Interview with Singer/Songwriter Chris Crockett

We are in the middle of something none of us have experienced….but there are positive sides to everything. I was lucky enough to be linked up with Chris Crockett’s daily posts on Facebook. I love his laidback style of singing and how he is helping all of us to get through our “shelter in place” in style.

Chris, I don’t know much about you, other than that I love your songs. Can you give us a brief bio?

I caught the music bug from my father, a published songwriter and very gifted guitarist.  He and his father, mother and brothers came to Los Angeles in the 1920s as “The Crockett Family Kentucky Mountaineers”, playing what was called hillbilly music. Gerald Haslem, in his book “Workingman’s Blues” said the Crockett Family brought country music to California.

My dad bought me a 4 string guitar when I was 12, and at 13 I started writing songs. When I was 17 my brothers and I wrote and sang a song “Mother Mother May I Go Surfing” as “The Crockett Brothers”, which was released on Del-Fi Records in the early 1960s.  It was followed by “Fastest Car In Town” on Del-Fi Subsidiary, Donna Records.

I was mostly interested in writing songs in the intervening years, and wound up with a staff writer’s contract with Snuff Garrett and Peso/BMI Music in Hollywood. While writing with Snuff Garrett, I had songs recorded by Brenda Lee, Larry Mahan (The King of the Rodeo) and Jerry Inman, and wrote for producer Ray Ruff with songs by Donnie Brooks and Sean Morton Downey, Jr.  I was accepted as a member of the Grammy organization, and was conferred lifetime membership 4 years ago. 

I have lived in Nevada City, California since 1978 and have been performing as a solo performer in clubs, restaurants, theaters and bars since arriving.  This year I was awarded the Union Newspaper’s “Best Local Performer” award for 2019.

Are you still writing songs?  

Absolutely.  I will never stop.  Since coming to Nevada County, I have released 3 albums of original songs, “Illusion of Time”, “Stranger In This Land” and “Cigarette Soup.” In 2001 I did an internet project titled “Chris Crockett 365 Songs in 365 Days”.  I uploaded a song I wrote every day for 365 days in a row, and released a CD of 14 original songs every two weeks for the entire year, 26 in all. The songs were all self produced and rough, just me and my guitar. I used songs from my lifelong catalog, and also wrote songs as I went along.  I wound up releasing 365 original songs that year. Also, I am currently working on my 4th album titled “Oh Yeah” consisting of songs I’ve written over the last couple of years. It should be out later this year.

What gives you ideas for songs?

It is very seldom I write a song from an idea, or write a song on “assignment.”  After all the years I’ve been writing music, I still have no idea where the songs come from.  I mainly work in solitude.  I pick up my guitar, start playing, and a song comes out, more often than not pretty well complete from the get-go.  I will perhaps do a little polishing as I’m “learning” my new song, but for the most part they are born whole.  I also have brief ideas I call snippets, which I record and expand on as the mood suits me.  Writing music is as essential a part of me as breathing, eating and sleeping. I’ve also had some wonderful experiences co-writing, but mostly work alone.

Do you have a favorite place to perform?

99% of the time I play in Nevada City, Grass Valley or Lake Wildwood. I love playing, and particularly like The Off Broadstreet Theater in Nevada City, The Golden Era Lounge in Nevada City and The Oaks Clubhouse in Lake of the Pines, Penn Valley. I love to play for the residents at Eskaton and Hilltop Commons on a regular basis. I also look forward to playing yearly at the Nevada County Fairgrounds during the Nevada County Fair and Christmas Faire. 

What do you listen to for pleasure?

Because I sing and play cover tunes in all my venues, I am usually deep in pleasure learning songs to perform, so I spend a lot of time listening to music from all eras, picking out the words and chords.  I challenge myself all the time to go beyond my comfort zone and believe this is how I keep my mind flexible and sharp. I have committed over 900 songs to memory, lyrics and chords. I spend most of my time either learning or writing/producing songs.

I love lyrics and lyrical songs, so enjoy great writers and musicians like Paul Simon, Jessie Winchester, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen, Billie Eilish, Finneas O’Connell, Childish Gambino, and any song in any genre that tells a great story.

Do you have a favorite story to share?

I spent 29 years working as a railroad minstrel on The Fun Train and Snow Train to Reno during the winter months. The train ran from Emeryville, CA to Reno, stopping to pick up guests along the way.  I would walk the aisles of the train singing to passengers, taking requests. I would then spend the next two days in Reno and sing to the passengers on the way back home.  The train ceased operating in 2017.

 

Thank you so much, Chris.

Readers: Check out Chris’s daily songs on Facebook!