Eddy Green

Interview: Eddy Green on his Kentucky Music Roots and New Horizons

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Eddy Green interview

Eddy Green

Originally from London, Kentucky, Eddy Green now hails from Chicago where he teaches at Roosevelt University with one hand still on his guitar.  He makes the touring circuit with his own blend of bluegrass and gospel and rock n roll mashup, that results in songs that are honest, gritty and gutsy.  We had a chance to talk with Eddy Green recently.  Enjoy our interview.

Americana Highways: Eddy, first let’s talk a little bit about you. You were born in Kentucky, and now you’re in Chicago. How did that come about?

EG: As Daryl Scott might say, a long and crooked road. Yeah. I was born and raised around London, Kentucky. It’s a little place in southeastern Kentucky. And the easiest way to describe it is, it’s somewhere in between Lexington and Knoxville, Tennessee.

And lived there until I was in my early twenties, then moved out to go to school in Richmond, Kentucky, and then after that ended up in Kansas for a few years and then started work about eight years ago up here in Chicago. So lived a few different places, but mostly rural places for about 38 of the 46 years and then ended up in Chicago.

AH: Have you been doing music your whole life or is that something you picked up later?

EG: I’ve been playing my whole life. I started playing at about eleven or twelve years old. My grandmother played a little and of course, it’s kind of a cliche, had a guitar that was hers and I wasn’t supposed to fool with in her room. And eventually the family succumbed to the fact that I wanted a guitar. And I mean, like I said, my grandmother played a little bit of gospel music, little piano and guitar. And so I had someone to show me some basics and started bands at about 6th grade, right out of the gate. Started putting together music at about 12 years old, in my grandmother’s garage. So I’ve played most of my life. I often joke that I learned music dishonestly. That’s just what made my friends. It was mostly a social thing, but it was all around. I mean, it’s also kind of cliche to say there’s a lot of musicians in Kentucky, but it’s the part of Kentucky I grew up in.

AH: So other than your grandma, who were some of your early musical influences back then in the 6th grade?

EG: The stuff that made me want to play, honestly, I associated things like bluegrass with gospel back in those days. But when I was a kid, I really fell in love with bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden and Bay City thrash bands and I rode a skateboard for years. So that was the stuff that made me want to actually play music.

But later on in my teenage years, I went through the Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, discovering the blues of this person and then finding out, oh, wait, you know, Albert King and Muddy Waters and Chester Burnett. You chase those things down. And that’s the stuff that really parted my hair and made me want to play.

And then I discovered more contemporary people, people like Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal.

But really, I started with some older friends of mine, friends who were just a few years older, started playing in bands in a college town, in fact, Richmond, Kentucky, years ago when I was a teenager and started running into singer songwriters through those guys. And that’s when I met fellow by the name of Mitch Barrett. He’s a regional musician, has played nationally and internationally, and in that area. He turned me on to John Prine and story songs. And of course, Dylan’s not far behind all of that.

Then you kind of fall into the wider world of songwriting from the Texas Cats and Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle and Guy Clark, Leonard Cohen and those guys. And then you’re kind of in the more contemporary canon.

But music just always stuck with me. I was a carpenter for years after high school, and that’s what we did at night. We played music. Then when I started into school, I bartended for a couple of years and then didn’t really have another job except for playing music until I started teaching full time at about 37 or 38. So music has been pretty much what I did and how I got through school and have played most of my life.

AH: Do you describe your style of music as a cross between bluegrass, gospel, blues and rock?

EG: Yeah, for sure. There’s always a tinge of bluegrass, but it’s really not traditional bluegrass. Although I played in a band for years called Finger Licking in the guts, and we had a pretty raucous time in pubs. And I guess I was lucky. Over the past 15 or 20 years, that kind of music has gotten to be pretty popular. So that always gave me a vehicle to play live. But the musicians that I’ve always ran with always pulled heavily into that early kind of British rock and traditional Chicago blues. And then certainly the gospel thing, just because I feel like gospel music is pretty much the same, it just has a little different conviction.

 

AH: I’ve been listening to your CDs, and my favorite one is White Line Meditations. How did this one come about?

EG: I just put that out in 2018. That’s mostly just me and a guitar.

I was playing with Mitch Barrett and my buddy Owen Reynolds out at a folk festival at Snowbird. I was playing guitar for Mitch, and we ran into a great songwriter from Nashville, and we all just sort of got along great, had a great show. And then the next morning, we all walked up on the mountain and I was having a conversation with this fellow, and he said, you know, I’ve been in and out of bands. I’ve been a songwriter most of my life. He said, I always feel like I need something to sell at gigs. That’s just what I mostly do.

And I realized that I started traveling more and playing more solo gigs and needed to make an album. So asked Mike West, the guy I was recording with in Kansas when I lived out there. I said, man, I’ve got a bunch of new tunes and a couple of songs that I co-wrote on other projects, but that I don’t have the album. And so we cut White Line Meditations then, and then released it about 2018.

AH: I like it so much because it really told some great stories. That’s why that one is my favorite. But I like them all. They all have great stories on them. Lead Filled Can has “Three Blind Angels,” which is a great song. “Whiskey Was A Savior,” I love that song. And “Coffee Inspired Confessor” is another one I really liked off that album. You got some great stuff. And then your newest album is Broken Picture Wheel, right? And that one came out of the pandemic? t

EG: Yeah, that’s right. That was out of the stash of songs from 2020.

AH: Are you working on something new?

EG: I’m recording some this next weekend in Kentucky. My girlfriend and longtime partner, Heather Branham, is recording her first record, and so we’re working on that currently. And then, yeah, I’ve always got a stash of songs that I’m working on until I get a collection that I kind of like, and then I’ll go back in and start doing another project.

I’ve got a couple of songs that I recorded last summer or this summer in Wales. My buddy Mike that I mentioned that produced some music for me out in Kansas has since immigrated over to Wales. I was over there playing some music this summer, and he was showing me his new studio, and I had a couple of new tunes, so we cut them with those cats. And then I’ve got a couple of friends here in the States that are going to add to those tracks, and hopefully they’ll be ready to come out this spring.

AH:  I don’t see your song “Bottomland” on any of your albums.

EG: “Bottomland” was the 45 project that my old friend Owen Reynolds, who was in Soapbox with me, that was kind of a duet that we used to work around the Kentucky area. And a few years after that, I just had those two songs and thought, man, that sounds like something that Owen would sound fantastic on. So went home and we cut those two tunes and put them on a 45.

AH: I love that song. It’s really cool.

EG: Thank you. The Welsh relate to that song, too. In fact, they did, incidentally, because it tells a story about the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority).

There’s a couple of stories about that song. The Welsh love that song because the British will flood valleys. And in some of those valleys, they had these small towns, these small villages, and I had played a show with Aaron Puge over there. And the next night, we ended up playing this little pub, and I played that song, and then the next morning, I was leaving, they drove me by a big water reservoir. And they say on really sunny days or hot summers that the steeple from the church, the old medieval church you could see come up out of the middle of the lake.

.ut the song was written from a perspective and co-written with a fellow named David Grigsby. Years ago, the TVA was building water reservoirs around southern Appalachia, and Lord knows it’s done a lot of good for that region. But this other story is where I put my foot in my mouth. I played that song one time at the Blue Plate Special, this great radio show down in Knoxville, Tennessee, and people clapped, but there was this sort of strange, awkward pause and Red Hickey, the DJ for the Blue Plate Special said this is the Tennessee Valley Authority building.

But back to your other point. I mean, that’s the idea. A lot of the songs that I make up are story songs, and they are intended to delve into the worldview of the person’s perspective that I’m writing about.

AH: So when you write a song, what’s your process like? Do you like to write by yourself? Do you like to collaborate? 

EG: I write mostly by myself. There have been a few odd opportunities where I’ve gotten to co-write, and it’s gone really well. There are a handful of people that I’ve co-wrote with and enjoy that, but most songs are just me. Writing is something that I tend to do in a multitude of ways, but the most common way is I’ll get a line or a phrase stuck in my head while I’m walking or waiting on the train or something like that. And if it sticks with me long enough, I’ve finally gotten to the age where I will jot that down, because when I was younger, I always tried to rely too heavily on, oh, this is a good. I won’t forget that. Eventually I realized that everything’s gone if you don’t write it down. I have stacks of fragments everywhere, and then usually not always actively maintained. I could be more disciplined about it, but usually have a song or a melody in process that’s turning into a song. That’s not a very good process wise, but that’s typical.

AH: That works for you apparently. Your songs are good, so it’s working.

EG: I have my hands on the instrument every day. Something that I feel like is part of that dishonest way of learning to play music is that it was so associated with some of my close friends and what we did all the time that it somehow became incorporated into my daily life. To my partner’s great credit, she supports this.  If anybody hasn’t dated a musician that is constantly noodling or doing something on the instrument, they may not have the full picture, but again, to her credit, she’s always encouraged it more so than dissipated it. The same for my family. I was super lucky that I grew up in a family that had a special respect for the arts and for expressing yourself.

AH: That’s always important. Speaking of songwriting, if you could collaborate with any one person out there, who would you want to collaborate the most with?

EG: Oh, man, that’s a big question. Live or dead?

AH: Well, let’s do one of each.

EG: All right.  I’m probably in dangerous cliche territory, but, man, there is something simple and genius about Hank Williams and the way that he wrote straight ahead songs.

But I think two of my favorite storytellers out there are Chris Smither and Darrell Scott, I would imagine would be kind of the dream collaboration. But there’s a ton of people, and there’s so many great writers these days. We’re living in a nice renaissance of storytelling and good music.

AH: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and who gave it to you?

EG: Well, I’m going to try and confine that to music, but I’ve got a buddy. He’s just a fantastic instrumentalist, songwriter, and one of the best slide players in the world. Named Stephen Couch out of Louisville, Kentucky. He’s been trying to get me to be more serious as a student of music for years, but I think his example of just always learning something, I would like to say daily, but just learning, working on something constantly has probably been the best advice.

Music is one of those things that you can take it as far as you want to drive it. And so if there’s ever a time that I feel plateaued out or stale, Steven’s always been persistent in reminding me that there’s way more to learn. Yeah. Always working on something musically, I think, is, in a variety of ways, the best advice I ever got.

AH: What is your favorite venue that you’ve ever played?

EG: Oh, wow. My favorite venue is a little basement bar in Manhattan, Kansas, called Annie Mae’s Parlor. It’s got this aesthetic, it’s kind of a local pub, but it’s sort of a basement. And you walk down these stairs to get to the basement bar, and then you have to somehow kind of work yourself around that same staircase in the one end of the bar where there’s a stage, and you put a band in there, and it doesn’t seem like an ideal place at all, but somehow it’s one of the warmest venues. I did a residency there when I lived up there for quite a while. But, yeah,  that’s probably my favorite. Quaint.

AH: If there’s any venue, other than that one, that you could play, where would it be?

EG: Well, it has to be Red Rocks. Is there a prettier venue in the world?

AH: That’s what I figured you were going to say. 

EG: That is great! That’s a beautiful place. Just a beautiful, natural, beautiful place like that. And I imagine that it sounds phenomenal.

AH: Okay, so we’re going to ask you one more question. This is a silly question just to kind of end the whole thing, but what is your most useless talent?

EG: My most useless?  For years, I have done one of the nerdiest things in the world, which I picked up because I was always playing out or was gone all the time, but I still sit around and paint miniatures every now and then at the house, and that’s a pretty useless skill. It’s not something that I do much. But it’s amazing how that can be positively distracting.

AH: Yeah, then it’s not totally useless.

EG: Yeah, it’s definitely that sort of thing.

AH: All right, man, well, thanks for your time. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out next from you.

EG: Yeah, well, thank you so much. I really appreciate the interview and the time.

Thanks very much for chatting with us, Eddy Green!  You can find more information on Eddy here at his website: https://www.eddygreen.com/

 

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