Jan 24, 2020
I sit down with Clayton from The Gypsy Store Troubadours
A four-piece serving up raw, guitar-driven Country and Americana Rock from a tiny town in Oklahoma, Gypsy Store Troubadours is a band that thrives on contradictions. Their music often combines opposing elements, bringing the sweet and the dangerous together seamlessly, a talent best summarized by a lyric from their soon-to-be-released debut single “Local Honey”: smooth as lightning. Part wild and unapologetic rock-and-rollers, part devoted family men committed to their home town and loved ones, the members of Gypsy Store Troubadours tend to toe the line between their enigmatic public personas and the in-your-face openness of their songs. Drawing from a broad mix of influences and genres, from Tom Petty’s laid-back Americana style to Waylon Jennings’ classic outlaw country to the Allman Brothers’ brand of gritty, Southern soul, Gypsy Store Troubadours’ official debut album is set to be released July 26, 2019. The album is a descriptive masterpiece of gruff, pensive Country and Americana songs that showcase the band’s ability to deliver striking melodies, no-bullshit lyrics, and music that speaks to diverse array of moods.
While the band tends to avoid the spotlight of interviews and excessive public appearance, their songs have a tendency to lay it all out there as frankly and vulnerably as possible. Their deft handling of life’s contradictions is evident in the straightforward yet lighthearted delivery of songs like “PBR,” a loping, drink-and-drug anthem that presents a fun, country-style version of Joan Jett’s “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation” sentiment: I could have been a big dick / and acted like a lunatic / and pissed off everyone / but I’ve learned better / so I wrote you a letter / to tell you that I’m happy you’re gone. It’s the sort of logic of dreams, where statements of fact are both direct and also subject to the ebb and flow of mood, which makes these songs feel as real and as volatile as human temperament.
The four musicians all hail from small, rural Oklahoma communities with a combined population of about 550 people. “The biggest of these towns sits smack dab on historic Route 66, as it begins its westward stretch towards Los Angeles. If you could see pictures of where we’re from, you’d ask “Where the hell does this sound come from?” Their unique, genre-defying sound is in part due to McKinzie’s creative songwriting process: He often conceives of a song in his sleep, rushing to his home studio upon waking at any hour to record a new storyline or melody. “I just— I happen upon a song. It’s generated in my head, and I wake up and go to town on it.” Another subconscious influence on their music is the band’s convergent geographic location: “Where we’re based is pretty much where the South meets the Midwest meets the Southern Great Plains meets the West and deserts of the Southwest. This has given us exposure to all different kinds of influences that we’ve used to form our style and sound.”
Members of Gypsy Store Troubadours have been playing together for over a decade, developing their chemistry and fine-tuning their performance styles as their music evolved. Bassist Kevin Lawrence and lead singer-songwriter Clayton McKinzie grew up together, playing shows for years before putting out a demo in the hopes of drawing new players through the music itself, which is how guitarist Billings and drummer Hollis entered the mix. For their debut album, the group sought out Grammy-winning drummer David Teegarden Sr. to record at his studio in Tulsa. They also recruited Danny Timms, long-time keyboardist for Kris Kristofferson and Bonnie Raitt. With moments reminiscent of alternative-rock favorites Crooked Fingers (check out the deep, drowsy vocals in “Sober” and “Rebels in Bloom”) and the cool, bluesy-rock ambiance of Dire Straits (see songs “Local Honey” and “Sober”) blended into the classic country and Americana sensibility the band is known for, the new record proves that Gypsy Store Troubadours can straddle multiple genres and musical traditions with a lighthearted ease and a depth of understanding far beyond the expected.
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