A lifelong Kentuckian, Chris is the child of parents who divorced when he was only a year old. His mother raised him on country and bluegrass; his dad exposed him to Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. An uncle later turned him on to Steve Earle. At 15, Chris heard his first John Prine song and bought Prine’s Great Days anthology soon after. He likes to say “this was the day my eyes opened.” Around the same time, Joe Ely released the single “All Just to Get to You” from the Letters To Laredo album. Chris bought the album because Springsteen was featured on harmony. A few years later, when he heard Ely’s version of “The Road Goes on Forever,” he introduced himself to Robert Earl Keen’s original version.
Having already been a Springsteen, Petty, Earle, and Prine fan, Chris soon fell in love with REK, which led him to Guy Clark, Chris Knight, Hayes Carll, Townes Van Zandt, Terry Allen, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and so on. He says, “Each artist I found showed me another artist, who showed me another, until my list of influences is practically anyone you’d hear on an Americana station.” And what they ultimately led him to, of course, was writing his own songs.
With this affection for some of the best songwriters in the country, Chris says he has tried to learn a thing or two: “I try not to waste lyrics; I want every word to have a place in the song. Musically, I generally wait until the words are on paper, then put chords around it. My song characters are usually hopeful cynics, if there is such a thing.” This songwriting style is on full display in his album Secondhand Angels, with topics including man’s betrayal of God, small-town blues, parental fears, heartbreak, murder, and internal salvation. Produced in London, Secondhand Angels features some of the region’s finest musicians, including Dave Grigsby on drums, Chris Shouse on mandolin, and Jon New on bass.