A common piece of advice given to artists pursuing a career in country music is to move to Nashville. Well, Craig Gerdes did just that.
And then he left.
After finding himself to be “too country” for Music City, Gerdes decided to do things his way, which has led him to release his debut album “Smokin’, Drinkin’ & Gamblin'” in February of 2018.
Read our interview below to learn all about Gerdes’ move to Nashville, his move out, the new album, and more!
Pro Country: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Craig Gerdes: My dad was my biggest musical influence growing up, along with people like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Hank Williams, Carl Perkins, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, etc.
PC: How important was it for you to have music in your family? What role did your father have in shaping your sound?
CG: Music was a huge part of my family; there was always music being played. My dad introduced me to country music at an early age, but also to rockabilly & early rock & roll & I think those influences come through in my music.
PC: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to make music for a living?
CG: I started playing guitar when I was 3 or 4, then joined my dad’s band when I was 10, so I would say I knew then that I wanted to make music for a living.
PC: Was it at all a nervous/vulnerable feeling when you released your first three singles in 2015? Did you feel any pressure- internally or externally- to achieve a certain level of success?
CG: Recording those 1st singles was kind of strange for me. They were recorded in Nashville, & everything seemed to be rushed as far as the recording process went, & the songs never really turned out like I had envisioned.
PC: Is the song “Smokin’, Drinkin’ & Gamblin’” almost like an autobiographical song? What led you to name the album after this song?
CG: I wrote that song about the music business itself. The “Smokin’” represents the smoke & mirrors in the music business. The “Drinkin’” represents the substance abuse that happens to musicians; & there’s no bigger “Gamble’” than the music business, so we thought that was an appropriate title track for the album.
PC: “Redneck Sonsabitches” is a great tongue-in-cheek song about your time in Nashville. What was it like professionally to come to the realization that Nashville wasn’t the place for you?
CG: I just felt like I didn’t fit in in that town. All of the songs I was writing & pitching were all “too country,” is what I was told. I met Billy Joe Shaver during that time, & he said “I’ve got a piece of advice for you, keep writing those country songs & get the hell out of that town!” So, after four years, I took his advice & never looked back.
PC: “Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets” is one of the really great tracks on the record. What drew you to that song and led you to include it on your debut album?
CG: When I was in Nashville, I was writing for a publishing firm owned by Johnny Paycheck’s pedal steel player Jim Vest. He played on Paycheck’s original version in 1977, so I thought it would be cool to bring him back in the studio 40 years later & play on my version. It was just a natural fit for the album.
PC: “You Saved Me from Me” is my personal standout track from the record. Can you talk about the writing process of that song and the inspiration behind it?
CG: That song was written by a friend of mine, Dallas Moore. He came in the recording studio while we were cutting tracks & played it for me on an acoustic guitar. I immediately aligned with that song & felt like he wrote specifically for me. I just changed the arrangement of it a little bit & slowed the tempo down.
PC: What do you hope people take away from listening to the “Smokin’, Drinkin’ & Gamblin’” record?
CG: I hope there are songs on that album that people can relate to, whether it makes them happy or sad, I hope the songs stand on their own & paint a picture. To me, that’s what music should do.
PC: What are your thoughts on the state of country music?
CG: There’s a lot of good country music out there, it might not be mainstream, but it’s out there. So much has changed in the way people find & listen to their music in the last few years. It’s easy to find the “good stuff,” it’s right there at your fingertips.
PC: What plans do you have for the near future?
CG: We’re making plans to start working on a new album & tour extensively. Also lining up some tour dates with some other artists, so stay tuned!
*Images courtesy of Craig Gerdes’ Facebook Page*