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The Great Divide prefers to be called the "uncles" of the Red Dirt music scene

The Great Divide
Sierra Haney
The Great Divide

This is Songwriters & Tour Riders, a music podcast from KOSU hosted by Matthew Viriyapah.

Red Dirt band The Great Divide came out with a new album in 2022, titled Providence. It was the first album of new, original songs by the original lineup in 20 years. The band returned to Stillwater in 2023 with an additional member of the band, Bryce Conway, who prompted the latest release.

In this episode, hear Mike McClure, JJ Lester, and Kelley Green talk about what it was like going into the studio for their latest album, playing concerts in Stillwater, and why they prefer being called the "uncles" of the Red Dirt scene.

On playing Stillwater and their first album

Mike: Everybody they know comes out.

Kelley: Everyone you ever know comes out.

JJ: The show is amazing.

Kelley: That's why we only do it once every year or once every other year, because there's really only one place in town that we can put that, you know, that bigger crowd. It's cool because you'll get people used to come out, man. We used to watch you everywhere you went 30 years ago. And now they can make, you know, one show a year.

Mike: But what's funny is, you know, when we first started, you know, I was a terrible singer. I didn't want to sing. And, I still think those recordings are terrible. Now, people who come to a show— now, I'm comfortable with my voice— and they're like, man, you sound just as good as back in the old days. Well I hope so, cause the old days were terrible

JJ: I can't tell you how many people tell me that first album is their favorite record. And I'm like, God.

Mike: There's some magic. There's something that's magic on that record.

JJ: I totally agree. And it's not that the record's not good, it's just that we were so green and unprepared. We didn't have a clue what we were doing.

You go back and listen to that first record, and there is something magical about that. And you can just hear the want and hope in all of us, you know, just this naive—

Mike: Naive, terrible band just goes for it.

On new album, Providence

Mike: It was important for all of us to get the same room and build the song up from the floor like we used to. You know, instead of me just recording my parts, sending it to somebody, let them put a part on it because it was organic that way. And I think that's why this record feels like the old records because that's how we used to do it. And, so that was cool to do on this one. And then to have, you know, Bryce in there with his energy and excitement, it rubs off on all of us. And that was cool to make a record through his eyes and ears and, have him involved in it.

JJ: He would be like, 'Hey, Jay, man. Listen, I was thinking, you know, you guys like...' It's just this most random back and forth, and you're sitting there going, I think you're trying to ask me something. Just say it. And he would say, we need to make a record, man.

It certainly seemed like he was going and talking to individual parts of the band, when all he had to do was just talk to the whole band at one time. And we probably would have said, great, you know? But, he's just funny that way. He tries to paint this picture before he gets to the point.

I just want to know what you want, man. Just say it. You know, like a kid wanting to ask for candy or something and don't want to ask for candy. So you finally just have to say, just say what you want Bryce. We'll do it. Maybe that's his tactic. Maybe that is his wear down tactic.

Mike: It works. I mean, here we are discussing him and this record.

Kelley: We've actually had a lot of people say that listening to our new album, Providence, that they can pick out a song, and it'll remind them of one of our older songs from, you know, 25 years ago.

They're happy that we didn't go out and completely change our sound. But like Mike has said, you get the four of us in a room. And now with Bryce, we play the instruments the way we do, and you know, and it comes out, it's going to come out The Great Divide no matter what we're doing. But that's been the coolest thing is people saying they can hear old stuff in the new stuff.

Music featured in this episode:

  1. The Great Divide - I Can Breathe Again
  2. The Great Divide - Yesterday Road
  3. The Great Divide - Wrong is Overatted
  4. The Great Divide - Set It All Down
  5. The Great Divide - My Sweet Lily
  6. The Great Divide - Goin For Broke
  7. Bob Childers - Restless Spirits
  8. The Great Divide - Slippin' Away
  9. The Great Divide - Good Side

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