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Inclined toward the fantastical

In conversation with Chris Blevins

As in the tradition of all great country music, Chris Blevins is a storyteller. Over a few beers after his Courtyard Concert (performed in the early hours of a brewing thunderstorm) Blevins spoke of the people and the stranger-than-fiction stories that inspired his career in music.

Blevins’ debut album will drop July 14 via Horton Records. Until then, catch him every Monday night at Mercury Lounge.

First song learned:
Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground” by The White Stripes. I am an enormous Jack White fan. I saw him in downtown Tulsa not too long ago. I was about to pass him and I put my hand up and was like: “Are you Jack White?” And he was like, “Yeah,” and I was like, “Cool!” And then I just kept walking. It was the most absurd, reflective moment of my adult life. 

Guilty pleasure songs:
A guilty pleasure song to play is that “Tennessee Whiskey” rendition by Chris Stapleton. I pretend like it’s a big deal, like pulling hens’ teeth to get me to do it, but really it’s kinda fun. 

Guilty pleasure to listen to would be a band called Chronic Future. They’ve got this album called Lines in My Face. It was the only good album they put out, ever. It was like a rap, thrash-metal, hip-hop, funk, weird thing. None of the rest of that shit, but Lines in My Face is a great record. I still listen to it driving down the road.

Desert island discs:
Harry Chapin’s Greatest Hits, Rage Against the Machines’ Evil Empire, and then White Stripes’ White Blood Cells—no, Elephant.

Anticipated upcoming shows:
In July in Oklahoma City, Samantha Crain is opening up for The Mountain Goats. December 19, 2016, I quit my job and started doing music professionally. And I’m still an absolute novice. But The Mountain Goats have this tune that goes, “I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.” It’s my anthem right now and I am so stoked to get to see that show, especially to see an acquaintance opening up for people that I look up to so much.

Most memorable show played:
The Monday before last at the Mercury Lounge. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. The guy who produced my record, Chris Combs, was playing lap steel and guitar, one of my heroes, Stephen Lee, was playing guitar, and then John Fullbright sat in on keys, Michael Kendall was on the drum kit, and Paul Wilkes was on upright bass. Afterwards we were all like, “It doesn’t matter if we all get together on this stage next week just like this, this is probably never going to happen again.” It was just awesome. Absolutely the most memorable show to date. 

John didn’t even tell me he was showing up. I talked to him the week before, and he was like, “Yeah, totally, I’ll come play any time you want me to.” He means that, I’m sure he does, but he’s busy as shit. But he and Stephen Lee had just gotten back from a gig that they had together, and they both, like, took a nap, and then Stephen was like, “I need to get my shit out of your car.” John was like, “Nah … just get in the car, let’s go.” It was really cool. I’m a total fucking fanboy and I’m fine with admitting that. John Fullbright’s a big influence on me, man. 

Musical influences:
There are two guys in Tulsa I can draw a direct line to involving me wanting to play music for a living. Jerry Wofford, who used to write for the Tulsa World, was a judge for this shitty talent show in Okmulgee three or four years ago. It was set up like “The Voice” and he turned his chair around, and I’m up there singing my amateur ass off. We got to talking afterwards and he was like, “Man, I don’t know if you’re doing this for a living or not, but it doesn’t seem like you’re giving this much time, like you’re doing it like a hobby. And just my opinion, but I think you should pursue it.” And that gave me enough confidence to start pursuing it. 

Maybe a month after that, I was listening to NPR and John Fullbright had an interview. I had listened to a couple of his tunes and thought, this guy’s pretty fucking good. When he explained where he was from, I was like, “Wait a minute.” I Googled him and found that he’s my age. We had to have gone to basketball games together. Our schools played each other. I started thinking … if he’s my age and doing this, this is totally attainable. So he became, like, one of my little idols. And up to December 2016, he was an idol, and then I met him and it was like, oh … he’s just a normal guy. 

I owe those two so much. John, not so much for what he said, but what he did, and Jerry absolutely for the faith that he had in me. How badly am I blushing? Can you tell?

A non-musical influence:
This is gonna sound strange—the bourgeois society that propelled itself out of World War I in Russia. Watching the parallels in a capitalist society, they mirror each other pretty well. When I made the realization and the connection how, that impacted me as a person; it made me start listening to the people I needed to be listening to to cultivate the voice that I have. 

It sounds fucking ridiculous. I’m not an educated man at all, but I’m serious, that’s what it is. Russian history has always been pretty neat to me. You draw a line all the way back to the House of Hapsburg, like how they conquered all of Europe—a single family. That’s a neat story, man. That’s just as good as King Arthur and Knights of the Round Table, but it’s real. It’s historical. That was some of my fairy tales when I was younger.

Even down to who killed Kennedy. Like, how much nonsense and fabrication popped up off the assassination of one president? That’s essentially in our lifetime, most of the conspiracies anyway. Or right now, with our president. I don’t care if you’re a fan of him or not a fan of him. I’m personally not a fan of him and I want to see him investigated, but I don’t give a shit which way the investigation goes. I’m not looking for a witch hunt. If he’s actually guilty, I want him tried. If he’s not guilty, well, he can be a shit stain and still be free. 

We have an unwitting inclination toward the fantastical, as a species. We just do. That might be the core realization that made me want to write. We have a fantastical bent and we want to explore it. 

Music is:
Music is the visceral interpretation of an amalgam of human emotion. 

For more from the courtyard, watch Lauren Barth perform her song, “Want it back.”