Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ were formed in Atlanta, Georgia in 1985. Sharing bills with Neil Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sonic Youth and Soul Asylum, their southern-skewed rock generated modest chart success during the following decade, although the restless nature of frontman/guitarist Kevn Kinney would prove an Achilles’ heel. Kinney checks in ahead of some rare UK dates.
The story goes that at twenty-four you’d all but retired from music and were working at a sewage plant when you met your eventual bandmate and manager Tim Nielsen.
Tim was a popular musician in Atlanta. He saw me play, we hooked up and our first show sold out. Which was very encouraging as I was getting tired of playing to five people.
Until that point, your songs were Bob Dylan-esque. How did it feel to rock things up?
I was interested in words but I also loved punk rock. When I started up with Tim I knew we had to be a rock band with something to say.
The result was a mix of rock’n’roll, folk, DC punk and southern rock – not something people might expect.
Yeah, and [our label] Island Records didn’t expect it either. We were with them for seven years and there was zilch in the way of promotion.
They did put you on some good tours.
Our best tour was with The Who, but that was much later on. They only paid us two hundred and fifty dollars a night, which barely covered our gas, but at each show we received seven tickets – sometimes in the front row – so we watched them performing Quadrophenia every night. If The Who call and ask you to play for free, who could say no?
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There was some success, though: your fourth album, 1991’s Fly Me Courageous, sold half a million copies. But when its successor, Smoke, fared less well you changed the sound.
Yeah. I grew tired of the volume. It was a messy, chaotic time for me. I was getting divorced and there was a custody battle. I was on drugs. I realised I was done with loud guitars. I wanted to focus on songwriting again.
Were Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ too eclectic for their own good?
That’s true. What I’ve done for the last few years is make EPs that focus on one genre of music. Over the last few years I think I’ve begun to get the balance right. I figured out how to entertain an audience and keep myself interested.
The band’s most recent album, The Great American Bubble Factory, is now seven years old. Are you done with making full-length records?
I’ll never say never on that, but with EPs, people can make their own albums. On every one of my albums there are two or three songs that I just hate. Why put stuff you’re not proud of on to a record just to make it longer?
The dates you’re playing are with Dan Baird & Homemade Sin. Are you pals?
Dan was among the first people to champion me in Atlanta. It can get competitive between bands in town and he could have been a total dick to us, but he reached out after seeing me play live. We’ve been fast friends ever since.