On Thursday’s (March 8) episode of Music City, when Kerry and Rachyl Degman were at odds over their wedding anniversary, they were navigating emotional waters every Nashville music person in a committed relationship knows well. As a devoted father, husband and rising musician, Kerry is at a point in his singing career where he can’t turn down work. And that typically means choosing music over time that he could spend with his wife and their son Wolfgang.
“That’s what she loves most about me and also what she hates about my career,” Kerry tells CMT.com. “I hate saying no to things.
“Every time an opportunity comes around,” he explains, “it’s like, ‘Why did we put five years in Nashville? But Nashville to a non-musician, it’s like why are we here? She’d rather be somewhere where there are mountains or oceans or some sort of topography. I totally understand that. But at the same time, it’s like every time an opportunity comes up, she’s like, ‘Do you really have to leave?’ The whole reason why we’re here is so I can leave right now and tour.”
A self-described man of few words, Kerry saves most of his emotions for his lyrics. He’s been a songwriter since high school where his passion for the artform deepened over a music theory course.
“As part of that, I had to write songs in a jingle making class,” he said. “I really enjoyed that process of sitting down with a group of guys. Most of them were more talented than I am because at that point trombone was my only instrument. It’s a fantastic instrument, but I never wanted to play it.”
He was more of a trumpet guy and a football athlete in high school. But like most artists, Kerry is a reflective, introverted soul who wears his heart on his sleeve. He met Rachyl playing a mind game with himself.
“We met at a breakfast after church in California,” he recalled. “Some mutual friends were meeting up, and I saw her from across the table. And at least that’s my story … I was playing this funny mind game where I was walking around, and I wasn’t going to talk to anyone unless I saw them and thought, ‘Yes, I could marry that person.’ She was the first one in a month of playing the game where I thought, ‘Yeah, I could marry that person.’”
But it was during a time when they were separated when he realized Nashville was where he needed to be to pursue music.
“We were living in Los Angeles, and we had been broken up at the time,” he recalled. “I told Rachyl in the same conversation, ‘Let’s get back together. I’m moving to Nashville. Come with me. Let’s get married.’ We stopped in Telluride, Co. and made a week-long vacation out of it. All our friends met us up there. It was a destination wedding so if you wanted to be there, you had to get there. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”
Available now, Degman’s new single “You’re My Person” was co-written with Love and Theft’s Stephen Barker Liles, and it’s about his love for his wife. “It’s just a guy’s perspective singing to a girl while you’re watching Grey’s Anatomy. And she always says, ‘You’re my person.’ So we love that line.”
I moved to Nashville in search of the publishing deal because I wanted to be a songwriter. The more I worked around town, industry people would say, “Let’s get this straight, you’re an ex-model who can sing and play an instrument. Why would you not be onstage?” I had to weigh the pros and cons of taking on an artist’s career because it is harder on my family. Here I am with a kid, and I love him to death. He’s my greatest accomplishment.
I’ve learned that there a lot more necessary sacrifices every day throughout this career. I wish I could be home with my wife and kid more often I get to be. I wish I could do music more than I do. Everything’s a sacrifice. There’s never enough time in the day to do as much as you want to do.
Small victories are every time you get a new cowrite, it’s a huge victory. I love cowrites a lot. It’s so interesting to bring a new personality into a song you’ve been working on for a long time. And when a song is done in five minutes, every time that happens is a small victory. Every time I get onstage again and play a song is a victory. When my wife and kid get to come to a show, and I see Wolfgang dancing around on the floor, I love that.
I grew up listening to ‘90s country music. And it’s such a diverse time in country music, too. But my sound also goes back to Steve Earle and Travis Tritt. It’s musically diverse but more instrument-heavy than track-heavy. My lyrics are still very focused on storytelling. I think the longer I’m in Nashville, the more contemporary my sound gets.
My first Nashville gig was at a place called Your Mother’s Bar and Grill. It was always fun to invite people to Your Mother’s. And it was this tiny hole-in-the-wall that had an open mic. I played it every single week with some guys I’d write with, and it was a riot. You knew it was a safe environment because it was on the west side of Nashville at a point where no one was going to be there unless you invited them. You could try out your new songs and have a good time and not worry about people judging you. Because a lot of times in Nashville, you’re playing some of these shows and people are sitting there with their arms crossed, judging. So what I appreciated about that show was that everyone loved everyone. It was a great time.
I think Rachyl was more psyched about being on the show than I was, to be honest with you. When the opportunity came, I was almost going to say no and not bring it up to her. But then I was like, “Hey Rachyl, this thing came up. I’m sure you’re not into it.” And she was like, “Are you crazy? Of course, I want to do this.” I was like, “OK, let’s talk more about it then.”
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