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Drivin' N Cryin's Kevn Kinney: 'We are an Atlanta rock band'

Singer and guitarist Kevn Kinney opens up about the 30-year legacy of Drivin' N Cryin', and truly independent music.

Drivin' N Cryin' and Kevn Kinney (third from left), never slowed down, despite losing its mainstream standing 20 years ago.
Photo credit: Aaron Lee Tasjan
Drivin’ N Cryin’ is dismissed by some as a group of Southern rockers looking for another dime, and lauded by others as a hidden college radio gem that found well-deserved success. Singer and guitarist Kevn Kinney shrugs off both assumptions, shunning the Southern rock label and viewing the glory days as just a five year stretch in a 30 year journey. In anticipation of a two-night stand at Terminal West (Dec. 19-20), Kinney chatted with Crib Notes about playing holiday shows, punk rock, and his band’s true legacy.
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? Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke told me that his band’s Black Friday show followed a tradition of holiday gigs you guys and R.E.M. started. Are the two Terminal West shows a way of carrying on a tradition?
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? We always used to do Thanksgiving. After five years of it, I’d run into people at the mall who would say, ‘Oh, you’re the Thanksgiving guy!’ I decided I didn’t want to be a Thanksgiving guy (laughs).
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? Are these shows more about promoting new music than carrying on a tradition, then?
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? Drivin’ N Cryin’ does have a new album out. We spent the last two years making five EPs called the Song Series — songs about our journey as Drivin’ N Cryin’. And we just came out with an album, Songs for the Turntable, on Plowboy Records, vinyl only. So that’s what tour we are on now. We are celebrating that, and these are also our first shows in Atlanta since they did the Georgia Music Hall of Fame induction. It’s not technically a holiday show, but we do take advantage of having a lot of people from our era, the ‘80s and ‘90s, in town visiting family and looking to go out a night during Christmas week.
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? You mentioned the Georgia Music Hall of Fame nod. That’s got to be a big honor. I read somewhere that you’ve played 54 cities in Georgia.
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? We’re not an internationally famous act from Georgia, like the Black Crowes. But we were a national touring act for five years. Now we like to play a lot of small towns, like we are on a gubernatorial campaign. When you play Americus, Ga., they are really glad that you are there.
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???? Even if you aren't as revered as the Black Crowes, if you listen to classic rock radio, you’re going to hear ‘Straight to Hell’ and ‘Fly Me Courageous.’
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? I guess so. I don’t really listen to the radio anymore.
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? They definitely play those songs. Not every hour on the hour like Led Zeppelin, but people should at least recognize a song or two in far reaching places.
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? I’m proud of what we’ve done. We’ve been working on this project every week since 1985. Even when we take a break, it’s usually like two months. We’ve never stopped. We haven’t had a record deal in 20 years. What would happen if U2 lost their record deal 30 years ago? Would they still get in the van together, travel around, and still make music? That’s what we are. We are that ‘what if’ band. I don’t need a record deal. I had one, and it was what it was. It was fine, but it had a lot of restrictions on it, too — when and where we would record and who would record it.
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? You hadn’t been in Georgia long when Drivin’ N Cryin’ started, right?
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? It was just a couple of years. I got here in ’82, and the band started in ’85. I used to hang around all the punk rock bands. I had been in a punk rock band in Milwaukee, so as soon as I got here I was hanging around the punk bands. I’d just go watch them practice. When I got up and played, they said ‘you should start a band,’ so I did.
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? Your son Tyler has taken the reigns as far as being in the Atlanta punk scene by playing in Shocked Minds and DINOS Boys, and hardcore bands before that. It’s got to be inspiring to watch him follow in your footsteps.
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? They are a lot better than we were. The thing is the DIY scene in Atlanta … I’ve been following it since Tyler was in a band called Ralph. It’s a legitimate scene full of legitimate bands. They do 20 minute shows, and they are so well-rehearsed. The thing about that whole scene is it’s actually what people think the whole hippy scene was. They are actually independent. They don’t care if you like them. They don’t care if they get a record deal. They don’t fucking care. They play their music for themselves and their friends. It’s the real essence of what the Deadhead thing thought they were. The hippy jam band scene is the opposite of that.
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? So you rate the Atlanta punk scene now ahead of what you were part of before moving to Georgia?
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? I grew up seeing all the punk bands in the ‘70s, and these guys are better than a lot of those punk bands thought they were. The Ramones were amazing because they were actually practicing if you saw them backstage. They’d have their guitars out going over the show, even though they did it every night.
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? Did you ever play with the Ramones or go backstage?
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? I knew Johnny Ramone as a friend and as a baseball card collector. I met him before I had a band. We opened for them in Atlanta their last time here. You never wanted to open for them though, because their fans would not care. It was the worst gig in the world. Motorhead is the only band that could open for them.
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? You left Atlanta, toured, and signed to big labels. But in the end, your legacy is as an Atlanta band.
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? Definitely, I tell people we are an Atlanta rock band, not a Southern rock band. Atlanta is more than Rhett Butler. It’s an international place … Buford Highway. Culturally, I moved to Atlanta with my two best friends that are gay. They were in the gay scene and I’d go to clubs with those guys, and it was very open. People don’t understand what’s really happening here. You get the best in every culture: food, dancing, music, and whatever you want. At our shows, we say ‘Goodnight, we are Drivin’ N Cryin’ from Atlanta, Georgia.’
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? Anything else you’d like to discuss?
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? If you are a music lover, we have something different to offer. We’re a unique kind of thing. If you like Deer Tick, you’ll probably find a couple of songs you’d like. Personally, I’d go see Shocked Minds or DINOS Boys. I love the double vocals in DINOS Boys. Other than that, I am not qualified to talk about anything other than Kevn Kinney, Drivin’ N Cryin’, and coffee.
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? And baseball cards too, apparently.
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? I sold them all to Johnny Ramone. When the Ramones were getting record deals, I was still collecting. I had ’71-’74, and those were the years he was working and stopped collecting.  
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? Drivin' N Cryin' and Blackfoot Gypsies play a two-night stand at Terminal West, Dec. 19-20. $20-25. 8 p.m. 887 West Marietta St NW Studio C. 404-876-5566. www.terminalwestatl.com.



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