Old Crow Medicine Show Has A ‘Remedy’ For What Ails You
Veteran roots string band Old Crow Medicine Show and singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile have teamed up for a co-headlining tour that includes stops at historic venues such as the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, the Fox Theatre in Detroit and Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado. During the concerts, the two acts even collaborate on a handful of songs. Old Crow Medicine Show created a music video for their rendition of Brandi’s song “Alibi” and Carlile, in turn, made a music video for her cover the Old Crow tune “Sweet Home.” Crow’s touring in support of its most recent album, last year’s Remedy, the highest charting debut in the band’s 16-year career. Singer-guitarist Critter Fuqua phoned in from his Nashville home to talk about the tour.
How’d you end up teaming up with Brandi for this co-headlining tour?
We met a couple of years ago, and it just really fit. I don’t know how to explain it. She’s an incredible performer and songwriter. Her band and her camp is so welcoming. We’ve just had a lot of fun playing together. Even though on paper it might seem like it wouldn’t fit, when you see it, it’s obvious. It just works.
You perform some songs together too.
She’ll play with us and sing a Merle Haggard tune or whatever and we’ll play “Jolene” with her and her band. It’s fun. We’ve played together a lot.
I think you started playing music with bandmate Ketch Secor when you were in seventh grade. What was that experience like?
We both started playing guitar when we were 12 or 13. Growing up in Harrisonburg, Virginia, it was top 40 country. I grew up listening to Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana. That was the first stuff we started playing. It was punk rock or whatever was being played. Then, we started listening to Bob Dylan. In the early days though it was definitely rock ‘n’ roll.
You weren’t exposed to bluegrass?
The weird thing is that people hear Virginia and they think of the South and assume you grew up listening to bluegrass. Nobody was playing bluegrass or old-time fiddles or anything where we lived. It was a college town and there were punk rock bands from Richmond. It was in the ’80s. There really was nobody playing that stuff.
I think the band finally formed in Ithaca in 1998. What was the group’s musical philosophy at the time?
I don’t know that we had a philosophy or approach. I wouldn’t put those two words together when we started the band. Ithaca at the time was a hotbed of old-time fiddle music and banjos. This was up North. These guys from the ‘60s and ’70s would go down to the South and hear people who were playing it. They moved out to California and other places. It was a hippie intellectual folkie sort of movement that got it from the Deep South and the Mountain South and brought it to the North where it was curated. We learned more about Southern music being in New York than we did being in the South, at least I did. We know Donna The Buffalo well and we hung out those guys. That scene is really cool and we’re lucky to have lived there.
Things took off quickly?
It depends on what you mean by take off. If you mean commercial success, that didn’t happen for years. We just kind of did it. We were playing gigs the minute we started the band. We made the tours happen. We went on a big two-month tour across Canada and the United States. It just kind of happened. We just kind of did it. I don’t think the focus was on making it so doing it was still fun. It was a weird time. I graduated in 1996 and it was before the internet and cell phones. There was an element in America where this stuff right now wasn’t popular. There was still a mystique to it and people looked at you like you were crazy. It was kind of cool.
It seems like things were going well when the band took a break in 2011. What happened?
I wasn’t even playing in the band in 2011. I had left in 2007. I was going to a university in Texas. I had gotten sober, and I hadn’t come back to the band. It was something totally different. We took a break and then in 2011 there were lineup changes. Ketch and I started playing together in 2011 and 2012. I moved back to Nashville and rejoined the band.
Talk about Remedy. When did you start writing the songs?
We started writing a lot of songs and we looked at stuff that had been around for a long time . . . since we were 17. We had a lot of material. We were at my house a lot and we’d write and get together and arrange and play. It was a real team effort. All that stuff came about because we were working on it together.
What made you revisit the older songs?
They were just good songs. We always thought about them. They just stuck around and were always in our heads. I don’t know if we thought it would be cool to do one that we used to play when we were 17 as much as we thought that it was a really good song.
Critics have said it’s your most contemporary sounding album.
I guess so. I don’t know. I don’t think it’s contemporary sounding because that would mean it sounds like current country, and I don’t think it’s that.
What were the recording sessions like?
We recorded at Blackbird here in Nashville. We were in there for about a month. It was a lot of work but it was fun. We were just all one big team. It’s not like we were separated from each other. It was really cool.
How’d the collaboration with Dylan come about?
It technically is not a collaboration with Dylan, we found out. We found out that he didn’t write that song. There was a woman named Donna Weiss who had shown him this song during Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. She came out of the woodwork when it came out and we got into a little thing. Now that we know that she wrote it instead of Dylan. It was through our management and they sent us this snippet. It was an honest mistake. He’s written so many hundreds of tunes that I don’t know if he’d remember if we wrote a snippet in the ’70s.
Have you met him personally?
Never. We’ve never talked to him. The legend of our collaboration is bigger than the reality. I don’t even know if he really exists on a physical plane. He’s given us feedback on songs through his manager sending it to us. That’s about it. It’s an ethereal sort of relationship.
Have you started thinking about the next album yet?
Yeah, we just finished a new record, but it won’t be out until next year.
Upcoming 2016 Shows
Interlochen, MI @ Kresge Auditorium
Detroit, MI @ The Fox Theatre
Huber Heights, OH @ Rose Music Center at The Heights
Canandaigua, NY @ Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands PAC
Columbia, MD @ Merriweather Post Pavilion
Camden, NJ @ XPoNential Festival
Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Phoenix, AZ @ Comerica Theatre
Tucson, AZ @ AVA Amphitheater
San Diego, CA @ SDSU Open Air Theatre
Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Bowl