Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show talks about change, inclusivity

Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show talks about change, inclusivity

For more than 20 years, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show has navigated an ever-changing landscape of music — and is still going strong. The group came together in the late ’90s when they moved to the mountains of North Carolina and supported their musical careers by working in tobacco fields and whiskey distilleries between busking on street corners. It was there that Doc Watson heard the old-time string band and signed them up to play at Merlefest. From then on, the group has toured relentlessly, changed members and released 11 albums,

Old Crow Medicine Show became members of the Grand Ole Opry in 2013. That same year, they received the Trailblazer Award from the Americana Music Association and, two years later, won a Grammy for Best Folk Album.

They just released a new album, “Paint This Town,” and will be in Fayetteville on Oct. 8. Secor answered a few questions for What’s Up!

Q. I saw Old Crow Medicine show at Minglewood Hall in Memphis, around 2011. And y’all seem to have grown younger since then. Can you talk about how the collective has grown and changed over the last 24 years and where you found the fountain of youth?

A. Well, sure. We put together this great assemblage of pickers that helps me to believe that this is the best lineup that you’ll ever see with Old Crow. We’re a 23-year-old band, and we’re not the Rolling Stones. So in order to be that, we’ve had to make lineup changes throughout the past couple of decades to reflect the growth and kind of interpersonal changes of the band. It’s hard to be in a band, and especially one that has traveled as many miles for as many years as as ours has. But I’ve always been in the band, and our bassist Morgan [Jahnig] has been in the band for for 20 years. So we’re kind of the rock, and then we every so often will find reason to bring new players into the fold. And it’s great, because each time we do it helps us hearken back to the core mission, which is to play traditional American music with gusto and passion, and throw in a little rock ‘n’ roll too.

Q. Some of your previous albums almost sound like they were plucked from the past. But “Paint This Town” sounds very contemporary. How was the album conceived and what influences were brought in for this one?

A. The biggest influence, I think, on any record made in the past couple of years, it’s probably the global pandemic. And the fact that, so much of the music business in particular, has changed and had to adapt to this new paradigm. For us, it meant that making this ‘Paint This Town’ was such a joy — like no other record we’d ever made before. It was just so, so much fun because we all got together. And just — remember the feeling of getting a letter in the mailbox? During that six months, it was kind of like a letter [or] like a package arriving every day — making this record was something good and so many wonderful surprises.

Q. Is this your first tour back since the quarantine restrictions were lifted?

A. No, we’ve been able to get out … I think that it was hard to find anybody who would would would promote a show during the first six months. There was a lot of livestream and drive-in type shows, which were so interesting. We did quite a few of those where you would stay in your car. To look back on it all it’s sort of like a like a funny dream. But I can tell you that taking away the capital part of the music life — what I mean is by no longer getting paid for this — it really helped to reignite the fire for doing it in the first place, because it was never about getting paid ever. And it hardly is even now. You love music. You love making music. People love hearing music. You know, I’d trade it for bread and butter if there was no dough going around.

Q. How have the OCMS crowds changed over the years?

A. Well, they’ve grown. But particularly, in times like these, one of the things that I feel so attuned to is that gripping that front row rail are people who might not get together at a birthday party, that if their loyalties were pinned on their shirts, they might look away, they might choose to walk on different sides of the street. And yet, at an Old Crow Show, they’re all sitting there rocking out, bobbing their heads. They might have voted for different political figures. And they might have different religious tendencies … and they’re certainly from all over the country. They’re young and old. I love how we have children in our audience, and I love how we have hippie moms and truck drivers. And I just think that if the rest of the country could mirror the kind of diversity and inclusivity of an Old Crow Show, we’d been a lot better shape.



Old Crow Medicine Show:

‘Paint This Town’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8

WHERE — JJ’s Live, 3615 N. Steele Blvd. in Fayetteville.

COST — $39.50 & up


Categories: Music