Chris Knight released Almost Daylight in 2019, his ninth studio album and his first in seven years. It’s an album that featured guest appearances by Lee Ann Womack and the late John Prine. And he’s been itching to play these songs for folks, but…2020 happened.
He’ll get a chance on Friday at Zydeco, one of his first shows of the year. Tickets are $25 for general admission and socially distanced tables for four are $125. You can grab some limited remaining tickets here.
I spoke to Chris about his old Kentucky home, cutting a song with Prine and the challenges of this year.
How has 2020 changed how you work?
It’s kind of been like a temporary retirement. I’ve still got two kids and my wife. I’ve finally had time to do some other things.
Have you been able to get back out and play much yet?
I’ve only played two shows since the middle of March. That one was in Austin, Texas. I played one in Eastern Kentucky and I played on in Platteville, Texas.
We’re gonna move forward with some acoustic shows in January. I’ve got a five show Texas run. That’s where we’re gonna start. Hopefully, we’ll have better luck next year and everything will work out.
Well, maybe things are getting back on track…
I hope so. I’m ready for things to get back to normal. I’m not ready to retire just yet. My dad has been retired for 35 years. He’s had a good retirement.
We lost someone this year that you spent some time around and looked up to – John Prine. Do you have any memories of the times that you spent together?
I’m sure I’ve got a lot of fun stories. I didn’t spend a lot of time with John—it wasn’t enough time for me to say that I was a friend of John’s. I opened a couple of shows for him about 15 years ago. I hung out with him at those shows and we encored together.
I sang “Paradise” with him. I ran into him at the airport a lot, and we’d talk for a while when we’d run into each other. His bass player played bass for me for about a year, Dave Jacques.
I had recorded (a cover of Prine’s) “Mexican Home” on the last album and my engineer asked if I wanted to get John on there and I said, “Hell yeah.” So he came in the studio and we hung out several hours and shot the shit and he’s just a a great guy. He’s just like you think he’d be just from listening to his records.
You’ve written a lot of songs for other folks. How do you differentiate the process when you’re writing something that’s your own and something that’s for somebody else?
If it’s a song I really like, I’m gonna record it and I’m gonna sing it live. I want everybody to record my songs—the songs that I really like or the songs that might be better for somebody else.
Sometimes, they’ll be recorded several times before I ever get a chance to record them. “Highway Junkie” has been cut several times by several different artists. “She Couldn’t Change Me” was a song we (along with Gary Nicholson) wrote that Montgomery Gentry cut and I never could get it on an album. But most of the time if we get a cut, it’s a song that I’m gonna sing, too.
A lot of folks thought Montgomery Gentry wrote the song. “It Ain’t Easy Being Me” has been cut a few times. It was cut after I recorded it. It was cut by John Anderson and Blake Shelton.
Kentucky has been booming recently. Tons of great music coming from your home state. How has that felt to see your neighbors succeed?
There’s always been a lot of artists from Kentucky. The list goes on and on: Tom T. Hall, Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakam.
But you also have these newer guys: Sturgill, Tyler Childers, Chris Stapleton. And that’s all great. It’s a big time.
John Prine’s parents were from Kentucky—about 30 minutes from where I live. The Everly Brothers were from here.
I wanted to be a songwriter. And you’ve gotta get some big cuts to make a living doing it. That’s something I found out pretty quick.