Photo courtesy of Skyler Wheeler’s Photography and Crawford & Power
When I first received an email about interviewing Crawford & Power, I have to be honest, for a minute, I thought they wanted me to talk to a couple of attorneys. Of course, I knew that wasn’t the case. The PR firm sends us music because we DO music around here, not to mention nobody in their right mind would ever allow me, of all people, to sit down with a couple of lawyers.
In the usual scenario, I go to the socials, I look at some photos, read a little bit about the artists and have a decent handle on things before I go into these interviews, but folks, it was a Monday morning. It was the first of two interviews on this particular Monday (I ended up having the time wrong on the second interview to boot) and my weekend was chaotic. I wasn’t Unprepared. I was, however, only HALF prepared. I listened to some of Crawford & Power’s music before the interview. I made it a point to check out their new single, “Play a Hank Jr. Song” especially. I was pleasantly surprised. It was really good! Catchy. There’s a hook in there that you can’t deny. You’ll know it in minutes. If you aren’t singing along, check your coffee intake in the morning, you clearly need more. It’s very easy to pick up.
We walked into the room and there sat Crawford & Power. Definitely not a couple of guys in designer suits with briefcases, but also not a couple of hayseeds who just fell off the turnip truck either. These were two regular looking guys. I hadn’t seen photos of them prior, so you never know. After hearing their single, I had no idea what to expect, but I think I was leaning toward a mix of a little “Family Tradition” and “It’s All Going to Pot”. I was way off. They looked like a couple of guys you wouldn’t mind your daughter bringing home. Harmless. This was going to be interesting!
So, right to business. Who were these two mystery men with names worthy of a prestigious law firm, that just happened to make pretty good country music? It turns out they’re Jake Crawford and Ethan Power from Franklin Country, Virginia. They met in a Public Speaking class in college, hit it off, found out they both played music and the next thing they knew, they were playing in local bars and breweries together. They discovered that playing breweries was really their niche. They always ended up with a packed house and the crowds really connected with their sound. If there’s a low point in that story, it’s the fact that Crawford ended up dropping out of college. Power, on the other hand, continued on and earned his degree. This was the first hint that they might be a very cohesive duo, but as people, they might be a bit different.
Nobody is born college-age and part of a country music duo, that much we know, so what type of music did Ethan Power and Jake Crawford listen to as kids that shaped them into who they are today? Says Power, “I started out with bluegrass, that’s kind of what got me into playing the dobro, that was from my Dad’s side. With my Mom, it was Rod Stewart, Elton John, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, that’s what we were listening to when she would take me to school. I had this constant balance because I would get home and my Dad would be like, ‘Let’s listen to Alison Krauss or Flatt & Scruggs, so he would take me to festivals and stuff, but I’d want to hear ‘Hot Legs’. That’s how I got my wide range of tastes was my Mom and Dad.”
I mentioned that I thought it was a great mix, bluegrass and classic rock and if I ever came to one of their shows, I was going to request “Hot Legs”, bluegrass-style, to which they both replied, “We do it every night.” I thought they were kidding, but they weren’t. “No, we really do”, continued Crawford, “it starts with The Georgia Satellites ‘Keep Your Hands to Yourself’ and it goes straight into ‘Hot Legs’ and I think it ends up in some Toby Keith ‘Should’ve Been a Cowboy’, it’s just all over the map. We’re rednecks. With classy taste.”
As for Crawford’s humble beginnings when it came to music, his Mom was listening to stuff like Rod Stewart, Bob Seger and just like Power’s Mom, Fleetwood Mac. “I think ‘Silver Springs’ is like her anthem, it’s her favorite song. Then sometimes, she would put on some DMX. My Mom’s musical taste is all over, in fact she had a Kid Rock CD that she used to try and hide in her Honda Civic.” With strict instructions not to repeat the lyrics to the songs on that Kid Rock album, it was clear to me that her son came away mostly unscathed, and he added that when he hears the opening to “You Never Met a Motherf***** Quite Like Me” he gets kind of sad, but in a good way. His Mom is now in her early 50’s and still very much alive, it just brings him back to a very happy time in his life, and that’s exactly what music is supposed to do. I think anyone that’s ever complained about Kid Rock needs to take a step back. If a song such as that one can create happy memories, anything is possible with music.
I was impressed when they told me their duo truly was a DUO for quite a while. Crawford handled the lead vocals and guitar and Power played dobro. That was all they needed and it was obviously working. Every now and then they hired another musician, but most of the time it was just the two of them. They worked the bars in a 50-mile radius around their hometown, just to build up a fan base in their area, then Power also went on to study at Virginia Tech, so they started playing a lot of frat parties as well.
Photo courtesy of Crawford & Power
Once this duo realized they were actually bringing in a steady crowd wherever they went and had a gig opening for Jerry Douglas, someone Power idolizes, they decided to get serious and try and make something happen with their music. Things really took hold when Power’s cousin Patrick Williams and the duo’s friend, Shaun Greer, approached them about entering a music contest at a bar called Sidewinders in Roanoke, Virginia. The winner would get to open for “an up and coming national act”, but it wasn’t specified who that “up and coming national act” was.
Crawford’s initial reaction was not enthusiastic. “I hated the idea. I don’t like competitions like that, especially when it comes to the fact that everybody’s ear is different and we’re not into the “poppy” stuff, but he (Power) talked me into it. I kept trying to back out. He was like, ‘Man, let’s just do it, it’s not gonna be so bad, we never know who’s gonna be there.’” I asked who the judges were, and it turned out it was the crowd that judged who would win, which Crawford & Power didn’t know going in. They also didn’t know there were two rounds to this competition, spaced a week apart.
The good news was, they won the first round. The bad news was, Crawford still kind of hated the whole thing because he was working a day job at the VA hospital doing accounting and then having to run to these night gigs, which was a lot on his plate at one time. The better news though, was they did end up winning the second round. The very BEST news was, the “up and coming national act”? That, was Luke Combs. Yes, THAT Luke Combs. The one who, at the time of this writing, has three number one hits, with another song racing up the charts.
Video courtesy of LukeCombsVEVO and YouTube
The thing is, Combs didn’t have all those great stats yet when Crawford & Power opened for him. His single, “Hurricane” was just starting to hit big at that time, so they weren’t fully aware of how fortunate they were. Had they known they were opening for someone who was to become a country superstar at the speed of light, they would have been much more in awe of the opportunity they were given. They definitely realize it now.
After winning the contest to open for Luke Combs, the owner of Sidewinders called Crawford & Power and said he had “a friend in the business” and let’s stop right here for a moment, shall we? We actually stopped right here in the interview and talked about this as well, so this is my attempt to put you at the table with us.
I’m going to let Jake Crawford take the floor from here. “Now, you hear these stories all the time so you never take them seriously. Everybody has THAT friend, but they never pan out, but this guy’s like, ‘I have this friend in the business, he’s gonna come watch you guys open tomorrow night, you need to kick ass, you need to really do well, because this guy has his hands in everything.’ So, if that doesn’t make you nervous enough, but we get in there, we hold our own and do the set and the guy comes up to us and introduces himself as Kent Martin, and he’s the guy who manages us now. After that, Kent put us in touch with Brian Crews and he’s the other manager we have, and it’s just been like a whirlwind. I think we’re on year two now working with them and it’s been like throwing darts on the wall, but everywhere we go, it’s set something else cool in motion for us. That’s how we got going on the regional thing because in that area it’s really hard to break out. It’s not like Nashville or Atlanta, we come from a really small town and Roanoke is the biggest city around us, and even though I love Roanoke, it isn’t a booming music scene there. There’s really no way out, so to be able to meet Kent was really lucky. Kent’s like the Chuck Norris of what he does.”
Now that Crawford & Power have branched out and are playing shows in more places, I was wondering if they’ve added more musicians to their gigs, but most times it’s just the two of them, although they have done some full band shows. They’ve put together some pick up bands when necessary, but these guys are accustomed to handling things on their own, and whether they’re playing a small bar or a crowd of 3,000 people, they know how to bring it, even though that comes with a price, which is a good amount of wear and tear on Crawford’s voice. He takes that in stride, however, and doesn’t let it stop him.
Recently, Crawford & Power played a long string of shows (their choice) and when Crawford’s voice started to give out, he chose to continue on, rather than scale things back. “Eric Church made a good point. You don’t ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, you just give what you’ve got and you make it real, you know, and if I’ve got a gravelly voice, then I think that’s pretty cool, because I’ve been bustin’ my ass all week and if I’ve got to struggle to sing a song, you know what? You’re getting what you paid for because I’m gonna struggle to sing it. The way I look at country music, it’s not all supposed to be pretty. That’s why country music is here, because it’s real, people want to feel something, it’s not all pretty. If your voice is about to give out, what better way to get an emotion across than you’ve just been working your ass off to try?”
The new single is out, they’ve racked up some impressive numbers on the streaming platforms, they’ve got a regional fan base going and they’ve opened for Luke Combs. I think there’s enough on the resume that people might want to come see them play, but where? I was expecting they might answer with the name of a nice, respectable bar, maybe near Nashville, as their next gig. How about I check my low expectations at the door?
“We’re gonna be with Travis Tritt in Augusta, Georgia”, was the answer Crawford gave me. Hold the phone. Did he just say TRAVIS TRITT? I think that’s what he said. “Yeah. I can’t believe I can say that now. I actually got the flyer the other day and it said, ‘Travis Tritt’ and it’s got this nice, sexy picture of Travis with the hair and all that, ‘with Special Guests, Crawford & Power’ and I’m all like, ‘Holy shit’.” To say these guys are excited to play this show would be an understatement. I do hope Travis Tritt’s fans (who I know are some of the most loyal in the country music world) show up early for the opener, because I think they’ll be glad they did.
Photo courtesy of Arista Media
The show is September 28th at The Bell Auditorium in Augusta and to make this gig even sweeter, AXS TV will be filming it. As of this writing, I was able to find second balcony tickets across from the stage, so if you’re interested in going, you might want to get on the stick. Tickets are still available, but your choices are becoming limited.
While Crawford & Power have landed one outstanding opening gig with Travis Tritt, and attribute a good deal of that to luck and a great PR firm, they also realize that hard work is the bottom line to anything good that comes their way. Says Crawford, “We’re very small on the scale, but you get to a certain point and then it’s really time to grind. You’re looking at it like, ‘Who the Hell said you could sleep in to 11 AM? They’re a liar.’ I don’t care who you are, you’ve just got to work your ass off.”
Hard work does pay off, and then, sometimes, you work hard and most people appreciate all you’ve done, but you can’t please everybody. It was time to dig into a slightly harder subject. The new single, “Play a Hank Jr. Song” is a good song. Great hook, it’s fun, it’s easy to learn, you would never dream there could be any problems, right? Wrong. You see, if you write a song and you incorporate Willie Nelson and “weed” into it (there are lyrics in the song that reference both Willie Nelson and weed), you should expect some backlash. It’s inevitable. You are going to have people that love it. You are going to have those that see you as the devil incarnate for promoting illegal drug use (yes, recreational marijuana is legal in some states, but not all) and that’s just the way it is. To add fuel to the fire, just recently, Willie Nelson has been in the news, thanks to him backing Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, causing many of his longtime fans to abandon ship. I had to find out what the response to the song has been so far.
Courtesy of Rolling Stone
“Thank you for asking that, I’ve been dying to tell this story”, said Crawford. “This past weekend we played a bluegrass event and there was this man, and I hope he’s doing great today, but he was an elderly gentleman who just hated us. I mean, he hated what we were doing. Well, we got into that song, and every night before we play it, I tell this story, and that man, he was just shakin’ his head at me during the whole thing. He would not have given a shit if an electrical fire had went right down my shirt and lit me up, and he wouldn’t stop shakin’ his head and then he got up and he left. If I can piss somebody off so much by singing a song, I think I did good. He needed to smoke some weed. It’s a song!”
So far, nobody has approached them on the Willie Nelson/Beto O’Rourke issue, but I was curious how they would react if someone did, especially if someone is less than thrilled with their song because it refers to Nelson in the lyrics. Crawford then took the time to explain that he and Power are very different people and have very different views on things, yet they manage to make music and get along as friends as well. This prompted me to request a separate answer from each of them for this question.
Not one to mince words, “Kiss my ass”, replied Crawford.
Power, who by that point I had figured out was the more left-leaning of the duo, and the more eloquent speaker, said he would probably just say, “Thank you for listening to our music.” He did give a slight smile, indicating that all he was really doing there was giving me the “educated” version of “Kiss my ass.” I didn’t need the non-verbal explanation, but I appreciated the confirmation.
Enough of weed, Willie and confrontational “fans”. The downer portion of this interview was done. How about Crawford & Power’s favorite venues? Which regular ones do they love to play?
It didn’t take Crawford long to come up with one. “Hammer & Forge Brewing Company in Boones Mill, Virginia, right where I grew up. It has a capacity of maybe, 86 people. That’s one of those places where you just get a feeling, a feeling when you’re doing something that you know it’s clicking. For whatever reason, we were able to draw a crowd in there. Every time we went back there, you couldn’t fit another person in there. There’s a line outside, it’s hot, it’s sweaty. For guys like us! Still, to this day, it’s a room we can always pack, the owner is such a good guy and I totally stand for everything they do down there and vice versa. He’s treated us so well and they’ve bent the rules for us before, for us to go over (on time). Ethan will kill me sometimes, but if I’ve got a nice buzz goin’ and the show is goin’ well, I will play ALL NIGHT LONG. I’ll play until I can’t talk anymore, or until Ethan wants to beat me in the head with a dobro.”
Photo courtesy of untappd.com
Me to Power: “You would really risk wrecking a dobro just to make the show end?”
Power: “Depends on which one it is.”
Me: “You need to always keep an old thrift store dobro on hand.”
Power: “I need to start doin’ that.”
Never let it be said I don’t support thrift store shopping. Even during artist interviews, I’m pushing the cause.
Power agreed that his favorite place to play was also Hammer & Forge Brewing Company, but he had something to add. “I think the coolest place we ever played though, was when we were on a run of shows with The Marshall Tucker Band and it was the first show we did. We were a little nervous and a little excited, and we were playing this played called the Ritz in Raleigh, North Carolina. We get in this place, and first off, the staff there was just really cool and treated us really well. The sound was on point and we get in the green room and it’s a lofted green room and there’s pictures of all of our favorite artists, like Dave Grohl, and we’re just sitting there like, ‘We’re here opening for The Marshall Tucker Band’, and it was just awesome. It was one of those moments where if we ever play there again, it’ll take me right back to that time right before we did that show.”
Photo courtesy of Ritz Raleigh
How do they feel about ever playing in the UK? Oh, they are both very much on board with that idea. “You call me and I’m there”, replied Crawford. “I would love to”, responded Power. Neither one of them has ever been out of the country, so they are chomping at the bit to explore the world.
Dream venue for these guys? Power jumped right on it. “Mine, if we could play Red Rocks.” That left Crawford scrambling because Red Rocks was his choice too, so he had to pick another one. “Alright. I’ve got it. Greensboro Coliseum because that’s where I went to see Bob Seger, Hank Jr. and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I’ve seen so many shows there that have made me want to do this, so that would be a pinnacle for me.”
How about the ultimate collaboration? For Power it would be with Ryan Adams or Jason Isbell. Isbell got a vote from Crawford as well, but he thought it might be cool to work with Elton John too. An Elton John concert in Charlottesville, Virginia “changed my life”, said Crawford. His Mom had an extra ticket and convinced him to go. “I didn’t know any of his songs. I knew one, ‘Tiny Dancer’, and then I saw him and I ran out and bought a piano. I did just about everything but wear the earring.”
Remember how I talked about Crawford & Power being very different individuals, yet they maintain a great friendship and create and perform very solid music together? Keep that under your hat while you read the next part.
We ask so many artists if they were to open a celebrity bar in Nashville, what would they name it? What would the theme be? What would the signature drink be? I asked Crawford & Power and these questions ended up changing my entire game plan! The concept for their artist bar was so BRILLIANT, my decision to write this interview up in simple Q&A style went right out the window. The response they gave me was so imaginative, it would have been an insult to not go the extra mile and write this one out the long way. Just wait.
The signature drink for the Crawford & Power artist bar was the first answer to pop out of Power’s mouth. “Seven & Sevens”. Just like that. I didn’t ask, but let’s assume this is a drink they know how to make and know how to drink. It’s been quite some time since I’ve had one myself, but I certainly am familiar with them. I liked the idea.
Photo courtesy of Bevvy
The name of the bar. Crawford slid back into his seat a bit and said, “It’s not safe for me to name a place, really. We had to go with Crawford & Power (as their duo name), but I can be pretty R-rated sometimes.” They struggled with this. They both agreed they couldn’t name their bar Crawford & Power because it sounds too much like a law firm, and Crawford was quick to point out, “You’re not gonna get that”, meaning law advice is not something you even want to try and come to them for, no matter what type of establishment they’re running. I had to let them think about the name. They were hitting a wall.
We jumped over to the theme of their bar. What was it going to be like inside? If they hit a wall trying to come up with a name, once they got inside this place, they were knocking down walls like they were driving a Sherman tank through it. They started rolling out ideas right away.
Crawford went first. “I’d say you have two sides. You have the redneck, rowdy, drinking side and then you have your really artsy, folky side. Then those people hash it out. I’d say you bring the two kinds of people that can’t stand each other, give ‘em separate quarters, but with glass windows so they can see through to one another. I think that’s the way you handle it. One of two things is gonna happen. Either you’re gonna go out of business or it’s gonna be like front page headline.” Power interjected, “60 Minutes.”
“In one of ‘em you could have cool plants and just shit that rednecks would hate, but make sure that all the walls are glass. Then in the middle, if they decide they want to intermingle and become friends, you can have a separate room with like, truck tires and martinis. Then maybe a hookah machine and moonshine.”
Just at that moment, Power came up with the name, “The Hippie Cowboy”. I was so impressed. These two guys, who are successful musicians that work together all the time and get along famously, yet fall on opposite sides of the political spectrum, had just “constructed” a fantastical business establishment that was a representation of not only themselves, but the majority of America right now. If that sounds deep, hot damn, I nailed it, and only because THEY nailed it first.
Before I closed out with my final question, I asked if they had any final thoughts they wanted to add and Power simply said, “We’re just a couple of country boys making music.” Crawford also had one more thing to say. “Our mission isn’t to have a number one record, I mean, that would be fantastic if we ever did something like that, but we just want to be able to put out good music that helps somebody through a good time or a bad time. That’s one of the coolest compliments you can ever get is, ‘Man, I feel you right there, I get what you just said’, because I think a lot of people don’t have an outlet.”
I think, if I got nothing else out this interview, it’s that Crawford & Power have a better grip on the power of music than just about anyone I’ve spoken with. It can, and should, transcend all kinds of lines. Everyone can talk about coexisting, but very few actually make something worthwhile happen while doing it. These two guys are proof that you can push your differences aside and get really good things accomplished. It was a cool way to spend an hour of my life.
Graphic courtesy of AZ Quotes
When Jake Crawford “Thinks Country”, what does he think? “Gary Allan said something along the lines of, ‘Country is Monday through Friday. Pop is Friday night and Saturday.’ I love country. Do I like everything that’s on the radio now? No, but do I think everyone has ever liked everything that’s on the radio? No. I think country is real, it’s emotion, it’s feeling. It’s about real life. It could be about a cancer diagnosis or a death in the family or a marriage. It doesn’t have to have a funky beat to be good.”
When Ethan Power “Thinks Country”, what does he think? “Monday through Friday, blue collar, authentic, raw, just your everyday person. That is what country is.”
Crawford & Power can be found: