Aishling, “that would be lovely, of course! But the chart side of things is only a small part of what’s important when you release something new. And the charts can change so quickly too. It’s a lovely feeling when your single does well when it comes out, and that support from fans always means a lot to me. So yeah, hopefully it will get a good response to it. Fingers crossed, as always!”
2021 was a busy year for the Irish World Academy music student, with five very successful singles no doubt playing their part in bringing Aishling to the attention of Mike Denver who will be her mentor on TG4‘s long-running hit show Glór Tíre in the coming weeks. Darling, Say You’ll Love Me When I’m Old,Truck Driving Woman, Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Ol’ Days), Thanks To You, and Mama He’s Crazy all topped the Irish iTunes country chart. But not only that, all five singles quickly became fan favourites and made their presence felt at radio throughout the year, and indeed, are still being requested regularly. And it’s that same level of airplay that Aishling is hoping to achieve again with Suds In The Bucket.
“I still get excited whenever I hear one of my songs on the radio! I don’t think that feeling will ever get old for me, to be honest. And what’s really so satisfying as a recording artist is when you hear a song still being played months and months after you released it. To know that presenters and DJs still enjoy giving it a spin, and that fans still want to hear it, that’s the best feeling. With this new single, because of the time of year it is and everything, I wanted to give people something that was fun to listen to, something nice and upbeat. ‘Suds In The Bucket’ is always that kind of song for me when I hear it, and singing it always puts a smile on my face too. So hopefully with this song I can spread a few more smiles around the place!”
And as for Aishling’s soon to begin Glór Tíre journey, how is she feeling about that?
“I’m delighted to be taking part in the show this year. I was gobsmacked when Mike asked me to be involved. He’s obviously one of the biggest stars in Irish country, and has been for years. And Glór Tíre is a show that I’ve always watched on television growing up. I’ve even been down to a few of the ‘live’ shows in years gone by and I’ve loved everything about it. Now, to actually be a contestant this year, that’s an amazing honour for me. Everyone will have the same dream of possibly winning, of course, but that dream will only come true for one of us. That’s just the way it is, and I think once you’re ok with that, then you can really make the most of the experience. No matter what happens, I know it’s going to be a brilliant learning curve for me and that’s something that can only stand me in good stead in the future.”
With her voice of gold and a personality that glitters, not to mention a head fitted perfectly in place upon her young shoulders, the future is gleaming for Aishling. And already, 2022 promises to be an exciting next chapter.
~ SUDS IN THE BUCKET, the brand NEW SINGLE from 2022 GLÓR TÍRE contestant AISHLING RAFFERTY, will be available on all platforms from January 10th.
NEW SINGLE ‘BROTHER’ WINS BRENDAN NASHVILLE SEAL OF APPROVAL
Singer/songwriter BRENDAN KELLY has just announced the release of his brand new single. And not only has the midlands man gone down the road less travelled at this time of the year, he has something that’s a little different in store for his fans this time. And, what’s more, it even has a touch of Nashville stardust sprinkled over it, thanks to a BILLY RAY CYRUS and GRAND OLE OPRY connection. Already at radio, BROTHER – another original from Kelly’s own songbook – became available across all platforms on December 10th.
A powerful, driving track with an instantly anthemic feel to it, Brother showcases the energy that has long been a feature of Kelly’s ‘live’ shows, a fact that won’t surprise many given that Brendan is well-known as ‘the entertainer’ in his native Longford. With a definite country-rock vibe pulsing through the number and giving it its heartbeat from start to finish, Brendan describes Brother as a, “song based on the bond between brothers and friends growing up”.
He continued, “It’s a song about always having each other’s backs, never running away from whatever was in front of us, always being there for each other. As time goes by, even when life gives you a hard time – whether it be mental health, financial or family issues, anything – we will always be there for each other, ready and willing to give advice and support to each other. It’s about being able to remind someone, especially when it’s what they really need to hear, that things will get better for them, and not to worry about it because until it does, you’ll be right by their side.”
While written from the perspective of his own life and experiences, Brendan is quick to point out that the sentiment is what’s most important about the song, and that he hopes it’s one everyone will be able to relate to and apply to their own lives, and circle of friends.
“Listen, we’ve been through – and we’re still in – the strangest of times, and it’s tough for everyone. So if ever there was a time for people to know that they’re not alone, then it’s now. And that’s the feeling, the sense of reassurance really, that I hope people will get from this song. Sometimes a song can be the one thing that somehow changes a person’s mood, or gives them a lift when everything is just getting on top of them a bit. If ‘Brother’ can be that song for even one person somewhere, then for me as a writer – and for me just as another human being too – that’s a feeling of gratitude that’s really immense.”
Indeed, when it comes to gratitude, well that’s a subject Kelly knows a thing or two about. When he was just six years old he was involved in a road traffic accident that saw him pronounced clinically dead. Although miraculously revived in hospital, he was left paralyzed and informed that he would never walk again. However, neither life nor those doctors could have foreseen the strength of character that was – after numerous surgeries over many years – to defy all the odds. As Brendan now laughs, “You could say that it was good preparation for a life in the music business!”.
“During my trip to Nashville back in 2019, I had the pleasure of meeting loads of people in the music scene out there. And out of that, I ended up chatting to members of Billy Ray Cyrus’s band. After hearing me sing ‘Brother’ they loved it, and actually wanted to be part of the production for the song. So, not only do I have a gentleman called Chris Condon, who is Billy Ray Cyrus’s musical director, playing on ‘Brother’, but he’s joined by a man called Mark Beckett, who is regularly the man behind the drums at the Grand Ole Opry as well. I was even invited to play the Grand Ole Opry in 2020, but as we all know now, Covid had other plans. But I’m a strong believer in the old saying that delays are not denials. So we’ll see what 2022 brings! No matter what, though, ‘Brother’ is already a song that has blessed me so much, something I’m very grateful for. And the beautiful thing is that it’s only getting started.”
In every genre of music, creation is the real life-force that drives everything forward. On the Irish country scene, a landscape too often handicapped by a reluctance to step out of the past and give new music a chance, Kelly remains one of those troubadours intent on blazing his own trail nonetheless. Brother is the latest example of this, and indeed, is a further example of the depth of Brendan’s determination to shape his own identity in all he does.
Not only will Brother win him new fans, and deservedly so – something it’s already proved in the home of country music itself – it will inspire new artists to seek their own true voices, too.
~ BROTHER, the brand NEW single from BRENDAN KELLY, is OUT NOW, available to request from radio stations nationwide, and also available on all digital platforms.
Firstly, as the last chance of any possible resolution to the GARTH BROOKS concert fiasco finally fades away into an epic failure of Craggy Island proportions (minus any funny side!), and the nightmare scenario of complete cancellation begins to unfold, let me be straight up about the fact that I still write this piece as a Garth Brooks fan.
Have always been one and will always be one.
Secondly, let’s be clear about this, also: no-one in their right mind is suggesting that this is a disaster such as the Stardust tragedy say, or a wrongdoing akin to Bloody Sunday. Of course not.
However, in the context of what this could have been, what it was planned to be, and what it has now become, this certainly is an unmitigated disaster and a mess-up of unrivaled folly.
A shortage of time and space mean I can only touch on some aspects of this crazy episode today, but as the fall-out begins there are some points which, I for one, feel must be made.
From the moment this shambles of a century first blind-sided our summer, far too many people have been quick to take aim and open fire on both Brooks and Aiken Promotions, painting them as everything from greedy to petulant to irresponsible. Exactly the kind of outbursts you’d expect when people engage their mouths before involving their heads – or enough of the facts – in any part of their thought construction process.
One ‘ramble’ worth dismantling is the notion that Brooks should somehow have been happy to play three shows and just get on with it, because it was only two to begin with anyway.
Listen folks, Garth Brooks didn’t ride into town and demand Croke Park for five nights. Tickets went on sale for two and when he heard that those had sold-out but there were still many more fans that had missed out on tickets, he simply said, well, let’s play for those guys too! And that’s what happened with shows four and five as well. The fans wanted to see him, and as long as they did, he wanted to play for them. Simple.
Brooks wasn’t making demands, he was in-demand. Big difference. Famously, Brooks spent twenty-three hours shaking hands and signing autographs for fans at Fan Fair in Nashville in 1996. He waited until every last fan who had queued up to see him and say hi had done just that. Brooks, you see, doesn’t just talk about taking care of his fans, he follows through. Hence his problem with not being able to treat all ticket holders for these shows the same way.
Remember too, that this was not Peter Aiken’s first rodeo. He has, working within the constraints of the licensing system as it stands, brought stars like Springsteen, Young, Dylan and more to our shores. The man is a professional whose reputation for doing things right has been hard-earned and is well deserved. To always wait for a license to be granted before putting tickets on sale would have one sure and certain result, that of Ireland fast becoming a venue of little interest to big acts. Big acts need to plan ahead. You can’t plan ahead if you have to have every last i dotted and t crossed before the wheels start turning. Not as things stand at the moment. If no big acts were able to work Ireland into their plans, you’d have the very same people now hollering that no tickets should have been sold without a license, screaming for an element of flexibility so that Irish fans wouldn’t miss out.
This has never happened to Garth Brooks before. It’s never happened to Aiken Promotions before.
So, what other variables are involved here? The G.A.A. (who knew they had an agreement with local residents), Dublin City Council (fronted by a man who once sanctioned the build of a cycle track around a roundabout!), and the residents groups (whose complaints have now been determined to include up to 40% forgeries).
Looking for someone to blame for the shambles of a century? Don’t look at Garth Brooks or Peter Aiken, folks.
The door of the walk-in closet in my old bedroom at home in Lusmagh is kind of like a scrapbook of my life up to a certain point. Little reminders of people, places and times in the shape of stickers, photos, pictures cut from magazines and newspapers, and tickets to various events, all act like an always visible time capsule of sorts!
Looking back now from a distance of almost two decades, it’s funny, but somewhat reassuring too in their familiarity, to see who and what mattered most in those ‘bygone’ days.
There’s the newspaper cutting of a smiling Eric Cantona on the day he joined Manchester United from our then great rivals, Leeds. Similarly, there’s one of Roy Keane in one of his earliest appearances for the Red Devils. There are stickers of Mick McCarthy, Ireland’s captain at Italia ’90, and of Andy Townsend, the man who led us out in the U.S.A. 4 years later. As a keeper myself back in the day, pride of place was also afforded to images of the net-minders I strove to match for madness; Peter Schemeichel, Neville Southall, Peter Shilton, Tony Coton and, of course, our own Packie Bonner and Shay Given.
Resting among all of those is the reason why the New England Patriots are the NFL team with first call on my heart when the search is on for Super Bowl glory: a giant, bright silver foil sticker of the team crest that came in a Christmas stocking from my grandad back when my birthdays were still in single figures!
And, in the middle of all those sporting bits and pieces, a sticker of….Madonna! I guess her, ahem…music, had a big influence on me when I hit my teens!
In the late summer and early autumn of the nineties last year, I fulfilled a dream by paying a visit to Nashville, THE place to go or be for any country music fan. While there I had the opportunity to visit the Grand Ole Opry twice, once for a regular Saturday night show and then again for the final dress rehearsal of that years 33rd annual CMA Awards, where I sat transfixed as I watched the likes of George Strait, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain and Brooks & Dunn go through their set ahead of that evening’s live televised show. Tickets to both those nights are still treasures that bring back so many memories every time I glance at that door in my old room.
But, there’s one more ticket on there, one that simply stands miles and miles of memories ahead of all else. It’s fairly faded now, as you’d expect, I guess, after 17 years of daylight shining in on it. But if you stand close enough you can still quite clearly read what it says: GARTH BROOKS, CROKE PARK, PITCH STANDING, SAT. 17TH MAY 1997.
Now folks, if you were to go by some peoples’ reaction to the recent news that the above-mentioned Mr. Brooks is set to return to these very shores this summer, you’d swear it was the second coming they were expecting. Which, of course, it isn’t…
Because it will, in fact, as any dedicated and true disciple of Garth will know, be the third coming!!
Due in no small part to his own self-imposed retirement so that he could spend more time with his children while they were still young and growing up, it’s now been a long 17 years since the Oklahoma native last tipped his hat to an Irish audience. Back then, in an Ireland that was only just beginning to hear the first stirrings of a murmur from the Celtic Tiger that would be allowed grow up to devour us, Garth held court over 3 glorious nights that have since gone down in legend! A sea of Stetson wearing, stars ‘n’ stripes waving fans greeted him with a welcome on the Richter scale and, when they weren’t hanging on his every word, they were singing along to every word with him!
Even though he’d experienced these same phenomena during his run of 8 sell-out nights at The Point, the effect of it on a scale as large as Croke Park genuinely seemed to surprise and move him. So much so, that he promised if we’d wait for him, then when the re-development of Croker was a done job, he’d come back to us again for more of the same! Few at the time – himself included in all likelihood – could have imagined that wait would turn out to be the larger part of two decades.
But now that the wait is nearly over, none of that matters. No-one is looking back anymore. Since last Monday week all eyes are focused forward and the countdown to 2 nights in July has well and truly begun. Garth is becoming more than a memory again.
That fading ticket pinned on my closet door is so much more than just a reminder of a concert. Not least of all because it was my very first time in Croke Park (I know, I know, shame on me as an Offaly man, I can hear some of you tut to yourselves! Well, don’t worry. I’ve been back since…once, for Take That a couple of years ago! Another never to be forgotten musical extravaganza! So mock at will, I’ll take the blows, it was worth it!). Another reason is because it was just 2 days after my 21st birthday, so in more ways than one that May night was a milestone event for me. A Garth Brooks show, you see, is so much more than just a concert! It’s more like a big party with the kind of host who just wants to make sure that EVERYONE there has fun and goes home smiling and hoarse! And yet, it’s even more than that too…
For me back then, as a young ‘wannabe’ songwriter (as opposed to now, say, and being a somewhat older ‘wannabe’ songwriter!), the moment that defines the memory of the night came when Garth walked out to a little platform a ways out from the main stage and more in the middle of the crowd, and sang Unanswered Prayers and If Tomorrow Never Comes by himself with just his guitar for accompaniment.
One man. One voice. One guitar. And over 80,000 people held in the palm of his hand.
To this day I have never witnessed as masterly an example of the power of music. On one level, of course, it was a professional entertainer at work. But on another, it was what it was, and no more than that: a dude who loves to sing, singing some truly beautifully crafted songs. And that, I’ve always believed, is the key to ‘getting’ Garth Brooks. To him the songs really matter. They come first, always. They have to. And from there everything else, whatever it may be or become, has a chance to happen.
He said on this subject once, “If I’m driving down the road and something comes on the radio and it makes me think, and it upsets me – that’s good! If you’re upset after a song, that’s good. It’s as good as crying after a song, or it’s as good as changing your life after a song. As long as it brings an emotion then you know you’re living.”
Sometime, somewhere, I want to see someone hold 80,000 fans under a spell while singing a song I wrote. That’s a dream that was born that night back in ’97, one I owe to Garth. That’s the power of music, a power Garth knows he has.
Speaking even before his first Irish shows at The Point, he stressed that, “Music is a very, very powerful thing. Passion and emotion. So even though this thing, my career, could all end tomorrow – and I must live it like it might – I also have to rely on my first goal, and that is to consume that power, to try and emote people to do things that they wouldn’t have done, to take people out on the edge that have been playing it safe. Because I think that when we all extend ourselves, only better things come.”
To some, Brooks has never been more than either an overly emotional, American showman, or a shrewd and canny marketing whizz who has always had an eye on the bottom line. But what, exactly, is so wrong with someone getting emotional from time to time anyway? People often forget that Brooks is a very talented songwriter too, and as such, he’s bound to be more in touch with his emotions than those in other jobs or professions. No right or wrong about it, it’s just how it is. It goes with the territory.
The very first track on his self-titled debut album, Not Counting You, for example, is one of his own songs. He’s also co-written hits like If Tomorrow Never Comes, Much Too Young(To Feel This Damn Old),The Thunder Rolls and What She’s Doing Now, to name but a few from back in the early days.
Similarly, where’s the big problem with his having a sharp business brain and a competitive instinct? After all, he studied marketing and he has a strong sporting background. If neither area came into play in his career, THEN something would be wrong! But no, folks, if you judge him by the hat, the tears or the numbers, then you’re missing the point. To ‘get’ Garth Brooks, you only have to listen to the music.
People often forget that while albums like No Fences and Roping The Wind sold well into double figures millions-wise, his first album, Garth Brooks, moved only 20,000 copies to begin with. Over time, though, that too pushed close to the 10 million mark. And the reason has nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of marketing magic. It was all down to the music. While it’s probably true to say that later albums, Sevens and Scarecrow in particular perhaps, did suffer from some material that doesn’t carry quiet the same emotional punch as earlier releases, every other collection has been built with album tracks that are every bit as deep, strong and true-to-life as the hit singles have been.
Garth Brooks had If Tomorrow Never Comes and The Dance, but it also had Alabama Clay and I Know One.
No Fences had The Thunder Rolls and Friends In Low Places, but it also had VictimOf The Game and Wolves.
Roping The Wind had Rodeo and The River, but also Against The Grain and Burning Bridges.
The list goes on. Even Sevenshad its own gems in I Don’t Have To Wonder and Belleau Wood, and Scarecrowhad The Storm and Thicker Than Blood.
Lest there be any doubt about it at this stage of the game, let me just state it for the record, so to speak: I am a huge Garth Brooks fan. I’ve grown up listening to his music, and I’ve grown listening to his music. I’ve lived life to his music. I’ve learned from and been inspired by his music. And I have no doubt that all of the above will continue to be so.
If I’m lucky enough to get my hands on a ticket for July, I know Garth won’t have any reason to tell me apart from any of the other thousands of faces that will be smiling back up at him. Just like he didn’t know I was there looking up at him, awe-struck, in ’97. But, just like in ’97, I ‘ll walk away knowing I’ve enjoyed something amazing and very, very special indeed.
The kind of night from which dreams – big dreams – are born. And, why not? And, from July on, please God, there’ll be a new addition to that old closet door at home, something to remind me why Garth has always been more than a memory. And why he’s more than a memory once again.
CAPTURING EMOTIONS FROM THE HEAD DOWN TO THE HEART
The very first time I heard their song Love Is War (Billy Montana, Kylie Sackley, and Jonathan Singleton) I became a fan of AMERICAN YOUNG. All it took was those few minutes. In fact, as is always the case with the best songs, it really only took a few seconds. As beautiful songs go, this one is well within the realm of perfection for me. You just want to play it again, and again, and again.
Then I heard Be Here , actually written by American Young‘s Kristy Osmunson and Jon Stone (together with Jennifer Denmark and Tiffany Goss), and it was the same feeling all over again. Just leave me in a room with those two songs on repeat and I’ll be happy for a long time.
I had a vague idea who American Young were for some time, because I knew that Kristy had previously been a member of Bomshel, as well as writing one of my favourite Joey & Rory songs, Cheater, Cheater. And I’d seen Jon’s name pop up every now and then as a songwriter on tracks like Me And My Gang from Rascal Flatts, Seven Days by Kenny Chesney, and Lee Brice’s A Woman Like You.
But let me tell you, finally getting my hands on American Young‘s AY album proved that there was definitely far more to this duo than just two great songs. Try an album’s worth. If you listen to God Sends A Train, to Point Of View, or Eighteen (with Lee Brice), or Soldier’s Wife (Don’t Want You To Go), and come back to me with a report that’s anything less than along the lines of “Wow!”,”Stunning”, or “Man, that did my heart good!”, then we can’t be friends! I already know AY will be a go-to album for me for all kinds of good days and bad days for a long time to come.
And after finally having the chance to catch up with Kristy for a chat, I also know that I can’t wait for the next American Young album, and the one after that, too. In other words, the songs on AY had already made me a fan of American Young, but Kristy’s passion, energy, and sense of fun, made me a fan for life. Charisma, I think some would call it. And others would say it’s a good soul that has that kind of effect. All I know is that Kristy most certainly has the former, and in my opinion, is certainly the latter, too.
The first question I had was something that I’d been wondering about for a while: where did the name American Young actually come from?
“So, it’s kind of funny actually, cos’ I was born in Canada, but I grew up in Idaho, and Jon came from Eugene, Oregon, so we like being in the woods a lot and exploring our country, ya know, being out camping, and hiking, and horseback riding. When we first started writing we were basically just talking about where we’d come from, that was how we started the conversation, about being from the Pacific North-West, because the parks out there are so beautiful. Anyways, I think it was on our first or second co-write, I was just playing some music, a song I’d written with a friend from Australia actually, and it was called ‘Young In America.’ It was an observational song about how fun our summers are, travelling around the U.S. And Jon goes, ‘Hey, American Young, that would be a dope name for a band!’ I was sitting there with my laptop in my lap so I Googled americanyoung.com and it was available! And I was like, ‘Wait! We need a band named American Young, that’s like the greatest band name I’ve ever heard!’ [Laughs] So yeah, that’s basically how it came about [laughs].”
Kristy and Jon are passionate in the extreme about what they do, and who they are as performers, musicians, and songwriters. In fact, they’ve often referred to American Young and their fans as being more akin to a movement than anything else. So, I asked Kristy, if we were to actually think of American Young as a movement, how would she describe what it stands for and represents?
“I think, the younger generation today, we communicate faster. We have social media, it’s a digital age. Jon and I really, when we’re not playing music, we’re just talking about the greatest things on the planet that mankind is doing, ya know. Like Tesla, right! And going to Mars, and the Invictus Games in Toronto yesterday [the day before we spoke]. Those kind of things that are happening on a global level. But also, we just talk about great ideas, like cool new hospitals that our friends are building, with amazing new treatments that are available. So I think, yeah, that’s the movement, just focusing on what’s good.”
From everything I’d seen and read about Kristy and Jon, there seems to be a very special, and real, connection between them. It feels like something exists in American Young that neither had experienced in their careers before, although both had been very successful, nonetheless. What character traits did Kristy think she and Jon possessed as individual artists that made them click together so well as a duo?
“Well, I’m usually living in a land of melody and love, ya know, everybody loves each other and everything is good [laughs]. But I really believe in the goodness of people, and the beauty that’s in the music that surrounds us all the time and is constantly flowing. And Jon is a natural editor, he’s a very critical thinker. So I’ll be saying a million ideas and he’s there narrowing it all down, focusing content, which for me is good. Because I write all day long, like, every day [laughs], ya know. He kinda thinks totally opposite to how I do. He’s very critical, and very logical, so that’s good.”
When it comes to her songwriting, does Kristy have a routine that she tends to follow? Or is she more likely to be led by the moment?
“When I wake up – and this is the only part of my work-out, right, it’s meditation – I really try to spend some time in quiet for a while. Some people call it meditation, some people call it prayer. But I think it’s a good idea to get open to the spirit every day. But then, you know, it’s like melodies are everywhere! O.k, like this weekend…I was working with something called Operation Song, and basically what we do is we write with soldiers who have come back from service. They write about their experience, and we put it to music. And this was the first time we’d done it with a soldier’s child, the kids of people who have died while serving their country. So I had four kids to write with, and what we do is just tell their story. One girl, she could remember her dad, everything about how he was up until she was seven, and we put that in a song, and her and her sister sang it. Another girl, she wrote a letter to her dad, about what she wanted to say to him now, and we put that in a song. And to watch that transformation happen with these young girls, it’s so powerful and empowering to have someone tell their stories to music, and find the healing that comes in that. And getting the emotions that come from the head down to the heart, ya know? And that’s what music does.”
If you’ve been lucky enough to have ever caught Kristy and Jon performing ‘live’, then you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say Kristy, in particular, has a sense of energy on stage that seems never-ending! If you’ve never seen American Young ‘live’, in person, just check out some of their ‘live’ videos. That same sense of energy will explode out of the screen towards you at times. But I wondered what was the difference between the sense of satisfaction Kristy gets from performing, and as a songwriter, the sense of satisfaction that comes from writing?
“The songwriting is a very selfish point for me, unless I’m telling someone else’s story, because it’s usually very personal and I’m talking about myself. So it’s….yeah, very selfish [laughs]. But I feel this massive catharsis having put some sort of nonsensical feeling and emotion into some sort of sense [laughs]. And then the performance aspect, well that’s where it [the songwriting] lives. So I was telling one of my kids yesterday, as he was listening to his friend play a song, I said ‘This is like that old idea of if a tree falls in a forest, but there’s no-one there to hear it fall, does the tree really fall?’, and he was just like, ‘Whhaaaat?!?!’ [laughs] But that’s the thing; if a song is sung and there’s nobody there to hear it, there’s no gift, because there’s no-one there to receive the gift. So that’s a constant communication interchange and exchange at concerts, when the performance is happening. There’s the speaker and there’s the listener, and you can’t really have one without the other. I think they’re inextricably linked. I also think, that from when you make it ‘live’ in a performance, when it comes alive, it has a moment to speak to other people who will have gone through their own experiences. For us, and this is how I’ve always been, if we’re having a show, a performance, then after we’re done I sit and talk to everybody! And people tell me their stories. And it’s really an incredible moment of community to have happen.”
I love American Young’s song, God Sends A Train, both because the lyric is so astonishingly raw and on-point, and because the song is a representation of such a key part of Kristy’s own life. The first time I heard the chorus, I literally felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I’m sure Kristy’s been asked countless times if God Sends A Train is a tough song to sing, given how deeply personal it is. But what intrigued me was the thought of how tough it possibly was to write, travelling through all of those memories, bringing those emotions back to the surface in the present, and at the same time, trying to keep in mind the craft of writing a song….
“Well, you know that’s why God sends us angels! Bob Regan, he was our N.S.A.I. (Nashville Songwriters’ Association International) President for years, and he has been such an unbelievable resource, and co-writer, for this community that is Nashville songwriters. I wrote ‘Fight Like A Girl’ with him, I wrote my whole first Bomshel record with him, almost all of it with him. I’ve written so many songs with him, probably a hundred! I was in my thirties, I think, when that day finally came [to write the song]. I mean, I’d known I needed to write it, but I had no idea how to put it into music. We had written together for maybe ten years, Bob and I, when this day came and I said, ‘Bob, have I ever told you this is kinda my life story?’, cos’ I was always walking in in the drama of the moment usually! [laughs]. This day, I think I was finally ready to go back there, and I must have spent an hour, at least, telling him this story. Maybe two! [laughs]. It was from the time my parents had gotten divorced, to having that juxtaposition of having a step-parent come into your life, it interrupts the flow of childhood, ya know. The adolescent part of me was very offended [laughs], but at the same time, the child part of me was very afraid. So I was sitting there going through all of these emotions telling Bob this story. And then as well, I had gotten to a point where I hadn’t spoken to my mom in a long time and I just kind of froze a bit on that emotional level, I think. So, we wrote this song, ‘God Sends A Train’, and I literally thought it was my ‘burn-letter.’ I felt like, o.k, I’ve written down the lyrics, now I’m gonna have a good cry about it, there ya go. It’s just another story in my life. But I played it for my mom and it was hands-down the most healing thing that’s ever happened. And she, in her amazing wisdom, was just so accepting. She was like, ‘You know what, it’s your story. It’s your childhood story, your adolescent story.’ And that’s the way that it felt. It was scary, but it was also o.k for it to be that. And since I’ve been playing it, so many people have told me the ‘train-moments’ from their life, whatever those might have been. Something that makes you stand up and go, ‘Oh my goodness, life is precious, and it’s a gift every day.’ [It makes you ask yourself] am I one-hundred per-cent honest in my relationships? Am I responsible in my relationships? And for myself? And am I having fun, ya know? [laughs]. We’ve got to stop and ask these questions and make sure we’re present and conscious in the moment, it’s so important.”
I saw a brilliant quote from Kristy where she remarked that, “Playing music has given me rocking-chair stories that no money could ever buy.” Looking back on those experiences today, are there any particular pieces of advice or wisdom that Kristy’s picked up along the way which she feels would be important to share with others in the business, not just as performers, but as songwriters, too?
“Ammm….well, I guess you’re not supposed to say ammm, that’s probably number one! [laughs]. Be honest. I mean, there are no secrets [to success]. The world is a small town, so I think it’s the most important thing, and it never hurts, to just be honest. I mean, sometimes it does hurt! [laughs]. But at the end of the day, love wins, so honesty is always the best thing. And write every day. Every. Day. Even if it’s just getting a pen or a pencil – or your phone or whatever – but writing it down by hand, I find, is a bit more cathartic, but write every day. That’s just so important. And write fearlessly every day, that’s a good idea. And always assume, at least for me this is what I have to do when I walk into a co-write, I have to establish and assume safety and trust. Because we’re getting ready to bare the most vulnerable parts of our souls to each other. So, in that moment there has to be an agreed upon trust, a confidentiality. Cos’ in a co-write, man, it’s like an exorcism! You go through the whole thing! [laughs].”
Kristy said once that she saw American Young as taking “….country music into the future.” I asked her if she could expand a little on what she meant when she said that?
“We [country music right now] are commercial country, I mean, we’re capitalists, right. Everything that I’ve seen since I moved to Nashville, on so many levels, has to do with the commercial side of things. Which is awesome, because you see this pop/rock country explosion! And we’ve sold so much Bud Lite! [laughs] We’ve sold soooo much beer! [tongue firmly in cheek here, I feel!] But I hail back to the days of the nineties country, and prior, and Blake Shelton and Miranda stayed doing it, they were telling honest stories. And to me, I just really cling to the honesty, and the truth, and the storytelling. That’s really the heritage and the landmark legacy of country music. And I think that’s where country music needs to go again, that’s kind of what I was getting at. Cos’ we tell, and we sell, the truth, ya know. Did that answer any of your question? I’m sorry [laughs].”
Speaking of the country music industry as a whole, if it was all under Kristy’s control, and if the power was in her hands to make a change that she feels would be a positive one for artists and songwriters, effective immediately….what would that change be? (By the way, this is clearly something Kristy feels strongly about, and rightly so – and I agree with her one hundred per-cent – because once she knew what direction the question was going in, she began her answer before I’d even finished the question! Passion. It’s irreplaceable!)
“Play more women. I would play more women. Most of our [country music] audience is women. And right now in the Top Twenty in the charts there’s like only two girls, I think. And I think that’s alienating a huge, huge part of our audience. At our shows, or country festivals, I see like seventy per-cent women out there. And then the guys are there for the girls! I got dropped one time from a record label, and they said country radio is gonna spend ten years not playing women! And I said that’s just craziness, it doesn’t even make sense. And he said to me, but women don’t buy women! And I was like, that’s not real!! Just look at my iPod! And I am, indeed, a woman! [laughs]. And I buy women. So yeah, if I had my say, that would be it. I believe in equal opportunity and representation. And I’m also going to add one more thing I think we need to do: expand our cultural representation! I mean, Charlie Pride is not the only black country music singer out there! There’s so many! And there’s many Hispanics, too. It’s [country music] a global conversation. And Nashville is a global tourist location, so I think well, why can’t we represent different countries, and languages, and races, and religions, and sexes? To me, that’s what I would do.”
My first chat with Kristy will definitely live in the memory, and for all the right reasons. If I wasn’t already a fan beforehand, I definitely would have been by the end of our conversation. From first question to last, Kristy’s company was a pleasure, and I look forward to when we get to do it again sometime. So, to finish, a nice, easy, question…like, what might Kristy’s all-time favourite country song be???
A few moments of silence followed, as Kristy contemplated her response….
“‘The Dance’, by Garth Brooks. Because I get emotional even when I just think about it, ya know? I think the first time it really hit me was when I was at my cousin’s graduation in Denver, Colorado, and they played it. And I remember just crying, and watching everybody else crying, because they were all embarking on this transition in life. And life, and the song, is all about the risks that we take.”