Interview: The Whiskey Gentry's Lauren Staley talks new LP, almost quitting music, more before May 6 show in Ybor City

They play Crowbar on May 6.

click to enlarge The Whiskey Gentry, who play Crowbar in Ybor City, Florida on May 6, 2017. - Matt Odom
Matt Odom
The Whiskey Gentry, who play Crowbar in Ybor City, Florida on May 6, 2017.

When Lauren Staley came down with a severe case of writer’s block last year, the 31-year-old Whiskey Gentry frontwoman got worried. She’d last suffered a bout of not knowing what to put to paper a decade ago, when she was in college, but this time felt wholly different.

“It felt serious because there was more at stake,” Staley told CL over the phone before a show in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I wasn’t doing anything when I was 19, and I didn’t have this aspiration to make this my career, you know. You kind of start questioning everything.”

The career she’s talking about is the one that sends her around the globe alongside her husband, guitarist Jason Morrow, and a motley crew of roots rock-and-rollers named for a line in Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved.” The 1970 essay birthed Thompson’s “gonzo” style of journalism. It focused less on the race itself and more on a pageant so liquored up and debauched that Thompson described the face of standard Derby attendees to be a “mask of the whiskey gentry — a pretentious mix of booze, failed dreams and a terminal identity crisis.”

The escapades of Staley and her Gentry never set the band into such gallows (our call actually found her and drummer Nico Lembo adulting quite well, poolside at a friend’s house while the rest of the guys played golf). But the four-year wait between their sophomore LP, Holly Grove, and last month’s Dead Ringer was harrowing for fans of an Atlanta outfit that’s turned its unique brand of cowpunky-tonk into a commodity that can pack clubs up and down the Eastern seaboard.

“I was forced out of it,” Staley said of the writer’s block, adding that Morrow, 42, kept on writing music while also pushing her buttons by playing music with friends in their basement rehearsal studio. “Jason was like, ‘Here’s the deal. I’m gonna keep making music, so you can either try to write and figure it out, or deal with it and do whatever you want to do. I’m not going to pressure you to do anything you don’t want to.’”

In the meantime, he’d written “Following You,” a song meant for Staley, which would go on to become Dead Ringer’s opening track. The cut basically asked her to look at what she’d accomplished, pointing out that the worst day on the road beats any day spreading paint (Morrow started painting homes with his dad when he was 17 years old, and still runs a few related businesses). “I’m not saying it’s easy. Not gonna say that it ain’t,” is how the lyric goes. ”Don’t forget how it all began, let’s see it through.” All of it pissed Staley off enough to get her to write Dead Ringer’s snarky title track and the barroom-ready “Rock n Roll Band” back to back.

“That never happens to me. I’ll usually go months between songs sometimes,” Staley said of the spurt that birthed songs that skewer folks who think she should be having babies while also celebrating the Gentry’s life on the road. “I felt like I had my power back. It was like, ‘Oh sweet, I can do this.’”

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The wait has been worth it, and the new LP is the band’s most complete effort to date. On it, close friend and producer Les Hall hauled the Gentry to the hills of Western North Carolina for sessions at the famed Echo Mountain, a studio anchored within a gorgeous old church on the edge of downtown Asheville. Together, they updated the rowdy twangcore from Holly Grove (2013) and Please Make Welcome (2011) by adding layers of Wurlitzer, Hammond B3, and keys to songs like “Is It Snowing Where You Are” where Staley flexes a background in literature to create heartbreaking narratives about the lunacy that longing can create within a lonely soul. The tears really start flowing on The Whiskey Gentry’s remake of Merle Haggard’s “Kern River,” which Staley learned after catching a show by the country giant just months before he died.

“The story behind ‘Kern River’ is so heartbreaking, and it stuck with me so much. I think I pulled it up on some chord website and figured out how to play it,” Staley says, adding that Morrow insisted on doing something with it. “So when we were at Echo Mountain and we got in the big church, we all just played that song together live straight to tape. The lights were out, we had candles lit and Christmas lights up. It was just a really cool experience, and I think it translates. When Jason and I listen to it on vinyl at our house we both got teary-eyed — and we’ve listened to the song like a hundred times since we recorded it.”

Don’t necessarily expect to be crying when the Gentry arrives to play Ybor City (the band’s live shows are more like Jameson-fueled revivals than confessionals), but do expect to get a lot of gratitude from Staley & co. She’s said that Tampa is right up there with their hometown of Atlanta when it comes to favorite cities, and the band has given up a lot to be a full-time touring unit, including seeing friendships forged and solidified while out on the road. Staley has even said that touring is sometimes like being marooned on an island.

“You don’t have time to catch up with people. They expect you’re not gonna be there so they just stop calling you [and] that hurts,” she said, adding that she does still feel the occasional moment of doubt, especially when asked about her plans for having a family or if she wants to get a job.

“You kind of feel like, ‘Oh God. Is this stupid? Is it stupid for me to be playing music? Should I not be doing this anymore?’,” she said. “Then you just have to trust yourself, laugh and say, ‘Fuck off, this is my job.’ This is my decision, I’ve stuck with it, I’m gonna do it, and I’m not gonna second-guess it.”

Listen to Dead Ringer, and read our full Q&A with Staley, below. Get more information on the show via local.cltampa.com.


The Whiskey Gentry w/The Tattered Saints/Beartoe
Sat. May 6, 9 p.m. $12-$15.
Crowbar, 1812 17th St. N., Ybor City.


Hey Ray.

Hey Lauren, how are you?

I’m good. Sitting by a pool in Charlotte.

Damn, pool life in Charlotte.

I can’t complain.

Evening Muse tonight, right?

Mmmhmm. We’re at The Evening Muse Tonight.

Are you guys at the point where you all have your own hotel rooms now?

(Laughs) No. Sometimes, if we’re lucky. We have some good friends that life in Charlotte, so after we finished in Columbia last night we drove up here. It’s an hour and a half away. We were able to wake up, the guys are playing golf and me and Nico — the drummer — are sitting by the pool. Chillin’.

So there’s Asheville and then Georgia. So do you spend the night at home in Georgia or just drive to Jacksonville after that?

No, we play Ashville tomorrow and actually drive home after the show. We’ll stay in Atlanta and then drive down to Jacksonville on Friday and then come on down to Tampa on Saturday.

Do your friends have dogs? The ones you’re staying with in North Carolina?

Yes. They’re two girls. They are so cute. They are really cute. They’re sweet. This morning I woke up and one of them was sitting by the door like, “Hi, I know you’re in there! Can I come in?” We love dogs, so we’re like, “Of course!”

Who watches Jack and Sailor when you’re on the road?

My good friend has a 19 or 20 year old daughter, and it’s kind of perfect because she can kind of not stay at her parent’s house, and she can come stay in my house. She has free reign of the place, the dogs love her. We have two cats, too. I just feel better having somebody there. Our dogs are like our kids, so we always feel better knowing that someone is at the house with them.

Does the dog sitter skateboard as well? Does the mini ramp still exist over there?

(Laughs) It does. She does not skateboard. It still exists, but it is a shell of its former glory, unfortunately. We haven’t had a lot of time, and we kind of need the space. We bought a van, so now we need a place to put the van when we’re not on tour and stuff like that, so you know. Same with a lot of the guys that are Jason’s old skateboard buddies. They all have kids and jobs, so it’s kind of hard to be like, “Let’s have a skate session.” You also can’t afford to get hurt. Like three people have broken their arms on it, so it’s not, it’s kind of a burly little ramp back there.

Like nails sticking out of it and shit?

No, no no.

I’m just kidding.

It’s just really steep, so it’s harder to do if you don’t do it often. Everyone’s old and out of shape. They can’t skateboard like they did when they were 18.

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Four years between records, longest gap as far as full lengths go. I know you started writing for this on the tour for Holly Grove and then got writers block. Do you remember what snapped you out of it as you worked through “Dead Ringer” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.” Do you remember those days or moments that got you out of the writer’s block?

Yeah, well I was forced out of it, somewhat by Jason because, Jason and I are married so Jason knows how to push my buttons. So he had still been writing. Basically, any time you go through writer’s block or any kind of creative block ,you know no matter what you do, it sucks. You kind of start questioning everything. You’re like, “Uh, this was just a fluke. I need to pack it up, have some kids or whatever.”

And Jason was like, “Here’s the deal. I’m gonna keep making music, so you can either try to write and figure it out or deal with and do whatever you want to do. I’m not going to pressure you to do anything you don’t want to do.” And, um, in the meantime he had written “Following You.” It’s kind of like a song to me. Saying, “Don’t give up. Think of what’s going on and what you’ve accomplished,” you know. Even though on some scales it’s not much, but it’s still something. So he was still playing music with some other people down in our basement. We have a rehearsal studio, and I would hear them. And it would piss me off like, “Argh, you’re not allowed go to play with other people!”

So it pissed me off, and I got really upset one night and the next day wrote “Dead Ringer” and then wrote “Rock & Roll Band” back to back. And that never happens to me. It will usually go months between songs for me sometimes, so I felt like I had my power back. It was like, “Oh sweet, I can do this.” So that was kind of how it all happened.

So what is that like? Do you get freaked out and start to be like, “Oh shit I have to keep writing now since this is happening.”

No, honestly, I just wanted to get that first one out. Then the anxiety kind of went away, like, “It’s okay. I got this.” And this isn’t the first time that I’ve had writer’s block before, it just felt way more serious this time because there was more at stake. Like, yeah, I had it when I was 19 and I wasn’t doing anything and when I didn’t have this aspiration to make this my career, you know.

That’s when you were in school in England.

Yeah. I had just started college.

Cool, sorry to interrupt.

I was actually just coming back from England when I was 19. It’s like it’s more than anxiety. It’s like feeling like it’s never going to happen again and then when you try and bust out it of and nothing sounds good to you — it’s a head game, really. So then when something does come out and it sounds good, then you’re kind of like, “Okay.” But it’s still there, it’s just that sometimes your muse doesn’t really present itself when you want it to.

Have you started for another record since?

Yeah, we already have a couple that we have completed. So, I would be willing to guess, actually I probably shouldn’t say it outloud because I don’t want to jinx ourselves. So, the answer is yes. We have a few that we are working on. Things that are completed, little demos that we’ve done in the basement, so when we have time this year we’ll just keep busting it out and see what happens.

Following You” is really celebratory of the touring band lifestyle, but it’s very honest. Why open with that one? Who used to be a painter?

Yeah, his dad was a painter, and he started painting houses when he was about 17. It flourished in his adult life into some really great businesses, which he has now, and in his adult life he is able to run from the road. So, it’s definitely good. You don’t wanna look a gift horse in the mouth because the painting has been good, the home renovation and stuff. But it still is not what you want to be doing, you know, the song is like, “Yeah, it’s better than painting, even when it sucks sometimes.”

Do we need to talk about sequencing for the record? It seems like it makes sense to open with “Following You.”

It was actually pretty easy. “Following You” is pretty funny, too, because it was the first one that Jason wrote that was going towards the new record, but it was also the first one we recorded when we went to Echo Mountain. That was very much like his doing, and him saying, “I want to start with this one.” So when we were sequencing the record it seemed like a natural thing that we would start with that. And that sequence is actually the first one that Jason came up with. We didn’t change anything to that sequence. At least I don’t think we did — I don’t feel like we did. It’s not like we went back and forth a thousand times, it was pretty simple. Totally felt like, “Yeah, this is how we should go from here.”

Cool, I have a lot of song-centric questions, too, so please let me know if they get tedious or boring for you.

No, it’s cool, it’s fine.

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Who are you talking to in “Looking For Trouble”? Is it about Jason? I know you’ve said it’s about being in a committed relationship and how hard it is sometimes as far as compromise and adapting to habits goes.

Mmmhmm. Yeah.

Cool.

(Laughs) I mean, yeah. It’s very, you know, Jason would always say this thing sometimes, and it used to piss me off real bad when we first started dating. “Wherever you go, there you are.” And I would be like, “That’s such a cop out. You can change, people can change,” but I do think the longer you are with someone, the longer you live with someone — Jason and I are going on 10 years of knowing each other in December — you start to see that there is a part of them as a human that is so much them that it’s hard to change that. So have to learn for to work around it. You have to go, um, compromise on it I guess. So yeah, so of that, it was actually kind inspired by that phrase that I hated he would always say — “Wherever you go, there you are” — if you’re looking for trouble, it’ll find you. It’s kind of where the inspiration for that song used to come from. And it resonates. We have a lot of people that will come and say, “that song…” And it’s true. Anyone that is in a relationship knows that it is not always a cakewalk, but you just have to figure it out.

Yeah, that’s always been a mark of your band from the live set to the record, it’s always been really genuine. So I want to ask you about Les Hall. You say he helped bring an energy to the record and that Dead Ringer sounds as close to the live thing as Whiskey Gentry has got. What kinds of specific ideas was he able to bring to the table that the band might not have been able to think of or execute in the past?

Yeah, Les is a very smart and incredibly talented musician and a very good friend of ours. He’s been a very good friend of Jason’s and Jason’s family for years. I think, you know when you’re recording and ideas come very fast. His overall presence was good because he was like, “Yes that sounds good,” or “No, you should try that.” Especially when we were tracking drums at Echo Mountain, he would be like why don’t you try this fill here, or be like it should be “bu-boop-boom,” instead of something else. Just, I can’t really tell you specifically if it was one thing, because it was a lot of things. It was very interesting, too, because it was the first time we worked with someone and hired someone to be a producer, and we were novices to what that really meant. Now listening back to the record it makes so much sense as to why you would do that. It really is like you are too close to the forest sometimes. You can’t see beyond it. Les is also such an incredible piano player. And there are so many amazing pieces of gear at Echo Mountain that he was able to play.

Like the piano on “Is It Snowing Where you Are?” kills me every time. The Wurlitzer, the B3, everything that he played on the record was just so good, so I definitely think there was a strong presence with him there. All over, it was cool. It was a cool experience to have someone from the outside looking in and saying, “This is what I think you should do,” you know.

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You mentioned “Snowing” and how emotional it makes you. There are a few moments like that on this record. Like on the Merle Haggard song. You made me tear up on “Kern River.” You write a lot about friendships on your records, and this one is a Merle song, obviously, but what’s that mean to you to be able to put your take (plus the cover of “Seven Year Ache”) on record?

Yeah, so Jason and I saw Merle Haggard at the Buckhead Theatre a few months before he passed away, and he played “Kern River.” You know, the story, I’m a literature major, so stories in songs always get me. The story behind “Kern River” is so heartbreaking, and it stuck with me so much, and it was very powerful when he played it as well, but he played it a lot faster. His version is definitely different. It’s more of an 80s country vibe. So we got home that night, and I think I pulled it up on some chord website and figured out how to play it. So we’re just in the kitchen at night, and Jason is like, “Keep singing that, we should do something with that.” Then it just evolved into what it is.

So when we were at Echo Mountain and we got in the big room, the big church, we all just played that song together live straight to tape. There’s no click track to beat detective. It’s how we played it in the room. A lot of the vocals on it are what I sang right there in the room. It was really cool. The lights were out, we had candles lit and christmas lights up. It was just a really cool experience, and I think it translates. When Jason and I listen to it on vinyl at our house we both got teary eyed — and we’ve listened to the song like a hundred times since we recorded it. Just very proud of how that one turned out, for sure.

Yeah, it’s really hard to listen to it passively — it grabs you every time whether you want it  to or not. There’s something similar happening on “Snowing.” I’m really interested in the songwriting on the record, especially on “Is It Snowing Where You Are.” The songs seem like they could be first person, but I feel like you are also really starting to blossom as a songwriter, seeing things from this wide perspective. I can’t tell if these stories are coming from your life or from your mind, which I think is really cool.

Thank you, maybe I’m going insane. (Laughs) Maybe I can’t tell either.

Like what is happening with you as a songwriter? Or have I just missed it on the last two albums?

No, I definitely think that there is something different with these. Yeah, I don’t know, maybe you're right. There are some that are inspired by true things. I’ve always done that in songs. There are some that are true to a T, but then there’s always embellishment, too, which is part of being a songwriter or storyteller or whatever, but yeah some of them are inspired by things that’ve happened and people that we’ve met.

Maybe that’s the difference. There’s just been a lot of growth within all of us as humans and as a band from four years ago. You know, a lot kind of changes in your life from the time you’re 28 to when you’re in your early 30s. It may sound stupid to say that, but you kind of grow up a little more I guess and look at things differently. I don’t know.

Are you willing to talk about “Is It Snowing Where You Are” and what you were thinking about on that one?

“Snowing” was honestly imagined. It was right when there were all those really bad storms in South Carolina and the whole state was flooding. Columbia was underwater and all this stuff, and Jason and I were talking, it was around late summer or early I think, and he said, “I wonder if it’s snowing out at Goose Wing,” which is this ranch that we have friends at out in Wyoming. So that sparked something in my brain about being someone wondering about this person who you don’t have contact with anymore, and, like, in your brain you’re thinking that they’re doing all these insane things like being with women in bikinis in Hawaii, or maybe you’re skiing, or maybe you’re in Italy or wherever. The reality may be that they may not be in any of those places, but when you’re longing or pining your brain can play tricks on you, I guess, so that’s what started it, just something that Jason said — “I wonder if it’s snowing in Wyoming.” So I thought about how sad that would be. Just wondering if it’s snowing wherever you are on the planet.

To go backwards a little bit and talk about geography. The vocals in “Paris” have a deliberately muddy quality. Is that a Les thing or something you wanted to do in that song?

I don’t recall if that was a Les decision or not. Jason wrote that song and…

Was it him that blacked out?

Uh, yeah. Well we all kind of did (laughs). Our drummer at the time, had a passport, but it was expired, so he couldn’t get on the plane when we were taking off to go to France so that’s very much true. And we couldn’t play the show in Amsterdam because we didn’t have a drummer, so just had a few days off in Amsterdam, so what do you do? We had a blast in Amsterdam. We walked around, saw museums and stuff like that, but there really is nothing like blacking out in a place where you don’t know the language. So it’s just kind of funny because it’s true, you know.

I love that a song about Parisian macaroons is so damn twangy.

Yeah, definitely. And Rurik, who plays the fiddle is fluent in French, he lived in France for a while and so it just seemed very fitting that he would sing the second verse, and sing it in French. We just had a blast over there. We just loved France, and touring in Europe in general is amazing. We just had some funny, fun, experiences over there. We just kept calling it National Lampoon’s European tour because anything that could happen just did — like, “What is happening right now?” We can’t wait to go back and make more memories.

With a drummer.

Well he ended up getting there. We had some friends that pulled some strings. Thank God Atlanta actually has, like, a federal passport office downtown, so we were able to get that figured out. It’s like total National Lampoon.

It’s funny because, well you’re 30 years old, right?

I’ll be 32 in June. Forever 30.

Forever 30, heard that. So I was wondering about that. You’ve been in a band for a long time now. The band is obviously very hard working and committed to being a serious endeavour, but how much of the “Decadent and Depraved” part of your gang comes out every now and then?

Definitely learning limits. You know, when you first start in a band you’re like, “Party, party party,”  but then you’re like, “well I actually wanna make this a career.” So you can still have fun, but you can’t tour like that unless you’re like Guns ‘N’ Roses. I can’t handle being hungover and being on the road. It’s not fun for me, and it’s not fun for anyone around me because I just whine the whole time. So there’s a time and a place for sure, where we will cut loose.

Like today, everyone’s golfing, and I went for a jog so it’s not like how it’s been in the past where we wake up and go to a bar or whatever. And you have to take care of yourself, especially singing. You know you get worried about decision that I make and how it will affect performances or stuff like that.

Yeah, I was thinking Drinking Again” is one of those songs that might inspire someone in a live setting to buy the band a drink. What does everyone want when that happens? Jameson? Why would you do that do yourselves?

Yeah, still there. I mean I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be cutting loose in Tampa. It tends to happen more in certain cities, and we don’t have a show the next day, we’re just going home, so I’m fairly certain that there will be some Jameson drinking happening at the Crowbar.

Full Trampa style.

It’s so fun. It’s one of those where we reserve the party for that one.

I just read an interview with Terri Nunn from Berlin, and she mentioned how lonely the road can be. Your husband is in the band, so do you get some of those feelings? What are some of the big things you’ve sacrificed to be in a touring band?

That song “Rock & Roll Band” is a lot about that. Especially the  line, “All my friends wonder if I even care, but it’s hard to hang out when I’m never there.” It’s really hard, like especially during the cycle around Holly Grove. Seeing friendships are being either forged or solidified when I’m not around. I don’t know those things. Someone said to me the other day, “Is being on tour like being marooned on an island?” And I was like that was such a good way to put it because it kind of is. It’s like you’re connected in some ways, but you’re not. You don’t have time to catch up with people, so you just don’t know. We are gone a lot of the time on weekends, too, which is when people get together and have parties, whatever, and we’re just not there so then when you’re not there, and they expect you’re not gonna be there then they just stop calling you, too. So then that hurts.

It sucks to be away from our dogs. We love our dogs, and I’m a real homebody. Like I love my house. I love being at home. When we are at home I hardly ever leave my house. In really, honestly, I would say for Jason and I we are married and we enjoy doing this together, but as a woman in my early 30s I think the biggest thing I can think I have sacrificed is children. And it’s become kind of a thing where you kind of wonder, “I don’t know if I want them,” or “Maybe I do.” It’s an interesting place to be, and a lot of “Dead Ringer” is about that, too, because when you cross over that 30 threshold people think it’s their business all the time to ask you all the time about what your reproductive plans are, and so you kind of feel like, “Oh God. Is this stupid? Is it stupid for me to be playing music? Should I not be doing this anymore?”

Then you just have to trust yourself and say, “No, my life is my life and I’ll figure it out when I want to,” but yeah. There’s a lot of that. To answer your question, I am much more solidified in the decision today than I was prior to two years ago, so it’s been a growth process to be like, “No this is my decision, and I’ve stuck with it, and I’m gonna do it. I’m not gonna second guess it” kind of thing.

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It’s funny how you talk about “Dead Ringer” because when I first heard it I thought it was hilarious, kind of tongue-in-cheek and snarky, but now it seems like the people you’re talking to in the song are making you question life decisions.

It is funny. I laught at it, and it still is a snarky thing. Doing these things, or doing the things that people think I should be doing, but then you sometimes spend your whole life doing all those things, but it doesn’t make you happy. Yeah, I went to college, and I got a degree, and I did all that, but, “okay.” Like, I don’t know.

I wouldn’t say that I’m unhappy, it’s more dealing with the pressure that people will kind of put on you like, “You’re 30. Did you think that maybe you’d want to settle down, gonna have some kids. Do you want a job? Are you gonna get a job?” And I’m like, “Fuck off this is my job.” It’s that kind of thing, it’s not like some serious, like, I still want people to laugh at it — I still do. It’s meant to be a very tongue-in-cheek way of responding to that pressure I guess.

And what about the musical part of the bridge, it’s very different from the rest of the song — really hard to explain, like completely different.

I can’t remember if that was Jason’s idea to do the hold out on 30, um, or whatever, but it’s definitely adds a little more dramatics and brings home the point of the whole song, like I should do these things, but every time I think about not doing them it makes me feel miserable, so why would I do that to myself. I’m not ready.

Last couple of questions. The new LP hit the Americana charts? You opened for Dwight Yoakam? The Christmas shows are taking off. Fanbase is great. How much of that is affecting your mindset or does it just reaffirm all of the stuff you’re doing?

More so for this record than any of them, the chips are all in, really. We are trying to do everything in our power, that we can do, to ensure that it is successful. It doesn’t really change anything. It’s kind of like, “Okay that was cool. What’s next?” You have to keep working because there is still so much that we want to do, so you just kind of have to put your hand down and just keep working — there’s really no other way of saying it.

And does having an album that features a lot of instruments you might not tour with make the tour and live set more challenging or more exciting? Who’s in the touring lineup making it come to life?

When we were touring for Holly Grove our touring lineup changed from a six piece to a five piece because our banjo and mandolin player couldn’t be around for all the things, so we got very comfortable in that setting of just basically being bass, drum, acoustic and a fiddle. We’re really comfortable in that. When we come down to Tampa next weekend we’ll have a keyboard player with us, which adds some depth. There are some way around it.

You know, sometimes when you hear a record from a CD or whatever, I don’t know, it’s nice. There is room for it to breathe live, I think it’s good. We are very tight as a five piece, so with the five of us and even with Spencer the keyboard player.

You guys are kind of like my antidote for people who are like, “Well if you don’t like the radio, then what other country music is there?”  Who else do you like in the scene? Maybe Atlanta specifically.

(Laughs) Oh God. Well, um, and we’re hoping to bring them down to Tampa next time we come, but there’s a band in Atlanta we like called Pony Lake, we really like them alot and they are doing some cool stuff. I wouldn’t call it country, and I wouldn’t call it roots either, it’s just good.

I call it country to just get them into the gates, and then we can move them wherever we want them to go.

It’s a hard thing to explain. You know, country that is on the radio is horrible, so it’s hard. I understand, I have to do the same thing with people when they ask what kind of music do we play. I don’t come out and say country anymore since it has such a negative connotation to people, which is unfortunate because I love country music. I think that one record I’ve really been enjoying, and it just came out — Angaleena Presley. She;s one third of Pistol Annie’s which has Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe in it. She’s a very talented songwriter with a very cool voice. I heard her in a SiriusXM interview, and she seems like such a cool, down to earth person. She was talking about living in Nashville and having to kind of deal with all of the things that kind of go along with that. And I was like, “Oh she seems cool, I feel like we could hang out together.” Her new record is called Wrangled, and it’s very good. That’s what I’m listening to this second.

Any last words for Tampa before you get here?

We really have the best time in Tampa. I feel like people may say that everywhere they go, but we sincerely mean that. It’s genuinely so fun every time. It’s just so good. I would argue that it’s right up there with Atlanta. We’ve always had a fun, cool time down there.

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Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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