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Chris Jones & The Night Driver Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Chris Jones & The Night Driver Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Lamitschka:  Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?

Answer:  It’s acoustic music very much in the bluegrass tradition but with an emphasis on original music and distinctive arrangements.

Lamitschka:  How was the last year for you? What were your highlights?

Answer:  It was an exciting year for us, which included the release of our second album for Mountain Home records, and tours of the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Lamitschka:  What is your latest CD and how's it doing?

Answer:  The latest CD is called “Made to Move” and it was our first to feature our newest band member, banjo player Gina Clowes. It has done very well for us, producing four songs that were in the top 5 of Bluegrass Today’s weekly chart, including two number one songs, the title track, “I’m a Wanderer” and “All the Ways I’m Gone.”

Lamitschka:  How did you choose the title for the CD?  Is there a story behind the name?

Answer:  The title is taken from the song “I’m a Wanderer,” which has become one of our most popular songs. In the chorus it says, “I was made to move to the beat of my own drum,” so we called it “Made to Move.”

Lamitschka:  Do you write the songs yourself? If not, how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?

Answer:  We wrote most of them, with every member of the band contributing material. Half of the songs were written or co-written by me. When we don’t write them, I look to find newer arrangements of older songs. On this one we revived a 1970s country song, “You Always Come Back to Hurting Me,” one that he co-wrote with Tom T. Hall. Tom T. is a close friend of mine, so I have usually included one song he’s written on CDs of mine. In some cases, we’ve written songs together with his wife, the late Miss Dixie Hall.

Lamitschka:  Please tell us about the songs on your album (influences, etc).

Answer:  Jon Weisberger and I have been co-writing more songs, and on this one, we co-wrote four of the songs. We tend to write together by correspondence, since we don’t live at all near to each other. I will often come up with melodic and lyric idea, record it, send it to Jon, and he’ll start making additions or changes. This CD also includes a revival of a bluegrass standard but with a twist: It’s “Dark Hollow,” but I decided to combine Clarence Ashley’s “Dark Hollow Blues” with the “Dark Hollow” people are more familiar with to make a medley. It’s become a popular song for us.

Lamitschka:  What is the difference between your last CD and your current one?

Answer:  “Made to Move” is the first to feature our new banjo player Gina Clowes, so it has a different sound and rhythmic feel for that reason. We’ve been extremely happy playing with her, so we were excited to go into the studio and record in this combination.

Lamitschka:  Your current single is being played by radio. What do you feel is special about this song that makes people want to hear it?

Answer:  It’s an upbeat song, in both the tempo and the theme, so I think it makes people feel good. Jon Weisberger and I co-wrote it.

Lamitschka:  What will your next single be?

Answer:  A song called “Who You Want Me to Be,” which I co-wrote with Gina Clowes.
Lamitschka:  What is your favorite song among all the songs you have recorded and what's the story behind it?

Answer:  It’s hard to pick one, but one of my recent favourites is one I didn’t write: “I’m a Wanderer.” It was written by our bass player Jon Weisberger, along with Thomm Jutz and Charley Stefl. They played the demo of the song for me, and I loved it immediately. It just fit my voice very well, and I related very well to the subject, which is about being a traveller,  something I’ve been all my life. It also feels very natural to the band, so it came together very well in the studio.

Lamitschka:  How much creative control do you have over your music?

Answer:  I would say total creative control. That’s one of the things I appreciate about our record company, Mountain Home. They don’t try to make us fit into a certain mould or make us sound like someone else. We’ve never had them say, “we don’t like what you’re doing, please change it.” We do what feels musically right to us as a band.

Lamitschka:  There's a lot of work that goes into a number one hit. What did it take to make it in your case?

Answer:  I think it just requires finding or writing songs that are meaningful to people in some way and that have memorable melodies. Then it’s necessary to make sure that it comes through in the recording and production process.

Lamitschka:  Do you have any interesting stories about how fans have been affected by your music?

Answer: A lot of people tell us that they have been touched by the song “Final Farewell” because it’s about caring for those around us as if we might not see them again. Some people who have recently had a loved one die are often moved by this song. Someone in Ireland told me that he was listening to the song I wrote called “Raindrops Fell” while he was with someone and it helped them to fall in love!

Lamitschka:  Who inspires you musically and how deep do your musical roots run?

Answer:  The music of the Stanley Brothers was particularly inspirational. That’s music I’ve been listening to since I started getting serious about music, when I was around 15 years old. I was also very inspired by Doc Watson. Also because of my lower voice, I was influenced by country singers like Charley Pride, Merle Haggard, and George Jones.
Lamitschka:  What do you think about today's music industry?

Answer:  It’s challenging because so much music is available for free, and the way people are consuming music is changing very quickly, sometimes faster than we can keep up with. At the same time, a lot of doors have been opened for people because there are new ways to reach audiences that used to be controlled by a handful of companies deciding what people like.

Lamitschka:  As an artist, you so many tasks such as recording, touring, interviews. What do you like best, what's your favorite activity?

Answer:  As the song “I’m a Wanderer” says, I love to travel, and to meet and play music for new people. I especially appreciate international touring. I also love rehearsing and arranging songs, watching something new take shape.

Lamitschka:  What was your big break that got you into the music business?

Answer: My first full time job as a musician came as a result of a band answering an ad in a magazine. It was Special Consensus in Chicago (they’re still very active and successful). I auditioned for them while changing trains in Chicago, and they hired me.

Lamitschka:  What inspired you to become an artist?

Answer:  I just became consumed with the music when I was a teenager. After I played my first professional shows, I decided I wanted to try it professionally. I thought it would either work out, or I’d get it out of my system and try something else. I’ve been doing it ever since.

Lamitschka:  What inspired you to become a songwriter?

Answer:  I just started experimenting with it when I was around 20 years old, and I discovered that I had the ability to create new musical ideas, and to put emotions and experiences into poetry. It never occurred to me that I could, and now I can’t imagine not doing it.

Lamitschka:  What drives you?

Answer:  I’m driven by the desire to create new sounds. I also love the feeling of playing music with other people, and the magic that can happen there, so that also drives me. Singing is also a great personal and emotional release for me, so I love to do it. I’m driven by that, too.

Lamitschka:  What's unique about you that will differentiate you from other artists?

Answer:  For one thing, I’m a low-pitched singer playing music that’s known for tenor voices. I always try to make my singing and music serve the song, and not try to force it to be something else. I don’t like to hit people over the head with the music. I strive to make music that sticks with people, so they go back and listen to songs repeatedly, discovering new things about them.
Lamitschka:  What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights and achievements which you are proud of?

Answer:  I got to play guitar on the tune “Sally Goodin’” with Earl Scruggs and the Irish group the Chieftains (I was on tour with them at the time) on the U.S. TV show The Conan O’Brien Show. For any bluegrass musician, playing with Earl Scruggs is a dream, and I’ve always loved Irish music, too, so to play with him and the Chieftains at the same time was really exciting for me. I also played a couple of shows as Tom T. Hall’s band leader, and I got to play the same dobro that had been used on his classic recordings. The fact that we’re friends made this experience that much more meaningful to me.
Lamitschka:  When you get time off, how do you like to relax?

Answer:  After 20 years in Nashville, I now live in northern Alberta in western Canada, so when I have time off, especially in the winter, I do the ice sport of curling (which you may have seen in the winter olympics).
Lamitschka:  Many European fans travel to the United States to attend the several of the music festivals for the opportunity to see so many of their favorite artists, bands and celebrities. Will you be participating and how will the fans be able to find you?

Answer:  The best way is to check out tour schedule at chrisjonesgrass.com.

Lamitschka:  Is there any place you haven't played that you would like to?

Answer:  Though I have played in the former Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, I would like to play some areas of eastern Europe that I’ve never been to, like Poland and Estonia. I’d also love to play in Australia and New Zealand.
Lamitschka:  Many music fans today get their information about artists online. Do you have your own website and what will fans find there?

Social media: facebook,com/chrisjonesgrass3
Twitter: @chrisjonesgrass
Instagram: @cjnightdrivers
Lamitschka:  What message would you like to send your European fans?

Answer:  We love playing in Europe and meeting European fans. I also love riding the trains there. We can’t wait for our next tour there, which right now is planned for May of 2019.

Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de ) for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

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