In today’s mainstream country music, not only are its radio stations not supporting female artists other than the usual suspects but they also sometimes ignore the listening needs of the genre’s core following: country people.
Country people can be from anywhere; a big city like Paris, France, or a small town like Paris, Tenn. And they all have one thing in common, they love music indigenous to America’s most sacred music places like the Mississippi Delta, Muscle Shoals, Memphis, Texas, New Orleans and beyond. That’s what Americana music is all about. Nashville is hosting thousands of those fans this week who have traveled from all over to see performances by the world-class artists representing these places.
Everything kicks off with tonight’s (Sept. 12) 17th annual Americana Music Association Awards at the Ryman Auditorium. Jason Isbell is the lead nominee and Rosanne Cash will receive the Spirit of Americana Free Speech award.
But of all the artists in town, no performer has a busier showcase schedule this week than Texas Gentleman, Paul Cauthen.
Cauthen comes by his nickname Big Velvet honestly. Dynamic and powerful, his voice pierces the soul and rattles the bones whenever he performs. Cauthen’s Big Velvet Review at the Basement East will wrap tonight’s AMAs and feature appearances by special guests Aaron Lee Tasjan, Carl Anderson, Whiskey Wolves of the West, TN Jet, Daniel Donato, Erin Rae, Brandy Zdan and more.
The last time CMT.com caught up with Cauthen, it was sitting on the back of an old rusted white Thunderbird parked behind Bobbie’s Idle Hour on Music Row that also was somebody’s home. Inside the Idle Hour, an acoustic writer’s round was underway. Cauthen was on the road promoting his latest EP Have Mercy, the lead-up to a forthcoming full-length album arriving in 2019.
CMT.com: Tell me how this new music sets up your sound of tomorrow.
Cauthen: My Gospel took me on the road for a couple years, and I feel like that’s how you can judge a record if it’s successful or not: you can get gigs out of it for two years. And so, I just stayed recording the whole time. Since My Gospel, we’ve probably recorded almost 100 songs since then. It’s been a nonstop grind. If I’m off, I’m writing. If I’m free, I’m writing. If I’m in Dallas, I’m in the studio.
Did you collaborate with anyone new that you haven’t before?
Aaron Raitiere and I have really knocked out some of the most special songs I’ve ever written. I’ve got still more songs to cut for this full-length, and I’ve got a few with Aaron that are at the top of the list. There’s one called “Cocaine Country Dancing,” and the last song is “Country Coming Down.” It’s two opposite spectrums. I’m really stoked about it because it goes from David Bowie meets country music dance element to it. The full-length is definitely going to be a forward acceleration tonality wise in what I’m doing.
With “Everybody Walkin’ This Land,” it seems like what your fans are going through every day inspires your music. Is that true?
Yeah, the shit that’s going on — all this hate, everybody divided due to being a liberal or conservative, black or white, gay or straight — that’s what hell is on Earth. With that song, I really just wanted to talk to everybody walking this land. I mean, your mothers, your brothers, your sisters, your fathers, everybody, believers, pretenders, bona fide sinners, racists, fascists, nihilists, bigots, prophets, saints, angels, ladies, all the gentlemen — everybody. This EP is the first time I’ve ever felt that people needed to hear it instead of me wanting people to hear it. I felt like it was somebody else speaking through me, whether it’s God, intuition, or just life. But I really felt these songs.
What does it mean to you to unify people through music who wouldn’t usually hang out with one another?
That makes it feel like a full circle, and I’ve done my job. I want all types of people at my shows. It’s an amazing thing to watch it catch on. I feel like you rise to those occasions when you try to write an honest song. I’ve seen it catch before with my last band Sons of Fathers, [and] My Gospel made a lot of waves. But this is a different feeling with a bigger team, more people and more labels involved.
Could you quantify how many writers’ rounds you’ve done?
It’s countless. It’s a funny thing writing and singing songs. I’ve been able to put life’s experiences, take it in and be able to put it to a song. It’s my gift, I feel like I have an opportunity, and I want to grab it by the horns.
Editor’s Note: CMT will air the 17th annual Americana Music Awards later this year.