Wednesday, September 5, 2007

the Texas Troubadors Interview with Randy Crouch

An Interview with Randy Crouch
Originally published on the old Texas Troubadours web site
1. Can you give us some background on yourself?
I grew up and moved around West Texas. My dad was a Methodist preacher so we moved to different towns, every few years around Lubbock, and Amarillo. I got involved in music because of my folks, they gave me a good musical background, I had piano lessons, and started playing ukulele and I got a guitar. When I first started playing I didn't really think anything was different between the Beatles music, or Roger Miller's music, and I started playing in bands, and I've been doin' it now since I've been a freshman in high school….it's been about 40 years now. Right now, I live out here in Talequah. Out in the woods in a dome that I kinda designed myself. We've been livin' out here for 20 years without electricity, and we're about to get it I think… we haven't got it yet. I'm going to have to get about eight poles put in… but I've been doin' fine all these years usin' my car battery. I've got a propane refrigerator, and have all the wood I need for heat. But I've started experimenting lately, getting a lot of different acoustical sounds playing slide mandolin, and my upright piano, and using my harp like a synthesizer. I've just always loved to come home to the woods, and rest up. I'm looking forward to getting a better recording studio… I've got one I've been using, and I have a generator I can turn when I want to. I've got some stuff for the new album recorded here at home, and I can't begin to imagine the possibilities if I got a better studio. I'd even like to have a radio station. We're real close to the Illinois River, and a lot of people come float theriver there, and in the valley they can't get any good stations from Tulsa. So, if I ever did it, I'd have a captured audience.
2. Who are some of your biggest musical and life influences?
Jimi Hendrix, I'm still tryin' to play his music, and learn the guitar parts to his stuff. I also got every one of the Beatles albums that came out, and the Stones albums, there for awhile I was so excited when a new album came out, and I'd go get it, and try to learn it, and I just kept doin' that to where I was writing my own music. When I got turned onto bluegrass, at the very first Winfield Festival, I got to see New Grass Revival, and shortly after that I started playing fiddle. I'm not sure how many Winfield Festivals they've had, probably 30 or something like that… that's about how long I've been playin' fiddle. My granddad played fiddle, and he was another great influence on me as well.
3. How much of an influence do you feel that Woody Guthrie has been on Red Dirt artists?
Well, that's one of the things that I feel that we all have in common. When I was learnin' guitar and learnin' to sing, he was always a hero. His songs had a common denominator that everyone understood, and appreciated. We'd play at the Woody Guthrie Festival, and we could feel Woody in all of our music, and the fact that everyone credits him. A lot of people tend to come together for that.
4. How would you define Red Dirt Music?
Well, I don't think I'd be the one who's able to define it, but it seems to have Oklahoma values, you know how Okies are real good at doing everything themselves, maybe a sense of independence about it. It's natural, and honest, and about real life. You know, it's almost like the way Woody approached music. There's one time I remember we played for 202 second graders at 9 o'clock in the morning, over at the Guthrie Festival. And we started singin', "This Land Is You Land," and they knew the words better than I did, and they sang so loud, and so good. Music can really be a positive force in the world, and I hope that's what the music down here is doing.
5. In what ways do you feel that Red Dirt Music has evolved over the years?
You know, there's quite a bit of rock and roll in it. We've had some real good luck, when we were in Colorado, we jammed with three different Grateful Dead type bands, and we did some Dead stuff on the anniversary of Jerry's death. All these guys that were playing in these Dead type bands were really enjoying our style, and what we did. Maybe it's evolved into…. Or maybe it's pulled in more styles, and gained more influences, almost like it's become a versatile sound.
6. What do you feel are the main differences between "Red Dirt" and "Texas Music?"
That's a good question. You can sure hear it, maybe the words. You know, there's a lot of things, that we borrow from each other I believe. Texas influence, and the Oklahoma sound, and I think we contribute some of our sound to Texas too. It seems like Texas has several different sounds, depending on what part of the state you're in too. In West Texas, you can hear sounds like that of the Flatlanders, when you go down to Austin, there's about any kind of music in the world that you could imagine. I've done some recording down there, infact, I think that's where I've done the majority of my recording… I just really like the area down there.
7. Do you feel that Red Dirt music can be carved into different niches based on the artist or band? What niche or element would you say CCR, JB&S, SLOBB, and TGD add to the scene?
I think so. That's well said. I think the Stragglers are startin' to sound like the Rolling Stones, they're really startin' to rock. Each one of those guys definitely puts their own personality into it, and each of those bands has their different crowds. I heard recently that Ragweed was coverin' Big Shot Rich Man too. (It's been covered previously by Boland, and is featured on Boland's latest CD, Live and Lit at Billy Bob's Texas).
8. Can you tell share the stories behind: - Big Shot Rich Man:
That was one of the first songs I wrote when I was playin' in a band called Home Brew. We kinda evolved into a country-rock sound, and we put some swing influence into it. At first, it had more of a folk sound to it, then it started swingin', and rockin', and developed into it's own song. Boland did one whole set of that one song…like a 45 minute version of it (laugh). Gary P. Nunn also did it on his album Border States. It was just one of those songs that I heard being sung in my head, and it just came out from there.
- Mexican Holiday:
That's another one of those songs that I wished was true. I haven't had a chance to go down to Mexico and make it come true yet. (laugh) I've been dreamin' about it… but the song is mostly just wishful thinkin.'
9. What are two of the songs you've written that haven't been heard that you're most proud of?
Well, my band is called the Flyin' Horse, because I kinda wrote an opera, a flyin' horse opera… a country rock thing… that's about how the aliens come down to help the cowboys catch the flyin' horses. I guess that would be one that I'm really proud of, and…I don't know. I've got a lot of songs about places in Oklahoma…Wichita Mountains is probably another one of my favorites. I wound up writing that while I was campin' out up there. If I had to pick two, those would be my favorites, then there's the song I wrote during the time we tried to stop the nuclear power plant from goin' into Tulsa, and that one's called The Sun and The Wind, and it's a solar power song.
10. How do you feel about other people's interpretations of your music?
I love it. I love to hear anyone's version of one of my songs. It's quite an honor I think.
11. Why do you think that there's a more prevalent scene in Stillwater, than places like Norman, or Tulsa?
I've always wondered that myself. (laugh) The guys cooperate really well down here. When I started playin' fiddle with Home Brew, we played this place called the Bar Ditch, a famous bar in Stillwater where Alvin Crow used to play, and a lot of Texas bands at the time played there…it was a real cool place, everyone was used to goin' there, and havin' a real good time. After the Bar Ditch, "The Farm" evolved, and there were always parties there, and it just gave everyone a chance to get together.
12. Lately, a lot of Red Dirt artists (IE Cross Canadian Ragweed, Jason Boland, etc) have been finding a tremendous amount of success within the "Texas scene." How do you feel that these groups have helped advance the Red Dirt scene?
It's like you said. They spread the music around. Everywhere they've been, they're troopers, and I think the way they're going they're going to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. All those guys are versatile, and I look forward to seeing how they develop.
13. Are there any artists and bands in the Red Dirt scene now that you feel are "on the verge" of breaking out and making a name for themselves, and if so, who?
Hopefully I will. (laugh) The people you've been namin', I think I jammed with every one of those guys, except for The Great Divide. There's going to be a folk convention in Nashville, in Feb. and I think a lot of us are going up to that, and I hope something like that will bring the people to us. I'll tell you who I think is real great, and that's Mike West, and he was one of the best banjo players that I've ever seen. He even produced one of Bill Erickson's albums.
14. What kind of impact do you feel that Texas artists have had on the Red Dirt scene and vice versa?
I think it's had quite a bit of an impact, but it's hard to give Texas credit, because Bob Wills went down there… we're all comin' from essentially the same roots. There were people like Doug Sahm, Asleep At The Wheel, but I think it all comes from the way that Bob Wills took all these musicians all over, collected songs, and put them together, and played them for everybody. I know that he's not the only one of course, but I have a hard time figuring out who's getting the real credit here. I know we've got a friendly rivalry going between Texas and Oklahoma..I started out being a Texan, but I hope that I'm an Okie now that I'm living here. You'd have to have had your head under the ground for the past 30 years to not have been influenced by someone in Texas. (laugh)
15. There seems to be this kinship among Red Dirt musicians. How would you describe the relationship that y'all have?
It's like we're friends first I think. From everything I've noticed, everyone's been pullin' for one another for so long, that it just comes natural. We just want what's best for one another. Seeing that tries to make me want to try harder to be a better musician
16. What inspires you to write?
I think it's different subjects… just when an idea hits me. I think the music is out there just wantin' to come out… life can inspire me, the other thing that inspired me was it being Christmas, and I'm in the middle of writin' a song about Jesus bein' a refugee.
17. Religion seems to play a huge role in many of the Red Dirt artists' lives. How big of a part does it play in your life?
Well, with my dad being a Methodist minister, I think that I've had real good exposure to God. I have spiritual values, but I think if you've got a message, and the music is good, it doesn't have to be religious or even life changing to somebody, if the song affects them, it's all good.
18. What are some of the toughest challenges you've faced, both personally, and musically and how have you overcome them?
Probably stayin' on the road, the fact that you don't always get paid, the fact that you really can't live a normal life. If I actually knew how to overcome it, I probably would be rich and famous. (laugh)
19. What do you find pleasure in when you're away from the music?
I like bein' in the woods, I like to be with my friends, fishin', I really don't want to do much besides play music, even when I am relaxing.
20. Where do you see the future of Red Dirt Music going? Hopefully all over the world. I think if we got far enough away, people would enjoy it more. (laugh)
21. How did you get tabbed with the nickname "Wildman?"
Oh…I've been runnin' pretty hard for a long time. I think the most important music comes after the gig, at the party, in someone's livin' room, or in the hotel room you know? I've been known to party a little bit. (laugh) I've also done crazy things on stage
(IE Crouch can play pedal steel guitar with his teeth, and can play fiddle and guitar simultaneously, although he plays the guitar with his feet).
I'm not really all that "wild," I don't think (laugh)… I probably got it more from the old days (laugh), but I can still throw a good party. (laugh)

22. What advice do you have for aspiring musicians and songwriters? Dedicate yourself to the music, and if you can, make a difference in this world.

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