Chris Vos photo by Travis Shinn
Chris Vos of The Record Company — Key to the Highway series
Americana Highways’ Key to the Highway series. 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 Chris Vos of The Record Company.
Americana Highways: How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?
Chris Vos: I am not a picky person. I will take coffee in pretty much any form, as long as it doesn’t have some weird funky flavoring in it. If the coffee’s black, with creamer, iced, hot, it doesn’t matter. I will drink it. I’m not much for sugar in my coffee. To quote a decent Dad joke, “I’m sweet enough.”
AH: What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road for music?)
CV: I have slept under sinks, between beds, on bass cabinets, in the back of the van. Motels, hotels, no tells. I’ve been in rooms where the TV was ripped off the wall, crashed on couches of strangers. All the stuff that you have to do when you get started rolling down the highway as an artist.
AH: If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is? And why?
CV: Jimi Hendrix Band Of Gypsys, the live record that starts with “Who Knows” and “Machine Gun.” For me, it’s a perfect representation of how to be free and beautiful while playing live. The singing between Hendrix and Buddy Miles is astounding. The guitar playing on it, I mean, I don’t have the words. He created sounds that night that still sound cutting edge.
A close second, being Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life. Any album that opens with the words “music is a world within itself” is an album that is worth hearing again and again. It’s brilliant.
AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?
CV: I have a pair of sunglasses that I purchased this year inspired by ones I saw Bo Diddley wearing in a picture from the seventies. For years, I have searched high and low for them and I finally found them. I paid more than I should have, but considering how much I love them, no regrets. I wear them constantly. I wear them during the day, I wear them at night. Yes, at night. I’d wear them to sleep if I could. I just absolutely love them.
I grew up on a working farm in Wisconsin so I have taken to wearing these farm tractor hats. Allis-Chalmers, International Harvester, Case. I grew up on a farm driving tractors. So I love tractors. I mean, a lot, like kind of too much. My dad is still farming in Wisconsin with both my brothers. Wearing them reminds me of home and also helps me show some of my roots too. I am very proud to be the part of a farming family. I love all who do their own farming, be it gardening or just a small family operation.
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)?
CV: My mom is 100% Italian and cooks like a champion. So I love food. I am pretty adventurous. I’ll try nearly anything. I’ve learned over the years to scale back when you’re on the road and really pay attention to what you’re eating. I always try to support the local farmers by buying local produce. You can easily fall into bad habits on the road and end up feeling not so good. Anytime that I’m in any state or country that’s known for a particular dish, I try to make the time to try it out. If I’m down in South Carolina, I’ll probably look for some sort of Carolina barbecue. If I’m in France, I’m definitely going to try and find some sort of baked good that you can’t miss. In Canada, I’m going to be looking for some poutine at some point. I wouldn’t say I’m a foodie, per se, I am not that particular. It can be cheap or expensive. I enjoy it in moderation, but, you know, moderation, isn’t always very rock and roll. So sometimes you just got to throw down. When worse comes to worse, a good ol’ slice of pizza will get you through for a couple hours.
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?
CV: Prague. I was only there for one night off on our first tour through Europe but it blew me away. Prague was the most shockingly beautiful and unexpectedly magical spot I’ve ever been. It had cobblestone streets, timeless architecture, pristine beers – that were cheap – but delicious, a scenic river running through town and a castle off in the distance. It looked like a dream to me. I love learning about and finding new places. I was born to move and travel. I love everything about it, except airports.
AH: What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?
CV: Always do your very best. That was said to me when I was just starting out and stuck with me. Working hard was a big part of my upbringing and I love to work, especially at something I enjoy. My personal mantra is, play every show like it is one less in your life, not one more. That motivates me to play my heart out, to let the moment be special, and enjoy all of it.
I’ll tell you this too. Here is a good trick for any touring musician. Say you have a can of warm beer in your room and you want to make it cold. Go get a bucket of ice from the ice machine. Place the beer on top of the ice and roll it on top of the ice with your fingers for 60 seconds. It will go from room temp to ice cold in a minute. It has to be a can, not a bottle. Where I grew up it was a well-known move. However, after first moving to LA, I showed that move to a group I was touring with and they acted like I had invented time travel or something. It was hilarious. Their minds were blown. Give it a try all. Life is too short for warm beer.
Find all things about Chris Vos and The Record Company, here: https://therecordcompany.net
See other Key to the Highway interviews here: https://americanahighways.org/category/interviews/key-to-the-highway-series/ (click here for: Jimmy Smith Ben Nichols Bruce Cockburn Charlie Musselwhite Nicki Bluhm Jim White Danny Barnes Patterson Hood Jerry Joseph BJ Barham 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 Sadler Vaden )
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