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Chris Knight coming to Iowa City’s First Avenue Club
St. Louis native composed musical career on his own terms
Chris Knight doesn't care about fame or fortune in an era in which many of his peers are consumed by making a big splash. Music is all that matters to the Americana singer/songwriter who has refused to play the game throughout his career.
“I do things my way,” Knight said while calling from his Slaughters, Ky., home, before heading out on a tour that will swing through Iowa City’s First Avenue Club on Saturday night, Feb. 25, 2023.
“I was never interested in being a big star. I just wanted to be a music guy. Success for me is to write songs, have them recorded and going out and playing shows. I don’t need much more than that.”
Knight, 62, will visit Nashville, but he's at home living in the Kentucky hinterland.
“I love it here in the woods,” he said. “There’s about 100 people in the next town.”
IF YOU GO
What: Chris Knight
Where: First Avenue Club, 1550 S. First Ave., Iowa City
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023
Tickets: $25, firstavenueclub.com/events/
Artist’s website: chrisknight.net/
Even though he lives in the middle of nowhere, the St. Louis native has proved that he can make it without rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers of the music industry.
Knight has sold songs to such country heavyweights as Blake Shelton, Randy Travis, John Anderson and Confederate Railroad.
“Having such talented musicians record my material brings me some validation,” he said. “I knew I could be a songwriter as far back as the ’80s. It was just a matter of someone realizing that I could write songs and that I could also play the songs.”
Knight is a late bloomer who initially went the practical route. He started playing guitar in earnest at 15, then earned a degree in agriculture from Western Kentucky University a generation ago. Knight toiled as a mine reclamation inspector and as a miner’s consultant for the Kentucky Department of Surface Mining.
“I needed a job and I worked, but music was always there for me,” he said.
Knight didn’t step on a stage until he was 30, and didn’t score a record deal until he was 37.
Music producer Frank Liddell signed Knight, who found success with his self-titled album released in 1998. The gravelly voiced and earnest singer impressed with his deep blue collar tunes reminiscent of songs by his heroes, Steve Earle and Bruce Springsteen.
“The River’s Own,” a compelling and catchy tune, helped put Knight on the musical map. He followed with tight, raw tunes on 2001’s “A Pretty Good Guy,” which veers from sincere country to visceral redneck rock. Knight is an underrated sonic storyteller, who knocked it out of the park with “Enough Rope,” his 2006 album full of gritty, rollicking blue collar anthems.
“I wrote the songs from that album like I have with my other albums purely with my gut,” Knight said. “I don’t try anything fancy. I just tell it like it is.”
The same goes for Knight’s latest album, 2019’s “Almost Daylight.”
“I think I’ve been pretty consistent throughout my career,” he said. “I just do things a certain way.”
It’s not surprising that Knight was a huge John Prine fan. Prine, like Knight, was a masterful storyteller who had a big heart.
“I never go out of my way to meet anyone, but John Prine was an exception,” Knight said. “I got to do some shows with him and he sang with me on one of my songs (the clever ”Mexican Home.“) I wish we could have done more. but I was thrilled to spend some time with him. John Prine is what every songwriter should aspire to.”
Knight is working on some new songs but they are in the embryonic stage.
“It’s still early for what’s up next,” he said. “I have plenty to draw from when I come back to Iowa. I pick my spots when it comes to the road.”
That was always the case for Knight who was never into lengthy jaunts.
“It all goes into not caring to be a big star,” Knight said. “I never had the desire to play 300 shows a year. I was never trying to be that guy. I’m content just being a singer/songwriter, which isn’t a bad thing to be.”