Coming off of a year that has seen a tour by railway, a concert DVD, an appearance on Prairie Home Companion and a new album Carry Me Back, Old Crow Medicine Show has been a very productive bunch. However busy the band might be though, founding member Christopher “Critter” Fuqua still took the time for a phone interview with The Badger Herald to discuss the group’s history, current direction and it’s upcoming show at The Overture’s Capitol Theater.
The band, having taken a small hiatus, is back together for yet another tour, and Critter is genuinely excited about playing again.
“There’s a newness to the band that’s really exciting,” he said. “It’s a new entity almost, kind of a rebirth.”
That’s not to say that before this break, the band was in any sort of slouch.
“We have this cohesive unit that really goes after the music in an energetic way and really is involving of the audience,” he said. “People just love it, they want to be involved, they want to be entertained.”
The band’s “almost hokey showmanship” as Critter calls it, is a skill they’ve been developing since they began their careers as street musicians. “We might not have been the best musicians, the best pickers, but the energy, the drive and the showmanship … if you’re having fun, it spreads like wildfire.”
However, Critter wasn’t just content with being in a popular music group and took an extended break from the band to attend college, studying English. “I’m fluent now,” he joked. “That’s how I’m able to do this interview!”
More seriously though, Critter believes that the study of literature directly influences the band’s songs.
“I still read a lot and study things I studied in school,” he said. “Those two things go hand in hand. So much story goes into our songs, studying the literature, all that kind of works with each other.”
In projecting those stories, some with heavy topics like murder and substance abuse, Critter believes the musical styles of country, bluegrass and Americana transcend stereotypes and allow the band to talk about the issues people face today. For example, Critter says one of the band’s darker songs “Metamphetamine” “is just like a moonshine song, but it’s what’s going on in the mountains now.” He added, “It’s a real testament to what this music can do in an original form. It doesn’t have to be a song about a dog on the porch.”
The stories aren’t always about the down and out though, as evident in Old Crow Medicine Show’s most famous tune, “Wagon Wheel.” While first recorded for the band’s major label debut O.C.M.S. over eight years ago, the song’s continuing popularity still surprises Critter. “It’s really weird, that song is huge and the thing about that song … it’s not on the radio, it grew like a folk song does by word of mouth,” he said. “It’s up with there with ‘Freebird’ and ‘Devil Went Down to Georgia’ for requests for a band that plays this kind of music. You know when that happens, you have a good song.”
As Critter discussed energy and audience engagement, we had to ask what else a concert attendee can expect from an Old Crow Medicine Show live performance.
“You might get loaded, and you might have a good time,” he said, and advised fans to arrange for “a sober ride home.”
To catch Old Crow Medicine Show and potentially get loaded and have a good time, head to The Capitol Theater tomorrow.
Old Crow Medicine Show will be at The Capitol Theater in Madison’s Overture Center on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35.00. For more information, visit overturecenter.com