The opening strains of “Framed” brought Chris Knight his first hit single and national acclaim, but the kudos were long overdue. Knight, who grew up in Slaughters, Ky., had been toiling on Music Row for years; he had publishing deals with major songwriting houses long before his voice was heard on radio. Knight has survived thanks to relentless touring and a dedicated cadre of Americana fans who buy his albums.
Q: What was Chris Knight like when he first started to realize he wanted to be a musician?
A: I was 5 years old when I started singing. I was always interested in playing guitar when I was little, but I didn’t learn how to until I was 15. I learned a bunch of songs and poems, and I would write from time to time. I got a college degree, a career, and basically had a whole different life when I decided it was time and I was going to be a musician. I’ve been going to Nashville singing songs since I was 26 or 27, so I’ve got my foot in the door down there a little bit.
Q: How long did you spend in Nashville?
A: No more than two days at a time. I lived 120 miles from Nashville, so I was working my job and sometimes I’d take off to go to Nashville.
Q: At what point were you able to stop doing your job and just concentrate on music full-time?
A: I used my college degree for 10 years in the coal mining field. I loved that job, so it wasn’t just a job to me, and I could still be working there right now and be about ready to retire if I wanted to. When I was 31 or 32, I started making a little headway in Nashville. I didn’t even go down there until I was 31, and I got on at Writers Night and met some people. I started working with them, and a couple of years later I got a writing deal, then a record deal.
Q: Has your time spent at the coal mines ever popped up in any of your songwriting?
A: I’ve got some that don’t necessarily have to be about coal mining, but there are a lot of coal-mining songs out there. Some of my songs could apply, and you could just take a certain job out and insert another one. It’s not so much about a job as it is just living.
Q: You talked about getting a songwriting deal. Were you writing for other artists as well?
A: Yes I was a staff writer for Bluewater, Warner Chapel, and Universal.
Q: You’ve established yourself as a songwriter and you’ve gotten on the road; have you still been able to write new songs?
A: Yeah man, I’ve been on the road for 20 years, so I’ve been writing new songs for the last 20 years.
Q: What’s the plan for the rest of 2019?
A: I’m putting out my ninth or 10th album in September. The record is done but we’ve just got to set it up to get it ready to release and get everything in place. Me and my manager own a record company and we’ve got distribution, publicists and all of that.
Q: Are you going to release the first single anytime soon?
A: I don’t know what a “single” means in my world. It’s not like a Top 40 Country release. There may be some stuff that goes to Americana radio, but I don’t think this thing will see the light of day on Top 40 Country.
Larry May is the owner of CD Cellar record store on Noble Street in downtown Anniston.