Old Crow Medicine Show at Rose

By Matt Clevenger

Photo: Old Crow Medicine Show brings busker attitude to Rose July 19; photo: Crackerfarm

It’s been more than 15 years since Old Crow Medicine Show first started busking on street corners in New York City, and since then, these city slickers have risen to become one of the most popular acts in country music, earning two Grammy awards and the rare honor of induction into Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.

Best-known for their platinum-selling single “Wagon Wheel,” which was co-written by Bob Dylan and later covered by Darius Rucker, the group has released a total of five studio albums, including their latest, Remedy, which won a Grammy for Best Folk Album (2014).

In the midst of a U.S. tour with opening act Brandi Carlile, OCMS will appear at Rose Music Center in Huber Heights on Tuesday, July 19. Dayton City Paper spoke with lead vocalist/fiddle player Ketch Secor.

How is the tour going so far?

Ketch Secor: It’s going pretty good. You’re reaching me in Charleston, South Carolina. There’s a lot of salamanders here, and that keeps you on your toes.

You’re touring with opening act Brandi Carlile. How did you get started working with her?

KS: Brandi and Old Crow became friends last summer, when we did a show together up in Chicago. I just really liked her way of doing the work of entertainment. She is a really strong presence on stage. She treats her fans with love from a whole lot of directions, and I just like being around people that love their audiences.

Because you know, in our line of work, not everybody loves their audience—that’s not a prerequisite. But we do, and Brandi does, too. So that’s something really strong that we have in common.

Where do band members live?

KS: We live in Nashville, Tennessee, each and every one of us. We moved to Nashville in the year 2000 to play on the street corner, and here— 16 years later—we’re members of the Grand Ole Opry, and we don’t have to play on the street corner anymore. But sometimes I miss it.

Did that background in street performing influence your sound?

KS: Well, that really makes you be entertaining when you’re a busker. A successful busker has got to be a strong entertainer because nobody’s expecting to come to your concert when you’re on the curb. They just find themselves there, and they either stay or they leave. So that skill of being able to hold the attention of others en masse is the same whether you’re in front of a captive audience in a theatre or just out there on the road.

You know, you’ve got your case out there—that’s sort of like your merch table. It’s very similar. What we do, as professional musicians with two buses and a semi truck coming to Dayton, Ohio, for a big show this summer, it’s really not that much different than what it used to be when we would open up our case and say ‘all right, come and tip us.’

You’ve shared the stage with some of the biggest names in country music. Do you have any personal favorites, out of the artists you’ve worked with?

KS: Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Merle Haggard. We got to work with the Hag when we toured together about a decade ago.

You know, we’re at this time in American music when so many of the real first responders to the call of rock and roll and country, and rhythm and blues, the guys who made records at Sun Studios in Memphis, they’re almost all gone. And to be here at this changing of the guard, it’s an exciting time.

But it’s kind of bittersweet, because I love this American music, and it is truly sad to see Merle Haggard leave the stage forever. I wish it didn’t have to be that way.

Do you think the recent resurgence of so-called Americana music has anything to do with those artists’ passing?

KS: Certainly there’s always going to be a lot of reverence for George Harrison on this earth. So if you play something that harkens back to a song like “Something in the Way” or “My Sweet Lord,” then you can always make a living in music because the power of rock and roll and country music’s greatest generation, the power of those songs, is so great that even just to harken to them is enough. So I guess Americana music is kind of a reflection in the water of all these really prominent figures in popular music, that to say 20, 30, 40, or 50 years later they still matter, maybe more than ever.

Is OCMS working on any new material?

KS: Yeah, we’re going into the studio in a matter of days to make our next album. I don’t have a whole lot to say about what the latest release is, but the forthcoming stuff, look out—we’re getting fired up.

What can fans expect from your show at Rose Music Center?

KS: That’s going to be a great time. Summertime, bratwursts on the grill, a whole bunch of buckeyes gathered, and some great live music outdoors.

I remember once we played with Mumford & Sons and a bunch of other bands in Troy nearby—that was a good time.

What are your plans for the rest of the summer? Where is OCMS going after the Rose?

KS: I guess we roll on to the next similar locale. Some, as you say, slightly new amphitheatre on the edge of town. That’s where we seem to find ourselves in a lot of these places. It’s kind of the mobius strip of travel. In the mobius strip of travel, you’re never in the same place, but yet you’re always on the same path. You come back to the same spot, but you’re on a different side of it. You might be in the Dayton of six years ago, and it’s a different Dayton, let me tell you. But the trees all look the same.

I guess that’s part of the fun: you kind of never grow old. It’s kind of like Peter Pan’s pirate ship out here, traveling from town to town. Everything else around you goes on, but you stay the same.

Old Crow Medicine Show performs Tuesday, July 19 at Rose Music Center, 6800 Executive Blvd. in Huber Heights. Opening acts are Brandi Carlile and The Secret Sisters. For more information, please visit crowmedicine.com or rosemusiccenter.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at MattClevenger@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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