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Charley Crockett On Oklahoma, The Blues, & Modern Country

Charley Crockett is a musician channeling an eclectic mix of blues, country, and gospel music. He will be touring through Tulsa on Saturday, June 29th at Cain's Ballroom. He released an album back in December 2018 and two songs earlier this year.

Matthew Viriyapah spoke to him over the phone while Crockett was still on the road in Tennessee. And it had been just a few days after he took the historic Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time.

Hear the interview above and read some highlights below.

On playing at the Grand Ole Opry

A big part of me in those situations just kind of—instincts take over. And I end up not thinking about it a lot when I'm playing... You have to hit this mode... I found that mode a long time ago so when I was at the Opry the other night, I was just in that mode.

...But already just having it been two days ago, now I start thinking about it, "Oh man, Hank Williams stood on that same hard wood floor." Now I'm thinking about it today and that's what's gonna happen. It's gonna affect me more over these next few days than it was at the time I was there.

On Oklahoma

I've always said, "I didn't ever see no border there between Texas and Oklahoma. I just see a really red river."

I think Texans in their heart feel like Oklahoma is still the same—its still the home country. My mama lived in Oklahoma as a kid for a time... The way I became a Texan was my mama ended up moving down to Texas from Oklahoma when she was like a teen, becoming a young adult.

...I think a lot of Oklahomans feel the same way. They got just as much kinfolk in Texas as they do in Oklahoma and vice versa.

And Oklahoma is native America. It's got an energy. It's got a thing.

On modern country and his latest album, Lil G.L.'s Blue Bonanza

Here's what I've learned, actually, is that country music is about the heart of Americans.

Like if I told you something I didn't like about country today, my complaint would be that with a lot of the stuff going on, the blues have been taken right out of country music in a lot of ways...

I believe that the way I do country music, I'm doing it as a blues singer and I'm nowhere near the first guy to do that. That's what Hank Williams was doing.

When you're talking about music from back in that day, both descriptions would be accurate. If you see it as country, well that's true. If you see it as blues, it's true. But it doesn't change the music. It's just a different title.

But for me, I've always heard it as blues musically and the way that I've learned even how to communicate what music is to me... it's from a foundation of blues.

On Cain's Ballroom 

It means a great deal to me. We're gonna lay it all out... I'm gonna give everything I got to offer on that particular Saturday night.

To be honest with you, leading up to before I played the Opry, I actually was probably thinking more about Cain's.

My grandfather has told me this—he don't tell these stories no more. He's in his mid-90's now, but up till just a couple years ago, everytime I go see him he always would me tell me this story about... them piling in this car off the farm. They were all off the farm up there in rural Arkansas. And they would drive in to Tulsa to watch Bob Wills at Cain's.

...Because of him telling me that story—because that being so much of my lineage, the picture that's painted in my mind about Cain's, it's just—well you can imagine.

It's larger than life.

Charley Crockett is on tour and you can find more information about him here. His new upcoming project is called The Valley and will be out later this year. Catch him this Saturday at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa.



Matthew Viriyapah is KOSU's production assistant and host of the music podcast Songwriters & Tour Riders.
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