By Roger Sharman
CL: Hi Kelsey Waldon, welcome to the UK, this is your first time in the UK
KW: It is.
CL: Have you played in Europe before?
CL: So it’s your first time in Europe then?
KW: First time in general yeah.
CL: How has been your experience of it so far, how have you enjoyed it?
KW: I’ve loved it. It’s been amazing like I was saying to you earlier we haven’t really got to do too much, I mean as far as exploring the city. I got to see Abbey Road Studios yesterday, which was cool. I got to take a tube yesterday and went to a Carhatt store yesterday, that was pretty cool, a very hip Carhatt mind you, it was very different just very hip Carhatt, and I really enjoyed it.
I think what’s stood out to me so far has been the fans. It just seems like people are really receptive, like Monday night (O’Meara), the crowd were just really receptive of what we’re doing over here, so really respectful and its refreshing.
CL: There are times, well certain venues where the crowds aren’t so respectful
KW: But that could be anywhere.
CL: A lot of those issues are the lay out of the venue, you know bars being too close to the stage. But O’Meara is a really good little venue.
KW: It sounded great in there, that room was awesome. I mean obviously this time around I am doing mostly opening slots, but you know the idea clearly is just because it’s hard to get over here but next time hopefully it won’t be that way.
CL: I’m glad you said next time, I’m really glad there will be a next time. Everyone seemed to love you, it was a great audience and a really great show.
KW: I think people were excited by the bill too, it was a really cool bill.
CL: Yeah, really cool. Ian has been over here before. Last September he did the Long Road Festival and he was here before then maybe three times.
KW: Yeah most of my peers have been over here two or three times already.
CL: You’ve been touring with Ian Noe, how has that been going?
KW: Well we’ve only done one show. I’ve known his manager Mary for a little while and that whole crowd a bit.
CL: You’re also doing some shows with John Prine?
KW: I’m doing some shows with John later on in the Netherlands right before we go home. I’ve done numerous ones at home with him, Boonaroo and at the Opry. I owe John a lot.
CL: He’s like family to you I guess.
KW: He kind of is now, which is crazy.
CL: How did that whole relationship start?
KW: Well so the story goes I guess is, him and his lovely wife, Fiona, who has always been a champion of mine, they ended up hearing my last record, which was a record called ‘I’ve got Away”. So they ended up hearing that and supposedly were fans. So to try and keep the long winding story short, we eventually ended up singing together and doing some shows together, where I opened and did my own set with John in the south, in Knoxville, Memphis and Huntsville. After that as they say the rest is history. John started asking about my new record and we made forward movements for the signing, and after that we really kind of bonded together and played music together.
CL: So it was pretty organic?
KW: Ohhhhhh it was very organic. We couldn’t have made that up, clearly there’s been a lot more stuff that’s happened in between then and it’s kind of snowballed and here we are.
CL: How has the tour been for you to date, what have been the highlights for you and what have you been most impressed with since you’ve been here
KW: We’ve only been in London since Sunday so we really not got round to doing that much. My highlights have been probably the show. When I go on tour I’m here to play, here to do my job. I think probably the show and seeing Abbey Road yesterday.
CL: Did you have your picture taken on the crossing?
KW: Yeah, I crossed it but I didn’t get the picture as there wasn’t anybody with me. I wasn’t going to ask people for a pic, not that I’m above that.
CL: There’s a webcam on that crossing so you can sit and watch people doing that all day, stopping on the crossing. I’m sure I’ll see someone run over over at some stage
KW: Ohhh I didn’t know that. The locals didn’t seem to like that people were crossing. I grew up listening to all The Beatles records so I was definitely excited about that it’s the first time I’ve seen any of that.
CL: To be honest, I actually don’t think I’ve ever been there. So last night I sat down and tried thinking of all the artists that I can from Kentucky, It’s known as the home of Bluegrass.
KW: Yes, you’re right
CL: So I came up with a list of names of some really great artists that have come from there, names like Loretta Lynn & Keith Whitley.
KW: Ohhh yeah!
CL: John Conlee,
KW: Thank you for mentioning John Conlee no one really ever mentions him
CL: Patty Loveless, the late great Gary Stewart.
KW: Gary Stewart is absolutely from Kentucky, people think he’s not and Texas tried to claim him, but he’s from Kentucky. Of course he died in Florida tragically, so they embrace him and Texas embraces him as well but he’s a Kentuckian.
CL: Tom T Hall, Ricky Skaggs, Angaleena Presley, Sturgill Simpson.
KW; Ohhh yes, Sturgill, of course
CL: Tyler Childers, Chris Stapleton. God the list is endless Skeeter Davis, Bill Monroe, and two current favourites of mine, Dillon Carmichael and Chris Knight.
KW: Ohhhhhhh man, Chris Knight is amazing!
CL: He certainly is so what is it that you think makes Kentucky such a hotbed of musical talent?
KW: Ohhhhhhh man, honestly people ask me this all the time and I don’t know there must be something in the water, I don’t know what it is but I do think Kentucky’s a very special place. I’m probably biased but it’s a very influential place where a lot of people find their inspiration. The people are very proud of their culture. There’s a lot to grab from it, I mean historical the music has been in that area for so long, coming from even the first settlers there, especially mountain music, it’s like what we like to call the ancient tones, you know, things that have kind of been there ever since the Earth was created, and I think for a long time people used music as a way to get away from hard times, relief from hard times. Just joy.
My family too, I mean my mum’s side of the family, they all played music, not for a career but for fun, you know at the barn dances. So there’s a long line of history and culture there in music and that’s just in our blood.
CL: That’s something I was just about to ask you actually, whether your family were musicians, obviously you grew up playing the guitar from a fairly young age.
KW: I started playing guitar when I was probably twelve years old but I’d been singing and singing was something that was very natural from pretty much when I had a mouth. I never thought of myself as a great singer, I only wanted to sing my songs, I was writing songs so I wanted to sing them, I was much more of a songwriter and now people do and that’s awesome, but it didn’t start that way. I started writing songs when I was nine or ten, even though they were silly songs, I probably wrote my first song at twelve or thirteen.
CL: So when did you actually start performing in front of people?
KW: Errrr I was really young, not my original songs, but I started singing at County fair, and at church, mostly because that was one of the only places to play in front of people. So yeah church, County fairs and stuff link that.
CL: Time to get a little more personal now. ‘Kentucky 1998”
CL: You know why I said that, because I was thinking that’s your year of birth
KW: My birth year is 88
CL: You see, I was giving you ten years back, I’m saying you’re ten years younger! (Laughter)
KW: Yeah but I don’t want my ten years back (more laughter). I’m good, I survived my twenties so I don’t want them back.
CL: What? ….. You mean you’re not still in your twenties?
KW: No, I’m thirty one years old.
CL: So ‘Kentucky, 1988’ is a very personal song for you?
KW: Sure, yeah, I mean they’re all personal to an extent, we kind wear our hearts on our sleeves us songwriters.
CL: That’s really what I was getting at, all your songs are all personal to you.
CW: So you’re not one of these people who’s walking down the street and see something happening and a song comes to you.
KW: Well sometimes it comes.
CL: Are you constantly thinking of songs?
KW: Sometimes, but it’s kind of hard to do that when you’re touring. I don’t tend to finish a lot of songs when I’m touring, but I do get a lot of ideas, so I can finish them. When I get home or when I’m staying in one spot. When you’re on tour and move the way that we do it’s a grind, but I do write a lot of things down, I’m always thinking about something. There’s always something going on and I get my inspiration from everywhere, some of them are very personal some not so much, you know. Like Rodney Crowell said ‘Country Music is the truth even if it’s a lie’. So they’re all true.
CL: Would you say that you are a prolific writer?
KW: Well I’ve had three full albums out at this point. I had a lot more even before that, but they’re not out there for sale anymore I had about five EPs out before the 3 full albums.
CL: Do you think that you will revisit those and re-release them?
KW: I’ll probably re-release the first two. Oh Boy are probably going to re-release the three LPs that I have out, but probably not the ones before that, no. I think those can just be out there for fans to keep digging up on Google and for them to have fun doing that,, but I’ve got a lot more records in me as well, I’m not stopping at 31.
CL: Well the Rolling Stones are still going in their eighties so you’ve got almost a lifetime still to go, you’ve got fifty years in front of you
KW: Well, sure, longevity is what I’m about.
CL: Who did you grow up listening to?
KW: Well there’s the obvious ones, I loved Country and Bluegrass growing up but I loved all kinds of different music too, you know. At High school I was really influenced by R&B, I always loved classic rock, I loved pretty much everything. Soul music. The first big songwriter that I loved was Bob Dylan, like it was for a lot of us. There’s the obvious ones like Loretta Lynn, I love Tom T Hall. My first concert actually was Patti Loveless, 1994, I saw her at the Big E, Paducah, Kentucky. I loved Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs, all those usual ones. Then of course I was a huge Beatles fan, that was the first and I was obsessed with. I love Pink Floyd, John Prine, Tom Petty, Neil Young, so so many different artists in the realm
CL: Do you still listen to a lot of music now?
KW: Ohhhh Yeah.
CL: Who do you listen to now?
KW: I’m not really listening to anybody new I guess. There’s a new Lucinda Williams record out and she’s like my favourite artist ever and her record is the last record I was playing over and over, ‘Where the Spirit Meets the Bone’. That’s the last record I played over and over like five times in a row. But I go through different phases, there’s always a new one I enjoy.
CL: How do you like to unwind when you finally get some down time?
KW: Well I just do other things, like if I’m ever at home and its growing season, I usually work on my garden, do something out in the yard. I try to write more songs. Usually when I have time off I try to work on writing. We have a new record coming out and it’s got to be recorded in the next year so that’s on my plate. I read a lot. I try not to drink, I tried not to get bored and drunk (laughter). I was joking. But mostly though, I have an acre of land so look after that.
CL: You live in Nashville now?
KW: I live outside of the city, I live in Ashland City, Tennessee. I just try to do things that keep my soul fit, keep my head screwed on right.
CL: I’m sure it always is.
KW: Well I try.
CL: What’s coming up for Kelsey Waldon in the future? You mentioned you had a new record to record for next year.
KW: Oh yeah absolutely, well there’s that I’m also going to be playing a lot of dates before then. In March we’re going on tour with the Driveby Truckers.
CL: They’re a fantastic band
KW: Ohhhh yes, for sure, we’re excited about that because we’re getting to go out west. When we get back home we’re playing Merlefest and we’re playing almost all the festivals that you’d want to play so it’s going to be an exciting year. I’m definitely going to be on the road and when I’m not on the road I’m going to be working on this record.
CL: I always like to finish things off with a random question.
KW: Sure …
CL: and this is really random (laughter)
KW: err ok….
CL: Yes, you’re never going to see anybody ever again.
KW: I’d probably say something like kindness was all that mattered. Or something very existential. I don’t know, I mean what do you say when you are probably about to die anyway?
CL: Perhaps save me? (More laughter)
KW: But I don’t know if they would find it, well how do you describe where I’m at? Maybe you’re right maybe I’d say please save me, I’m on this island, and you never know with me, I might just be really happy there.
CL: Of course. Well I think that just wraps things up nicely, so thank you very much for taking the time out to talk to me and have a great show tonight
KW: Thank you very much, I appreciate it, it’s going to be fun.