Dirty Dozen: Country Lips

Party country from the Pacific Northwest, this is the real country music.  An eight-piece honky-tonk band with a focus on the hard-edged, hook-laden, close-harmony country sound of the west coast, Country Lips has been called many things: “legendarily wild,” “a merry band of shitkickers,” and “the pick-me-up line of speed country needs to start kicking ass again.”

Can you tell us about yourself? Where you’re from and what you’ve been up to over the past few years?
We are from Seattle, WA and we play authentic country music.  We’re an eight piece band featuring dual electric guitars, acoustic guitar, mandolin, accordion, piano, fiddle, bass and drums.  We’ve gigged non-stop for the last 5 years, playing all manner of shows from clubs, to dance halls, to weddings and festivals.  We’ve been on 3 tours of the western US, one as far as Texas.  Last year we recorded our most recent record “Till the Daylight Comes”.  It was our first time working with a professional producer in a real recording studio and we got to tighten up a bit for it.  We’re planning another tour down the coast for January and we’re looking to continue touring more and more this year.  We keep trying to play harder and better and cut records that really capture the excitement and energy that rough and rowdy country music deserves.

How would you describe your music?
West Coast Outlaw Country.  Norteño with chicken pickin’.  The Byrds do zydeco.

Can you tell us a little bit about your influences?
It started with the classics: Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Gram Parsons, The Band.  Then we got really into mexican norteño music and made that hard, bouncy feel a feature of our sound.  I’m a huge fan of the chicken pickin guitarists like Vince Gill, Albert Lee, Brent Mason, Jerry Reed so I draw a lot of my guitar playing from the styles they paved.  More recently we’ve found some excitement digging around in some of the swampier cajun-style grooves.  And we’re all students of the “Everly-Beatles” school of harmony.

What are you currently promoting?
We just released our second full-length studio album “Till the Daylight Comes” which we are very excited with.  We recorded with producer Randall Dunn and together explored some new territory in terms of sound and feel, branching out at times from the mostly norteño-meets-honky-tonk sound of our previous record “Nothing to my Name”.  We also have a music video by Coco Foto for the single “Grizzly Bear Billboard” that we filmed over the summer at a county fair in southern Washington that showcases our more charming side.

Have you got a particular song you’ve done that you’re particularly proud of, one that might define you?
Our single right now is a song called “Grizzly Bear Billboard” that marks a slightly new foray into mid-tempo country.  Our signature song probably remains “Black Water” from our previous album, a ripping bouncy two-step with a lot of chicken pickin.

What are you currently listening to?
Collectively we seem to agree that Daniel Romano is doing some of the coolest work in the country (etc.) scene these days. And Jaime Wyatt is always on the deck in our bus.

And your favourite album of all time, the one you couldn’t do without?
“Revolver” is kind of a cop out so I’ll say “Mighty Joe Moon” by Grant Lee Buffalo.

What are your hopes for your future career?
To keep getting better as musicians and writers and performers.  To keep enjoying all the hard work in hopes that the people who hear it and see it enjoy it as much as we do.  And to be able to do this indefinitely.

If money were no object what would be your dream project?
I’d love to do it the way they did it back in the day when artists recorded 2 albums a year for years on end.  It would be awesome to have that chance to make albums that are a bit more thematic.  Make a true tex-mex record, then a driving guitar-based 10-steppin record, then a super polished Carlene Carter style record, and then a stripped down harmony based bluegrass record.  Pair that with a couple of tours and I’d be in the zone.  I’d also like to get better at waterskiing.

What’s the best thing about being a musician?
So many things.  It’s a conduit for making amazing connections with the friends I’m lucky enough to play with and share the stage with.  Developing that level of communication and openness with someone is very special.  It’s a creative outlet that helps to work through and process all kind of emotions or frustrations.  Honing skill on any instrument is a very rewarding lifelong project that never ends.  And being able to bust out a song for someone who may really need to hear one is a great gift to have and to give.

And the worst?
Being a musician is kind of weird because most of us would do it for free, and still do a lot of the time which places “musician” in sort of a grey area when it comes to a career choice.  We won’t stop playing if people stopped paying us.  A lot of deserving young musicians never get the compensation they deserve because they’ll do it for free, which is a beautiful thing but also kind of tough when you commit your life to it.

Finally, have you anything you’d like to say to the readers of Americana UK?
“Country music” can mean a lot of different things these days.  And the map has been redrawn to some extent, but certain things remain – as you move west from Nashville, the edges get harder, the riffs get tighter, the groove gets bouncier, at some point an accordion might show up, the sheen roughens a bit, and when you take a right at Bakersfield and head up into the woods and wild blue up north, that’s where you’ll find us, trying to distance ourselves from the red-tinged middle of the country, at least for the next four years. Come hang out, it’s one of the good parts of America right now with mountains of amazing music and artists. Better yet, maybe we’ll come to you. Here’s hoping. Peace.

Author: Rudie Hayes

Rudie is the weekly host of the syndicated radio show - The Horseshoe Lounge Music Session - playing the best American Roots and hosting terrific live guests.

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