Country Lips are an eight piece country band who have just released their latest album Till The Daylight Comes. It is a testament to their talent, attitude and collective take on traditional country music - somethhing that is a whole lot of fun. Lonesome Highway recently took the opportunity to throw some quick questions to the band.
What brought you guys together as a country band in Seattle?
We were all part of the music scene out of the U-District in north Seattle, some of us playing in other bands together. There had been talk of our shared interest in country music. Austin (bass) invited us to his house to jam on some old country tunes one night. We all brought a song or two, and that became our first set list. He booked us a show maybe a month later. We were super raw but excited to share the side of country music we loved - the party, honky-tonk, hard-edged side of country music. We started writing songs not long after that. A few lineup changes later and here we are.
Playing country music of the old school type is not usually something associated with the area. Is there a good local scene there?
There really is. Seems like there have always been at least a couple of very solid true country bands in Seattle since it was put on the map as a music town. And that seems to be more true today than ever. In Seattle proper the scene exists mainly around three venues (Tractor, Conor Byrne, and the Little Red Hen, which serves as the hub) and more than a couple handfuls of solid country bands (check out Ole Tinder, Swearengens, Deception Past, Lucky Lawrence, Country Dave, Gus Clark). Regionally Washington can be about as back-country as anywhere! Remember, Loretta Lynn got her start in northern Washington State.
With a line up of 8 members is there a difficulty with people moving on or are there a pool of platters there you can draw from?
We have had a number of lineup changes since our inception. And we have relied on fill-ins here and there, but our lineup has been solid for three plus years now.
How do you collectively feel about the state of country music these days in the mainstream and independent sectors?
Despite the obvious, that mainstream modern country has kind of become its own genre, I feel there may be some kind of reunification coming, as “alt-country” artists like Sturgill Simpson, Whitey Morgan, or Nikki Lane grow in popularity. My favorite mainstream country artists have had more traditional country leanings anyway - Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley - and less of the arena-pop stuff that’s on the radio. But in spite of that weaker radio stuff, really good young musicians, singers, and songwriters are continuing to find expression through the more traditional country sounds and that is definitely a good thing for country music.
Your shows are a mix of original songs and some classic covers. Is that the best way to mix the old and new?
We think so. It’s a good feeling when we hear our song on the radio in a block of music with some of the greats and you think “hey that holds its own!”. Same idea in a set list.
How difficult is it for Country Lips to tour in the current climate?
Our touring difficulties are as much our own as they are the climate’s. We like touring as a full band and it’s tough bringing 8 on the road. And the market for live music 7-nights a week has dwindled all over the country.
Do you guys have day jobs to keep body and should together or how does that work?
We all do have day jobs and that also makes touring tough.
There is an element of humour in the songs and I’d imagine with such a large band that that needs to be part of the make up?
It is inevitable. Get that many fun-loving guys in a room together and try being serious.
With the album Till The Daylight Comes being available in Europe, do you intend to tour there?
We do, just a matter of when. Touring Europe is a major goal of ours. It will be a logistical challenge and we don’t have a plan yet in place but we’re hoping there will be enough of a demand to make it work sooner than later.
What is the best and worst thing about being a member of Country Lips?
Best: It’s a collective of the most supportive friends I could hope to have. We drive each other to be better musicians and band mates and we help each other out. Worst: it can be bad for ones health at times, what with all the partying. When it comes to drinking, we practice what we preach.
What do you see as the future of country music today. Will it survive on the fringes?
I think modern country music will continue to dominate in middle America, while alt-country and traditional country gain in popularity along the east and west coast. And like I said, I see more modern country artists breaking from the modern pop-country mold.
What do you draw inspiration from for your original material?
Musically it’s a blend of honky-tonk and Bakersfield - like Merle and Jones - with some Mexican norteño, and other outlaw country. Personally on guitar it’s all about “Chicken Pickin’” ala Brent Mason or Johnny Hiland.
Lyrically we seem to come back to our own personal struggles with love, money, work, and minor social deviance.
With a number of albums under your belt to date what is the band’s intention as a recording act and how important is that?
Hopefully we can up our rate of output, and keep recording albums at a more rapid clip. Recording is certainly something we’ll always be doing as it helps make sure we keep writing new material.
Outlaws or outsiders?
Cowboy hats or backwards baseball Hats?
Almost always cowboy hats. Sometimes baseball hats, but usually forwards.
What are the bands ambitions for the future?
To keep getting better. To continue making music we love and to keep getting more and more opportunities to share it. Beyond that: Tour the world by boat. Move to Mexico and make a true norteño album. Waterski with Alan Jackson. The usual.
Interview by Stephen Rapid