chris knight music
When singer/songwriter Chris Knight began his professional music career in 1994, he never expected to be a top 40 star. He hasn’t been, but he has built a solid, well-respected career in the Americana style. His record label at the time expected him to build slowly and gain fans as he went along. “I was trying to build a career, not be a flash in the pan,” Knight said.
When Knight went to Nashville in the mid-1990s, he intended to be a songwriter, not a singer/songwriter. Now he has a career as both. Probably his biggest hit recorded by another artist is a song he co-wrote, “She Couldn’t Change Me,” performed by fellow Kentuckians Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry, known together as Montgomery Gentry. How did he feel hearing someone else sing his tune on the radio? “It was good,” Knight said.
Knight worked as a mining consultant, and then was a mine inspector. He left his job once he felt he could earn a living as a musician.
Knight lives on a farm in Slaughters in western Kentucky. Growing up and living in Kentucky have affected his songs and his songwriting skills. The songs reflect “the way I grew up, the people I knew. I stayed here. I never moved to Nashville,” Knight said. Though he is in touch with the music industry there, the Kentucky soil and stories are an essential part of his music. Moving away “would adversely affect my music,” Knight believes.
Knight became focused on music in the mid-’80s. He heard Steve Earle’s song “Guitar Town,” and it changed his life. “Yes, it really inspired me,” Knight said. He’d been writing his own songs, but they didn’t really gel. After listening to “Guitar Town,” Knight estimates he wrote about 60 songs the following year.
Knight also is a fan of John Prine, another musician with Kentucky ties. Knight’s music is similar to Earle’s and Prine’s in that it has a folk tinge, and he writes songs that can break the listener’s heart. For example, “Crooked Road” is about the broken hearts of parents whose son dies in the coal mines, and it is wrenching.
The similarity to a well-written short story is no accident. Knight is a big reader and counts Cormac McCarthy, Larry Brown, Jim Harrison, William Faulkner and John Steinbeck among his influences. Spend some time with a Knight CD and listen to the characters rise up and tell their stories. “Most of my songs are about rural settings,” Knight said. “And there are a lot of story songs. Maybe they [the audience] relate to a lot of the same things I relate to and write about.”
Knight plays as far away as California, Texas, New York City and sometimes Europe, but he also still plays many dates in Kentucky and hopes to play some festivals near Lexington this summer. He has a new album coming in the fall.
— Laura Younkin