Drivin’ N Cryin’, rocking hard as ever 30 years after first arriving on the Atlanta music scene, motors into Asheville on Friday for a show at the Grey Eagle. The band has been such a constant over the years – delivering memorable live shows and a prolific offering of their version of Southern rock – that it can be easy to take Drivin’ N Cryin’ for granted.
Kevn Kinney brings one of the most distinctive voices to the stage. He’s backed by incredible musicians, notable his band co-founder Tim Nielson. (The band will feature Jason and the Scorchers guitarist Warner E. Hodges at its show Friday.) And in genius style, the band taps into a current that blends musical styles – from roots and punk to classic Southern rock. The result is a fresh and relevant showing each time out. (And don’t forget Kinney’s solo work.)
It all adds up to a band, and bandmates, that have ridden the wave and have arrived at a place where they play for the joy of it, and for one another. (Check out the documentary Scarred but Smarter: Life n Times of Drivin N’ Cryin for a deeper dive.)
Ashvegas caught up with Kinney before Drivn’ N Cryin’s Friday gig. Here you go:
Q: You’ve been to Asheville many times over the years What is it about an Asheville music audience that makes it different, makes it stand out from other places you play?
Kinney: I think Asheville audiences in Asheville are open-minded. They’re prepared for anything you give them, because the music scene there is everything. It’s folk. It’ rock. It’s jam. So when you return to a place like that, Asheville gets great shows because the musicians are comfortable and they know they’re appreciated. I know they’re not going to keep shouting Straight to Hell.
Q: How far back do you and Warren Haynes go?
Kinney: I met Warren as Stephanie’s boyfriend. I think he had just released his first solo record, and had just restarted the Allman Brothers. I give him a lot of credit for being a force that brought them back from an oldies act to a relevant act.
Q: I saw one of your solo performances at Altamont Theatre a year or two back, and was impressed by your songwriting. You’re a great storyteller, and you’re so prolific. What’s your secret?
Kinney: Just like I tell every songwriter who has asked me: I write my story. You never hear me talk about meeting the devil or being a Mississippi blues guy. Don’t make up a story that’s not you.
Q: Several of your songs have a timeless feel. How do you pull that off?
Kinney: I try not to be too topical. I try not to stereotype. I wouldn’t write a song about Trump, because in 10 years, nobody would care. I have a song called With the People. Another called Peacemaker. They’re pretty generic. And I really try to steer clear about writing about the music industry. Nobody cares but you about that. Mainly I like to write pop songs.
Q: What should your Asheville fans know about where you and the band are right now, and what they can expect when they come out?
Kinney: I’m an entertainer first. I don’t want to be your favorite band. I just want to be one of the 20 bands you see this year. I like to entertain myself. If I’m not in the mood to play, you won’t see me play. I love to perform, and I love to perform with my guys. We’re there to make music together. We’re in it together, and in that environment, you can last for years. I was good friends with Johnny Ramone and it was weird because they just hated each other. I always wondered why they would even bother. They made it work and they had their mission and they were excellent, but I would have quit that band.
Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ will play the Grey Eagle on Friday, with Andrew Scotchie and The River RatDoors opening. Doors at 8 p.m., show at 9 p.m. This show is all ages, with tickets $15 in advance and $18 the day of the show.
Criminally underrated band.