Old Crow Medicine Show rose to fame in 2004 with their hit single “Wagon Wheel,” which grew out of an early Bob Dylan sketch modified by lead singer Ketch Secor. Their new album Remedy, released this July, features another Dylan fragment-turned-single “Sweet Amarillo.” Since their start in 1998 busking in New York, they’ve become regulars in the folk festival circuit, won a Grammy for “Best Long Form Music Video” and were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
The seven-piece Americana-folk group will be playing the Alabama Theater in Birmingham on Friday night, with Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops opening. Ticket information is available at http://alabamatheatre.com/events/tickets/.
WVUA-FM had the opportunity to speak with banjo player and songwriter Critter Fuqua about the tour, songwriting inspiration, and his love of heavy metal.
When’s the last time y’all played Alabama?
Last time we played Alabama? I can’t remember. It’s been a little bit. But we’re definitely excited to come back to Alabama.
How’s the tour going so far?
It’s going well! We’re in Athens Georgia right now. We’ve got a little bit of three day jump going with Athens and Birmingham then Chattanooga
What can we expect tomorrow night in Birmingham?
We’ve got a bigger show now. The past couple of years it’s been getting bigger. We’ve got seven guys now and we’ve got some drums and keyboards. It’s a bigger sound and a bigger show. Lot of energy, and we need a lot of energy from the crowd. The crowd is definitely a part of our show.
What’s the reaction been like from the audience when you’ve been playing the songs from the new album?
They love it. It’s been a really strong reaction. It’s probably my favorite album that we’ve done and I’m really glad that people are already starting to sing along to the words. They know their favorite songs. So it’s been really good.
We play “Sweet Amarillo” on our station, but I think my favorite song from the album is “Firewater”, which I know you wrote. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of writing that song?
I was in Nashville in the winter or early spring of 2013 and I was in Five Points in East Nashville and I saw there was a homeless guy out sleeping in front of a church. I thought that was very strange, you see stuff like that often but the juxtaposition of someone sleeping outside a place that supposedly would take them in. So it’s kind of a spiritual mediation on the realities of religion and spirituality and what that means. It was just kind of an image I got and then I brought it to Ketch (Secor). Ketch and I when there’s a word or a phrase or a hook or image that we’ve got we just sort of build a song around it.
So I saw that y’all are going to play The Ryman on New Year’s Eve?
Yeah, we’ve been doing that every year for a while. It’s kind of a tradition of ours now.
What’s it like to play in such a “hallowed” space?
It’s pretty humbling. It’s a great room. It might be my favorite room to play. It’s wonderful to be on that stage.
Besides obviously Bob Dylan, who are some of your other major influences in your music?
For me personally, Bob Dylan of course, but my first real band that I fell in love with was Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana. I grew up in Virginia but I didn’t really grow up listening to any kind of traditional music like fiddles and banjos and what not. I was pretty much raised on rock and roll. My early influences were AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses; I got into Hendrix and Dylan. Credence Clearwater Revival was a big one for me.
Who are you currently listening to? What’s the last album you loved?
Well I’ve been on a real big heavy metal kick lately. I’ve been revisiting a lot of heavy metal albums that I used to love when I was in elementary school. Just recently I’ve been listening to Master of Puppets by Metallica.
Is that going to have any influence on future music that you write?
I don’t know. Good music is good music. Everything influences everything else, but Old Crow’s not coming out with a metal album. I think people get confused sometimes where you’re in a band like this and you’re listening to anything but Americana or Old Time music. There’s a whole world of wonderful music out there.
What do you think about the label of “Americana” as a genre? Do you think you fit into that?
I don’t really think about labels a whole lot, but yeah I think you could say its Americana. It’s like going to an antique store and there’s a whole lot of different stuff in there. The store says “antiques” as just kind of a blanket to cover everything. Yeah we could fit into that category.
Is Dom Flemons going to be performing with you guys tomorrow night or is he just opening for you?
He’s been opening up but we’ve been doing a lot of stuff with him on stage. It’s been a lot of fun. He’s a hell of a performer and he’s got a great band with him. You’ll definitely see us up there with Dom.
So then what’s next after this tour? Are you guys going to do another album?
Well you know the year’s winding down, we’ll do the New Year’s Eve shows and then take it easy for a bit. There’s always songs that we’re writing but I don’t think we have any definite plans for the near future. There will be more albums and more songs and more shows.