Americana Highways’ Key to the Highway series photo by David Nowels
Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Kevin Gordon:
AH: How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?
KG: Black, hot, and strong.
AH: What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road?)
KG: It would have to be a motel that my road manager and I stayed in, somewhere in NJ, after I opened for John Prine in Montclair (NJ) earlier that night–this was pre-app world–you still had to call the individual property to get a room. The guy who answered the phone was creepy; sex-offender serial-killer creepy. But it was late, I was having trouble finding a room for anything less than $200, and we were exhausted. We pulled in and all eyes were on us–it felt like every one of those very felonious looking guests sitting outside their rooms were staring us down. We loaded every single thing out of the van that could be rationally or irrationally determined to be of any value into our room. But it really didn’t matter, because there was a big gash in the door where the deadlock used to be. Anybody with any effort could’ve come in at any time. At 8pm that night I had been on top of the world, opening for one of my favorite songwriters (and human beings) in a beautiful old theater, and at the end of his set I sat in with him and the band and did “Paradise” with them; four hours later I thought I was going to die in an unlit parking lot. Quite a night.
AH: If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is? And why?
KG: Any Jimmie Vaughan record. I love his guitar playing, and how it’s more about feel and tone than about fast licks–though his distinctive style, how his left hand moves, can provide plenty of what-the-hell-was-that curiosity for any player watching/hearing him. Plus there’s no better shuffle drummer than George Raines, who, to the best of my knowledge, has played on all of JV’s records. Blues has always felt like traveling music to me, and Jimmie is one of our very best, someone who transcends the cliches of the genre simply by being himself.
AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?
KG: The latest talisman is a blue marble an old friend from Louisiana gave me when I saw her up in NY state last summer.
AH: What is your relationship with food? How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?
KG: It’s a battle; when I’m on a nice tour and there are quality meals provided, that makes it easier to eat well. Left to my own devices I’m not always so wise: Comfort food. Road food. Though with my ever-increasing “level of maturity,” I’m getting better about it. The older you get, the more your body has a say in the matter. If I can find good Thai or Vietnamese, that always feels healthy.
AH: If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?
KG: I’m fascinated with northern New Mexico. Beautiful vibrant landscape, and despite the onslaught of gentrification, you can still find places that are rural, where you can have a more direct personal connection with the natural world around you.
AH: What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?
KG: “Don’t lose your cool”–my old friend Bo Ramsey, quoting Albert Collins.
Find all things Kevin Gordon, here: https://kg.kevingordon.net
See other Key to the Highway interviews here: https://americanahighways.org/category/interviews/key-to-the-highway-series/ (click here for: Patterson Hood Rodney Crowell Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt Sarah Shook & the Disarmers )
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