Back in September of 2018, I sat down with Ethan Power and Jake Crawford of the duo Crawford & Power. Prior to that meeting, I was completely unfamiliar with them and thought they sounded more like a law firm (a prestigious one, of course) than a couple of country musicians, but I quickly discovered that I was sent to the correct location and that they definitely were not lawyers.
What was great about that interview was just about everything. I learned a ton in a relatively short amount of time, I became a fan of their music and the best part of all, was I got called back to talk to them again a week ago. It was only about six months ago that we’d talked to each other, so I knew that something different, or at least relatively good, must have happened within that short period of time for them to want to chat again. I was curious. Not to mention that these two guys are really easy to talk with, so it wasn’t drudgery or anything. It turned out that a lot can happen in six months.
When I started off by saying to Crawford & Power that there must be some new things going on, Power offered up some information first. Almost sleepily, he responded with, “Yeah, we have been doing some new things. We played a show in Charleston, in early January. With Willie Nelson. Then we did one with Three Dog Night. Then we played 30A Songwriters Festival that included Jason Isbell.” Wait a minute. I had to stop him right there. Here’s a guy that was still really tired from a show the previous night, and was in desperate need of another pot of coffee, but he was still speaking clearly enough, and yours truly was in pretty sad shape and could have used more caffeine too, but I know I heard him correctly.
Image courtesy of Crawford & Power Facebook
First of all, Willie Nelson. We needed to talk about that. Six months prior, this duo was primarily playing breweries in their home state of Virginia. Now they were opening for Willie Nelson at the North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center in South Carolina? They sure did. They still seemed almost too stunned (and a little bit exhausted from the night before) to dance on the tables about that gig, but they said it was incredible.
What they did have to talk about though, was Willie Nelson’s sister, Bobbie Nelson. They couldn’t say enough about how impressed they were with her musicianship (she plays piano in the band), her energy (she plays the entire set without any help), and her sense of style (she plays in stiletto heels). I suppose that would be impressive to the average person, but these are very gifted musicians themselves, although they do not wear stilettos, I am fairly certain I can say that. Why were they so in awe? They were dazzled because Bobbie Nelson is 87 years old and she still tours like a boss. Every show it goes down just as described. That’s why.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Obviously, longevity and stamina run in the Nelson genes, or as we all decided, they may have had a little help from nature. Whatever their secret is, it’s working, and it reminded me of an article I recently read in, of all publications, AARP. I’m old, so I get that one in the mail. Sometimes there’s good stuff in there, who knew? This particular article was about Willie Nelson and there were a few quotes from him that I loved. This one, in particular, I had to include in this interview, because as I go further along, you’ll see it’s relevance. The AARP article, by the way, was written by Rich Cohen and appears in the June/July 2018 issue.
“Nashville’s always Nashville,” he said. “It’s where you take your goods to sell, and if you’ve got anything good, cool. If you don’t, they’ll let you know pretty quick.” Willie Nelson
“It’s simple,” Willie said. “Do what you want to do. If I don’t want to do it, forget it. But if I do want to do it, get out of my goddamn way.”
Opening for a country music legend like Willie Nelson was quite a way to start an interview from a couple of guys that were playing local breweries back in the fall, but I have to say, what really raised my eyebrows was hearing them say they played a show with Jason Isbell ANYWHERE on the same bill. If there’s been an artist’s name buzzing much louder than Isbell’s lately, I’ve missed it. I would guess about eight out of ten artists I’ve spoken to recently mentions Isbell as someone they would love to collaborate with, or as someone they very much admire.
Photo courtesy of Jason Isbell Facebook
Jason Isbell was one of the players at the 30A Songwriters Festival in South Walton, Florida, which is near Destin. Crawford described that experience to me. “30A was probably one of my favorite events because you go to Destin, which is one of the most beautiful places ever and they treat you like gold. We each got our own artist tent and you all network and you have Isbell doing his set, and then you’re networking with him and all kinds of people.” Power then added, “It was unbelievable. Isbell’s unbelievable, and so many other artists we look up to were there, Webb Wilder, David Ryan Harris, John Driskell Hopkins from the Zac Brown Band, Steve Earle.”
Steve Earle, in my mind, is one of the great country music songwriters, so I needed to ask about him. Sometimes, you just happen to have asked about the right person. As it turned out, there was a funny story about Earle, and Crawford had it. Although they didn’t become fast friends at the 30A Festival, Crawford and Earle did “meet”, if ever so briefly.
Photo courtesy of Steve Earle Facebook
“I can say that I rubbed shoulders with Steve Earle, literally. At 30A, during Ray Scott’s set, I think it was, no, I know he was singing that funny song of his, ‘The Ugly One’, and this bearded guy walks by with a towel, and he kind of belly bumped me and says, ‘Excuse me’, and I moved over. Then I looked over and I said, ‘That was Steve Earle.’ He had just taken a shower and he had on sandals and basketball shorts, so yeah, I rubbed shoulders with Steve Earle.” I joked with him and said, “Yes, in the most intimate way.” “He picked me”, Crawford shot back. He’s quick. That’s what I love about these two guys. Their senses of humor are really good, even on little to no sleep. Obviously, he was saying all of this very lightheartedly. He did, however, really “bump into” Steve Earle at 30A. Who knows? Maybe one day, they’ll laugh about that over a collaboration. Stranger things have happened.
Crawford & Power’s last single was “Play a Hank Jr. Song”, and it was doing well when we last spoke and it continues to do well. As I’m typing this up, I’m taking a peek at Spotify and it’s showing almost 103,000 streams. Not bad for a song released independently, and this duo doesn’t go around heavily smashing their music into everybody’s faces. They have a good publicist that promotes it well, but doesn’t oversaturate anyone with it. I’d say for artists that take that approach, that’s a respectable number. With that in mind, it was still time to get another song out to their eager fans.
The new single, “She Liked to Get High” is available now on all the usual digital platforms and was written by Crawford about someone he went to school with, someone who shall remain nameless, because as he put it, “If I say who, it takes most of the fun out of it, so I’d say it’s about 80 percent true. It’s just like TV, you have to jazz it up a little bit.”
So far, crowd reactions to the song have been very positive. Yes, the title might suggest it’s about illegal drug use, but Crawford & Power both made it clear that they never make any mention of “weed” anywhere in the song. “Wine gets mentioned a little, but we like the play on words. Besides, pretty much everyone has known someone like this in their life that they can relate it to.”
Ironically, “She Liked to Get High” wasn’t even supposed to be on the album, much less become a single in the first place. While Crawford wrote the song, both he and Power worked out all the arrangements together. They went into the studio and recorded it and even after that, Power was against it being on the record, that was, until the mixes got back. He changed his mind. Then he turned right around and told Crawford that he felt the song needed to be on the album and the song that was originally slated to be the first single should be nixed in place of “She Liked to Get High”, which shows how much magic is in the mixing process. We can also see that there’s obviously give and take in this duo’s musical relationship. Power could have drawn the line in the sand and refused to let the song in, and a very cool country song would have been lost, because the finished product sounds so good.
No matter where you go in this town to record music, chances are it’s going to sound better than just about anywhere, and that’s because the people that do session work in Nashville are the cream of the crop. “She Liked to Get High” was recorded at Round Hill Music with “a bunch of all-stars”, said Power. All-stars indeed. With this being the cast of characters playing on Crawford & Power’s latest single, I joked that they could have just left and had these musicians sing the song too. Here’s the rundown: James Mitchell (lead guitar), Josh Schilling of Mountain Heart (keys), Brian Fullen (drums), Troy Lancaster (guitar), Kelly Back (acoustic guitar) and Brian Kolb (producer).
In addition to “She Liked to Get High”, the duo said they’re always writing, and had, in fact, just finished up a song with Shelby Lee Lowe. They said they would probably be back in the studio in the fall or winter when the touring season slowed down. That’s been their pattern for three years now and it seems to be working for them.
Although they have been traveling heavily already, they won’t be stopping. In fact, they’re kicking it into an even higher gear now, adding new cities to the schedule to stretch their market. Places they’ve not been before like Lexington, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ohio, Washington, DC and Patterson, Louisiana are in for a treat when Crawford & Power roll into their cities with their special brand of real country music.
“Night Moves” Cover Video courtesy of Christie D’Amour and YouTube
They’ll also be joining The Marshall Tucker Band out on the road once again to play places such as North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina. They’ll also be playing dates with Warner Music Nashville artist, Cody Johnson, which they’re very excited about. Check out their socials (listed below) for all tour dates on the schedule.
With all of the usual housekeeping business finished, we had some time left, so I asked a few questions off the cuff. I asked them each if they were to write a song as an ode to an artist they feel they owe a lot to, who would it be, and what would the working title be?
Jake Crawford went first. It didn’t take him long to say it would be Corey Smith. “First off, he’s been super nice to us lately, so there’s that, but he’s the guy who made this dream achievable to me. I’m a realist. Seeing an artist who built his own markets and he wrote his own songs. He never had a label, he never had radio play, yet he was grossing about four million dollars a year by touring. He just had the best homegrown thing I’ve ever seen. He wasn’t playing arenas. He was playing 1,000 to a few thousand. His songs are damned good and relatable and it all hit me at a great time in life that he’s just one of the bigger reasons I’m doing this.” Crawford then said the title to his song for Corey Smith would be, “Thanks for Keepin’ it Real”.
Photo courtesy of Taste of Country
An instrumental was Ethan Power’s choice. “I’d do an instrumental for Jerry Douglas. He is, to me, the greatest dobro player ever. He’s taken the dobro into all different genres and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be playing it now.” His title? “Flux”, which is Jerry Douglas’s nickname. I told them both they had songs to write now so they’d better get busy.
Photo courtesy of jerrydouglas.com
What song did they each just last listen to besides their own? For Power it was “Coldplay” by David Ryan Harris. Crawford, oddly enough, last listened to Corey Smith’s “Moving Pictures”.
Next, I tried something different. I had them fill in some blanks. I won’t tell you where the blanks were, because it will be easy enough to figure out once you read both of their answers. I’ll just type in exactly what they each said.
Crawford: My co-write canceled today. Do you have Rob Williford’s number? I’d like to write with him today.
Power: My co-write canceled today. Do you have Noah Smith’s number? I’d like to write with him today.
Power: The last time I really felt amazed by an artist, I was listening to Blackberry Smoke, and I was thinking these guys are just real. Every lyric is just real.
Crawford: The last time I really felt amazed by an artist, I was listening to Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, and I was thinking it was such raw emotion and it was like a throwback.
Crawford: After these interviews today, I’m going to sleep.
Power: After these interviews today, I’m going to watch Netflix.
Moving on. Keep in mind, we wanted to keep this within the PG-rated realm, so the answers given here are rather harmless. I was told there are plenty of stories that weren’t fit to print in this type of publication, but maybe someday, I’ll get to hear them elsewhere. I sure hope so, because based on the laughter between these two guys, they must be good ones. I requested that Power tell the fans something they may not know about Crawford and vice versa. They were more than happy to dig out something family friendly.
Power: I’ll tell you Jake has a pet peeve. He doesn’t like hotels. He hasn’t done it lately, but he used to take a sleeping bag with him because he wouldn’t sleep on the hotel beds without it. I would laugh at him and give him a hard time about it.
Crawford did have a response to that. “Just the thought of not knowing what was in those beds before me…” Then he made a face expressing disgust. “I’ve gotten better.”
Crawford: Ethan has pretty bad road rage. Not on the interstate, but on inner city Nashville streets. We’re not used to this kind of traffic. *It should be noted that the duo actually had a road rage incident that very morning involving an Uber driver in another car. The irony here is that Power wasn’t driving, Crawford was.
Since they were now cleansed from telling tales on each other to their fans, I opened up the floor for a minute for each of them to talk to their fans about their music. I told them to say anything they wanted. Here are their words, exactly as they were said:
Power: We’re really just trying to get out here and play real country music right now because a lot of the people that come to see us, and we get this over and over again, “Please don’t stop what you’re doing. Keep it country, play real instruments.” We kind of feel like we have an obligation to do that now because you turn on the radio nowadays and so much of what you hear now is just the same recycled “snap”. So, if I had one thing to say to our fans right now it’s that we’re going to keep striving to keep country music “country”.
Crawford: I would say, piggybacking off of that, we were talking about this the other day, everything that we do is real, and every song that we’ve ever put out or recorded is about somebody that we know or somebody that we witnessed go through something. Like every one of them, no jokes, and I don’t think that we would ever record something that we either didn’t firsthand experience, or witness somebody else close to us experience. I would say the main thing for me, personally, would be that we’re just trying to connect and keep things real. Not to bash other peoples’ music or whatever, because if they’re successful that’s great, but we just really like the deep stuff. We like real things and we’re never going to stray from that. I can honestly say if we got this big, crazy offer for two million dollars tomorrow to cut a really stupid pop song, I don’t think we would do it. I really don’t. I think we would find much more glory in having written it and been a part of it, you know, just be something real. So, I don’t think we’ll ever stray away from our roots.
As we neared the end of our time, I asked if we were to get together again in a year, what did they think we would be talking about? When Jake Crawford answered fast and with confidence, I made a mental note of the date. I really hope I remember to check back and see if he’s right. He responded with, “In a year, we’ll be talking about how badass it is that country music is coming back to its roots and a lot of click tracks are on their way out. Snap tracks, clap tracks, the same track on everything. They’ll be gone. Listen, if I wanted to hear pop, why would I not put on Justin Timberlake and listen to the best in the pop business?” There you have it people. The country artist has spoken. Will there be a country music click track/snap track/clap track burial ground by March 7, 2020? Can it die that quickly or will it be a much slower death? Or will it only become more prevalent? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Finally, as always, I had to ask, when Crawford & Power “Think Country”, what do they think?
Crawford: Real, honest, day-to-day life. The real stuff. True emotions.
Power: Raw, roots, tradition, all tied into the lyrics. Real.
I can’t stress enough how much this duo believes in country music and how much it wants the genre as a whole to reel itself in. While they aren’t carrying signs and protesting the demise of traditional country thanks to an influx of pop music-making machines taking the place of real musicians, they’re pushing back peacefully by playing things their way. They’re independent artists growing their fan base steadily and that’s how they like it right now, and obviously so do the people that follow them.
They should also be an inspiration to every hardworking artist out there, with a strong emphasis on “hardworking”. If you want it bad enough, find your fans and make them your own little army. For Crawford & Power, those fans were in hometown breweries. Those brewery fans were the best around because they were devoted. Devoted enough to let go when they had to.
These days, Crawford & Power don’t have enough time to play those breweries very often anymore, and they have those rock-solid fans back home to thank for their full schedule and the success they’re seeing. You don’t just open up for Willie Nelson in an arena unless you’ve got a little bit going on. Who knew that was going to happen in just six short months?
Photo courtesy of Crawford & Power Facebook
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