Chris King is a songwriter that has grown his audience and catalog over the past few years. After balancing music part-time with a full-time career as a Texas high school football coach, King has jumped headfirst into music full-time this year. In this edition of 20 Questions, King delves into that career switch, discusses why south Texas is his greatest muse, lets us know why he always has Johnny Football on the guest list and gives us an in-depth comparison between his Texas and that of Josh Abbott’s.
1. You have been quite prolific over the past two years with regard to releasing new music and growing your career. Can you catch everyone up on what you’ve got going on?
Since the release of 1983 and its companion acoustic album Native, I’ve gotten a little erratic with my writing. I’ve got several notebooks laying around the apartment full of finished and half-finished songs. I’m writing a lot, and I love putting out new material. Whether it’s a well produced studio album or something I did on my own in my apartment, I think it’s important to continue my stream of creativity and get it out into the open. My next release will be a 5-song EP that I’ve recorded in my apartment called “Public School Teacher”. Burton Lee from Eleven Hundred Springs is going to play steel on it and K Phillips is going to play some keys. It’ll be a sh*tty lo-fi recording, but it’ll be new and I love the songs.
2. You recently quit your profession of coaching and teaching to chase the music stuff full-time. Are there any similarities you’ve found between the two industries?
What I’m doing now couldn’t be more different than what I was doing then. I loved both coaching and teaching, but my attention to them was always distracted by writing, music, and art. And the latter three won out. I miss the coaching aspect of it sometimes. I haven’t decided if I miss the teaching yet. Modern education is an odd animal.
3. Name association:
Josh Abbott: Successful.
Javi Garcia: New Braunfels.
K Phillips: Creative soul brother.
Adam Hood: Catchy.
Drew Kennedy: Incredibly thoughtful.
Mike Ethan Messick: One of my favorite writers.
Courtney Patton: We’re pals.
Jamie Wilson: Matriarch. She opened a lot of doors for me.
Owen Temple: Legend.
William Clark Green: Down to earth.
4. Who is most responsible for your love of music?
680 AM – KKYX in San Antonio. Many of my formative years were spent with that station on the radio. I had no idea back then, but I guess it seeped into me.
5. What was the best moment you experienced as an educator?
I coached in Jourdanton, a 2A school south of San Antonio, for 6 years. When I arrived in Jourdanton, their varsity had only won 2 games in the previous 3 years. My last year there, we’d coached the varsity team to a district championship for the first time in something like 15 years. The seniors that year were the first kids I ever coached – as 7th graders. I coached defense with that same group of kids for 6 years. It was great to see that through. Athletics and what it does for young people is an education in and of itself.
6. You’re a proud Aggie and rising Texas songwriter. Has Johnny Football ever ghermed you?
Johnny Football has never ghermed me, nor do I imagine he even knows who I am. With that said, I put him on my guest list every single time we play Bryan/College Station. He’s got an open invitation any time.
7. Stories behind the following songs:
–“Homeland”: I grew up in a town of 1,000 people. Graduated high school with a class of 17. This song is specific to me in many ways, but it’s everyone’s hometown.
–“Still Haven’t Said”: This song was about a relationship I was in. A lot of that song was contrived to express a longing that didn’t actually exist.
–“Antler Inn Ballroom“: My brother, Josh Wadsworth, has a dream to open a dancehall with his wife called the Antler Inn Ballroom. This is a song I wrote specifically to take place in that fictional, hopefully one day real, place. It’s always an hour after midnight at the Antler Inn Ballroom.
-“Twenty Eight”: This is a very self-descriptive song. It’s about maturing, understanding my values and my place in relation to a whole lot of things. It was the first song I wrote for 1983, it’s the first track on that album, and it’s the song that helped me write the rest of that record.
–“Man Enough”: This song is entirely made up. I wanted to depict a guy whose lack of honesty and forthrightness cost him a girl. He’s looking for a way back, but his story won’t end well. Jamie Wilson’s harmonies on that song are amazing.
–“Lost Forever”: I was trying to write a traditional-type folk song…something with fewer descriptors than I usually use.
–“Sinton”: Sinton, Texas is a kind-of desolate place on the south Texas coast. I thought it’d be a good jumping-off point for a song, though it starts in Houston, moves to Austin, and ends up in Sinton. It’s a miserable time for the guy in that song.
-“Bouquet of Flowers”: This is a very old song. When I was in college at A&M, I knew a guy who had a huge crush on this girl that lived in a dorm near ours. He didn’t know her. He wanted to send her flowers, but he was scared and never did. A few years later I wrote this song about a guy who keeps buy flowers for a girl, but he never gives them to her…so his home fills up with all these bouquets he’s never given her. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written.
–“Native Son”: This is my love song to Texas. There is a human love song that runs parallel in it to make it more relatable to everyone, but the song is about Texas. The lyrics are very real and very representative of how I feel about this state and how I feel about creating things that will be added to its musical catalog. I take that part of what I do very seriously.
8. What’s your opinion on co-writing? Is it something you enjoy or something you tolerate to get a good song?
I would like to do more co-writing. Though I’m a very solitary writer normally, I think that it has value and that it’s something I should be doing more of. So, if anyone would like to do that, they should holler.
9. You write a lot about south Texas and the area you’re from. Is that by design or just you following your natural muse?
Part of it is a natural muse, and part of it is being particularly fond of that part of the state. The hill country is beautiful. East Texas is mysterious. West Texas is vast and sprawling. But south Texas is evokes a lot of creativity in me that I don’t feel in other parts of the state.
10. You’ve often talked about Josh Abbott’s “My Texas” being different than yours. What is Chris King’s Texas?
First of all, let me state that Josh Abbott’s Texas is a very real and important Texas. It’s a Texas that everyone can relate to. Personally, I’ve done nearly every single thing in that song. My Texas doesn’t differ all that much. I just wanted to give voice to all the small wonderful things that weren’t mentioned in that song… like drinking Lone Star Lights in the pressbox of the high school you used to coach at at 2AM.
11. Favorite touring memory of the following towns:
-Austin: Getting drunk with Mike Harmeier from Mike & The Moonpies and John Evans at Hole In The Wall after we each did solo sets. The night ended with the three of us standing on the bar taking shots and getting kicked out during a giant group hug.
–New Braunfels: Getting played on KNBT and meeting Mattson Rainer. I love what he does for this kind of music. I’m very grateful to folks like him and Shayne Hollinger at 95.9 The Ranch in Ft. Worth.
San Antonio: I cut my teeth at an open mic in San Antonio at a bar called Limelight every Tuesday for several years before I got into playing actual gigs. I had, and to a degree – still have, a healthy amount of stage fright. This place gave me the alcohol and the confidence I needed to get up in front of people and share my songs.
12. If you were to design a Mt. Rushmore of songwriters, who would you place on it and why?
Rodney Crowell, Doug Sahm, Guy Clark, and John Prine. Some people won’t agree with me on that. Some people may scoff that I don’t have Willie in there, but these are the songwriters who resonate with me. Especially Crowell and Sahm.
13. You’ve got $100,000 to blow on anything you want. How do you spend it?
Pay off my debt, reserve some studio time, cut and release a record with a good publicity push, save what’s left.
14. What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen regardless of genre?
Old 97’s. Every time. Ton of raw and unbridled energy.
15. What is your favorite dive bar? Where is it? And what makes it special?
I’m going to have to go with a place in Rockport/Fulton, Texas called The Sugar Shack. You’ll just have to go there sometime. It’s amazing. If anyone reading this goes there… tweet me pictures.
16. What was the first record you bought with your own money?
The first piece of music I ever purchased with my own money was Dwight Yoakam’s Just Lookin’ For a Hit. Cassette tape.
17. You operate your own social media accounts and are very interactive with people. Do you think that is a crucial part of being an artist in the year 2014?
I work very hard at maintaining relationships with folks via social media and I think it’s crucial for artists to engage their fans who follow them – especially on Twitter. Without Twitter, my debut album would not have received the attention that it did. I’m certain of that. I’ve always felt lucky that anyone pays any amount of attention to anything I create… the very least that I can do is not be a douche and respond to their tweets.
18. Rapid fire:
–Favorite recipe? I make pretty mean collard greens.
–Go to play on 4th and 1? Midline or inside veer, depending on where the defensive tackle lines up.
-Waltz or shuffle? If I’m writing, a waltz. If I’m playing, a shuffle. If I’m dancing, a shuffle. If I’m listening, a waltz.
-First song you look for on the jukebox? Creedence – “Born On The Bayou.”
-Favorite highway? Highway 81 from Hobson to Runge.
19. Question 19 has remained the same for a decade, no matter the interviewee. Now, it’s your turn. What’s your favorite George Strait song and why?
“Down and Out”. I like George when he was young and yelpy. Something in his voice back then was a little wilder.
20. What do you feel sets your music apart from that of other artists?
That’s always a question that I never really know how to answer. I just always hope my music strikes people as honest and real. I think there’s a lot of realness missing from a lot of modern music.