Kinney is bringing it all back home. On his fourth
solo album, Broken Hearts and Auto Parts, released
this March, he puts down the acoustic guitar (for the
most part), and plugs back in or should I say brings it
back to rock and roll. The singer/songwriter for the southern-roots
band Drivn N Cryin has spent the better
part of the last decade living in a split-level house
in Athens, Georgia plucking out folk songs. He moved there
from Atlanta after Drivn N Cryins 91
release, and radio darling, Fly Me Courageous.
"I more or less retreated into seclusion," he said. Seclusion
has proved beneficial. While living in Athens, Kinney
has managed to pen four solo albums, all with varying
degrees of folkiness. His first, 1990s MacDougal
Blues, was a collaboration with longtime friend, Peter
Kinneys gig at the Mercury Lounge in New York Citys
East Village this past January, he and I sat down and
talked over a couple of beers.
Would you consider yourself a southern rocker?
Probably the best known southern rock band is REM. Theyve
probably sold more records than any other southern rock
band. I dont know if theyd outsold "Free Bird"
yet. (laughs) When most people think of southern rock
they think of 1972-1977, you know, Skynyrd and the Allman
Brothers, Molly Hatchet. When people ask me about southern
rock I always go into this definition thing to break it
down because America likes to reduce everything to a simplified
version of what southern rock is.
folk stuff has it roots in the South.
my major influences are from the South, except for Dylan
who is huge to me. Dylan spent a lot of time in the South.
I think we kind of claimed him. He makes more records
in New Orleans and such, than he does in New York.
new record plays like a retrospective of the type of music
you write. There are the southern rock songs, the folk
dont disagree with you at all. Its a good
descriptionits a bit of everything. I wanted
it to have a little bit of a sense of humor. I wanted
it to be a little bit uplifting. The song "Broken Hearts
and Auto Parts" was a hard song to write. I did a couple
versions where it was a little bit slower, and youd
be surprised if youd bring down the tempoit
sounds like Im a story book singer, and I didnt
want that to come across at all. [He demonstrates singing
the line, "Broken hearts and auto parts and everything
between," with both a slow and fast tempo.] Its
a totally different feel.
expresses the irony of the song.
its an ironic song
which, I mean, everything
that happens after eighteen is ironic.
the songs you write where youre at in life?
the songs I write are basically the same songs. All about
love and figuring out who you are and why you are. How
to get through it. How you deal with it. How you spin
it to make it seem acceptable to you. It really just depends
on what type of music Im listening to. Whether or
not I feel like being a rocker or not.
you listen to rock songs, then write rock songs?
dont say [to myself that] I want to write rock songs
and then listen to a lot of rock songs. I feel myself
slipping into listening to rock, and I just write rock
interested in what you said about writing the same song
over and over.
still trying to write the perfect song.
there such a thing?
I wrote it I wouldnt realize I wrote until after
Im dead, probably. I might have already written
it, I dont know.
a perfect song in the expression? Or are you talking a
perfect folk song, rock song, pop songthe genre?
all comes together and makes sense, like "Feel Like Making
Love" by Bad Company, thats a beautiful, perfect
song. "Revolution" by the Beatles, thats a perfect
song. You dont have to think about it. You can listen
to it hundreds of times and not even know the words. Theyre
just flying by you. Youre into the vibe of the song.
you consider yourself a songwriter or a musician?
an entertainer. I write songs and I record them and sell
them. I have to be a songwriter and musician to accomplish
all that. But Im not going to fool myself and think
that Im Chaucer or anything. After looking at the
remnants of whats left behind after its over,
maybe then Ill say Im a writer or musician,
but at this point I do it to entertain myself, and entertain
others, and to pay my rent.
sounds like a road-weary response. Was there a time when
you crossed that bridge and decided thats what you
was a bridge
six years ago.
want to talk about it?
guess I got it when I was doing folk shows in the southits
not like folk shows here [in New York] where everyone
is quiet. That makes you feel important, like, "oh Im
a songwriter"everyones paying attention. To
get their attention [in the South] you have to be an entertaining
there a point when you were trying to do something else
and you realized that you were an entertainer?
mean I dont want to put too much pressure on myself.
I dont feel important. I dont feel like Im
exposing anything important. Im just entertaining.
Id love to get up there and fuckin piss people
off with an electric guitar and make no notes at all and
just go rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr and make some cool art, but
I dont know how many times I could do that. So Im
a sellout. I dont mind trying to make people like
me. I dont think theres anything wrong with
you have done what you are doing now if you would have
stayed in Milwaukee?
decided a long time ago me and Milwaukee didnt get
along. When I came down south, I felt like that was my
home. I still play Milwaukee but I play for like ten people.
I dont feel like they get me.
you think it has something to do with the disposition
of the Midwest opposed to the South? Or is it one of those
hometown things you needed to breakout of?
dont know. I dont know the people in Milwaukee
that well to know what they want. Its very middle
Germany, very industrial music. Im sure theres
a niche there for me if I could find it, but I dont
know where it is, and Im not really interested in
finding it. I dont need to go home. I dont
need to be the prodigal son.
read somewhere this album [Broken Hearts and Auto Parts]
is your Bringing It All Back Home. Do you care
to comment on that?
hate to compare myself to a Dylan record. When he wrote
that record and he was listening to it before it came
out, Im guessingwithout any evidencethat
he might have felt how I feel right now. He totally went
electric a little bit on it and it was a fun record for
him to make with his friends because hed been touring
by himself for so long. Ive done the rock thing
and Ive done the folk thing, and now Im doing
a little bit more of the electric thing.
you is it about getting a couple buddies together, drinking
a couple beers and playing some songs?
and hopefully make people think, and feel good. I want
people to think about the world but its not my job
to preach to them. Its more important for you to
come and see me and my life. This is who I am, and this
is what I do. I dont think Im like anybody
else. You either love me or hate me or you dont
get it or youll get it or you dont want to
as long as they pay attention?
there to entertain myself, and if I know what you want,
to entertain you as well. I play these very basic chords,
but therere huge complexities underneath it all.
I could go on for hours about my agenda, but for me it
starts with something as simple as getting peoples
attention and entertaining them.