Tell us about yourself and your music
I’m a KungFu Cowboy. I grew up on fried chicken and “yes ma’am’s” in the Deep South learning to play guitar listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Buck Owens and learning to write honest songs from Texas legends like Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark, and Kris Kristofferson. In my 30’s, I adopted two Chinese boys with disabilities. As a result of that, I ended up moving to China to work with kids and families. I’ve been here for two and a half years now and have seen lots of crazy things. My music is one of the things that keeps me sane. You know, most people take music for granted. It’s everywhere: the radio, tv, stores, elevators. But when you get away from the music you know for a little while, you realize how important it is to you; how it is an inner voice and trusted companion. I enjoy playing in some of the places where foreigners hang out here. It’s really cool to do a Johnny Cash song and have someone from England or South America come up to you afterward and tell you how that song made their day and made them feel at home for a few minutes. It really bolsters your American pride. This Christmas, we went on a subway caroling parade riding across a city of 14 million people singing original Christmas songs and a few classics like Springsteen’s version of ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’. It makes you feel like a true cultural ambassador–a rock’n’roll diplomat. It’s also been a great place to further develop my songwriting. I have been able to experience loss and homesickness in ways that I never imagined, but I’ve also had great opportunities to share joy and happiness. Being here has really opened my mind and expanded my experiences. I find writing is the best way for me to process those things. I’ve also been dabbling a little with some traditional Chinese instruments and planning to include some of those on some future recordings.
Talk to us more about your latest release
In 2014, just weeks before I boarded a plane to move to China, I released ‘Undercover Plucker’. It was sort of a farewell letter, I guess. A collection of cover songs, some of which have added lyrics to make them a little more true to myself, they were songs that evoked special sentiments for me that I wanted to have as a memoir. I can look back at some of the songs, like Dylan’s ‘With God on Our Side’, and see how living abroad has changed my own perception. I don’t feel the same way about some things as I did a few years ago, but I still like to look back and see who I was and compare that with who I am becoming. Over the last couple of years, I have been doing lots of writing and performing, but haven’t had much chance to record. I have just begun working on a project to take some of those new songs and record an album that may also include a video project and possibly a book. I am optimistic that it will be ready for release this year.
What inspired you to write this release?
When I lived in the States, I did some community volunteer work with immigrants (legal and otherwise). A good friend that worked with me had recently moved to Third World Central America to work with kids there. We kept working trying to understand why some places in the world had so little when we had so much. I came across a documentary on poverty and the track for the opening and closing credits was Dylan’s “With God on Our Side”. The hook to the song just rang so true. I thought it needed to be a little more personal and honest for me to sing it, so I added a few lyrics. I have to admit that after living in another culture, I see things a little differently now. Things aren’t as black and white as they used to be. The U.S. government has done some questionable things around the world that I can’t necessarily condone. But at the same time, I am very proud to be an American, and I think that the U.S. is a wonderful and beautiful place. I just hope it continues to be for my children and grand children.
Any plans to release a video?
The video was made after I arrived in China. It’s very simple–kind of a fan-made tribute to the old black and white Newport Folk Festival footage–but I think it makes a strong point.
Any plans to hit the road?
For the near future, you can find me musical troubadouring and cultural ambassadoring anywhere and everywhere I can seize the opportunity around Chengdu, China.
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
I’m a small town country boy poet trying to save the world sandwiched in the urban sprawl of 14 million Chinese people. I find that if I just be true to myself and who I am, I don’t have to work too hard to stand out.
Who have you been listening to lately?
Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Gurf Morlix, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams
Tell us about your passions
I love motorcycles, guitars, freedom, independence, and writing. I’ve had to relearn a little about all of those in the past few years. I’ve also met some really great people from all over the world–those connections and relationships get me out of bed and keep me going.
What else is happening next in your world?
I mostly take it a day at a time–balancing work, family, and music. I’ve learned recently not to plan too far out. When you plan and your plans don’t meet your reality, you are left with disappointment. Disappointment has birthed some great songs for me, but I don’t recommend it too much for most people. I’ve got some ideas for using the things I love to bring a few smiles to some people that could use a smile in my area that I’m pretty excited about.
Thanks for an awesome interview, Trent!