By: Sarah Hagerman
"Around the country there are people that are going through the motions of living," Ketch Secor (fiddle, banjo, harmonica) of Old Crow Medicine Show reflects. "Living in this day and era is so powered by consuming. Consuming has in many cases replaced some of the more gen-U-ine [his syllabic emphasis] facets of living. And I think that that's probably going to be what destroys us all - when we become a culture that only knows how to purchase, to buy, to take, to receive. And it's of vital importance that music and art stand against that way of living, that we be the anti-consumer. And if we are to be consumed, since we create a commodity as artists, [it's important] that our commodity is something of soulful nourishment. I got turned on as a kid by music, and it rattled all through me and it changed me. I think that even though it was a different time - and the times have changed so rapidly since the time that I was seeing Dylan and the Dead and Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen - in this time we can still create that sort of environment, where you can come to a show and leave a whole lot lighter."
Secor and his bandmates in OCMS – whose current lineup is Willie Watson (guitar, banjo, vocals), Kevin Hayes (guitjo, vocals), Gil Landry (resonator guitar, guitar, banjo, vocals) and Morgan Jahnig (upright bass) (at the time of writing Critter Fuqua is, according to Secor, "Taking an extended break. The road is not so good to him.") - create the antithesis of music as pretty product. Rambunctious, slightly chaotic and unapologetically earthy, there's not much slickness to them, save for a bit of spit and polish. To strive for authenticity, if often helps to get yourself dirty and a little uncomfortable, go without luxury, or even perceived necessity, for a while.
When the band moved to Nashville in October 2000, they left a purposefully simple, rough existence on a mountain outside Boone, North Carolina for another kind of ardor.
"It really was a continuation of what was happening all along," Secor says. "We always kind of had our sights set on Nashville, the capital of country music. But the kind of life that we moved into was so similar to the one we'd left. We left the sheep and the pig at home but we still had country living, bacon and biscuits for breakfast and beer all day. We were on the fringe. We were all living in this kind of kooky house in this terrible ghetto with a lot of drug deals and prostitution going on outside. So it was a bit of a harsh reality after coming from that idyllic life on the mountain. But the mountain was pretty gritty, too. It might have had some scenic vistas that Nashville ain't got but it had the same kind of hard edge."
Eight years later, they continue to call Music City home, but are also still self-described "freaks" in the scene. "I'm not there a lot," Secor says of the Nashville music industry. As we speak, he's walking through a construction site in St. Louis, Missouri, and I can hear the wind whipping through the phone. OCMS are booked to play The Pageant this night and I'm catching him in this window before stage time. "I'm more likely to be found wandering around a construction site like I am now. Of course, Nashville's got their share of those."
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"Big country and all, it hasn't really turned its face to look at us, accept us, take us in. It's kind of in its own world and we're in ours. We got in the door at some of those places and we played for all those dudes six years ago, and they didn't sign us, so we haven't had to go back. But recently our new album debuted on the country charts at No. 7, and I think that was cause for them to look at us and look at themselves and hopefully ask themselves the question, 'Who's playing country music here?' Is it the boys who came to town in the Cadillac and played the Opry with the banjos and the fiddles and the big dog house bass? Or is it these dudes who have been hanging around the mall for so long that they look like the stores they shop in? They sing songs that sound good to shop, songs that sing well in elevators and parking lots and theme parks. You know, I like country music a whole lot. I love country music, but I just got too turned on by Jerry [Garcia] to give too much credit to country music of the 1990s."
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