Friday Night Headliner
Kentucky based Knight has forged a career as a singer, songwriter
He had a late start in his musical career
(June 2019) – Chris Knight has had a career that spans several decades. From his days of growing up in the tiny mining town of Slaughters, Ky., Knight has risen to international stardom in his solo musical journey and wrote songs that have been recorded by Confederate Railroad, John Anderson, Randy Travis and others.
Knight, 59, was born in St. Louis, Mo., but grew up in Kentucky, where his father was pipe liner. When he was 3 years old, his most wished for thing at Christmas was a plastic guitar. By age 15 he was serious about the guitar and taught himself John Prine songs using his older brother’s guitar.
Chris Knight’s songs have been recorded by famous country singers such as Randy Travis.
But before pursing his musical dream, he made sure he had an education on which he could fall back. Knight earned a degree in agriculture from Western Kentucky University. He then worked for 10 years as a mine reclamation inspector and as a miner’s consultant for the Kentucky Department of Surface Mining.
In reference to a new album, Knight has been quoted as saying, “I’m pretty close. I’ve got a pile of songs. I’m still tweaking, and culling, and so it shouldn’t be too long. I know it’s about time, I’ve just kind of been – I tell everybody I ain’t sold enough of my first album yet (laughing) so what’s the rush?
By age 26 he had began composing songs but held out on performing until age 30. Seven years later he got his first record deal.
“I started late, but there was no reason for me to start any earlier because I was still pretty rough when I did start,” Knight has said about his road to the top. “It takes awhile to find your way on stage. It comes more natural for some people because they want to find a way to draw attention. But I’ve never been like that. I’ve always been more introverted, I guess.”
When he went to Nashville, Tenn., he won a spot on a songwriters’ night at the famed Bluebird Cafe. Knight attracted the interest of music producer Frank Liddell, who signed him to a contract with Bluewater Music. When he released his self titled debut album in 1998, Knight still lived in a 10x15-foot trailer on 90 acres in Slaughters.
When Decca folded at the end of the 1990s, Knight signed with Dualtone Music Group. After making two records, he decided to release his music independently with the help of his manager. He released “Pretty Good Guy” in 2001, “The Jealous Kind” in 2003 and “Enough Rope” in 2006.
In 2007 he released his first demo tapes that had been recorded while living in his trailer in Slaughters. Called “The Trailer Tapes,” they turned out to be one of his best-selling records. 2008 saw the release of “Heart of Stone.”
In September 2012 fans eagerly saw the release of “Little Victories.” His former Decca labelmate, Lee Ann Womack, collaborated with him on “You Lie When You Call My Name.” John Prine sang on the title track.
It is this backwoods poetry set to music that he will bring to the stage when he performs as the Friday night headliner for RiverRoots Music & Folk Arts Festival on June 7. He is scheduled to take the stage at 9:30 p.m.
Tony Novello, a member of the band selection committee for RiverRoots, said “this was the second year we have tried to get Knight.”
The committee is made up of individuals who put together a balanced lineup “between what we all like and think the fans would like. We get a lot of fan input.
But we are also competing with other festivals. It’s a complicated process.”
Booking acts can “be a scheduling challenge, but in the end, we end up with an excellent lineup,” said Jane Vonderheide, another member of the band selection committee. We have a variety.”
Knight is a crowd favorite wherever he performs. A lot of his early material resonates with relatable stories about southern folks on the fringes of society, tales of desperate, downtrodden characters with a penchant for trouble.
Dan MacIntosh wrote in a Songfacts blog that “Over the years, Knight has continued to write wonderful, personal songs. As he puts it, he always writes from his gut. And it shows.”
“Where I grew up, around Western Kentucky and small towns and all that, I had a lot of stuff to write about,” Knight said. “If you sit there long enough, you might start playing a melody and maybe you get a lyric.
“If you sit there and you don’t have something, I don’t see the point in writing. I write really rough, and that’s just always the way that I like it. If it works for me, I’m pretty sure it’s going to work for the people I play them for. It’s either that or I go back to hunting around the coal mines.”
His decision to become a songwriter was fueled by the fact that he was always more of a thinker growing up, “just sitting in the woods and thinking.” Added to the mix was the fact that he came from a family filled with storytellers and musicians. One of his songs became a hit song recorded by Montgomery Gentry, “She Couldn’t Change Me.”
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