- Amanda Crandall
- Crandall’s new album offers further observations on class, power, love and happiness.
Coming from a rural east Colorado background that his mother described as “upper poverty,” he grew up listening to Leadbelly and Led Zeppelin, went to Saturday night rodeos to hear country-western bands play songs by Don Edwards and George Strait, and moved to Colorado Springs after dropping out of high school.
It was here that he tentatively began playing open mics and, over the course of the next few years, developed a spirited legion of fans who would spill over onto the sidewalk (sometimes literally) every time he played Front Range Barbeque. Given the combination of a powerful voice, unforgettable melodies, and lyrics that are by turns angry, poignant and ultimately uplifting, it’s not hard to hear why.
Crandall relocated with his wife Amanda to Mary Esther, a small coastal town in Florida, in late 2014. He’s since played nonstop in venues across a four-state region, enough so that he can now make a living as a musician. He’s also just released his third album, Daily News, his most powerful to date. Recorded here at Bill Douglass’ Royal Recording studio, it features a full band that includes Colorado Springs musicians David Jeffrey, Todd Bruington, Dylan Tiefer, and Shannon Carr. To celebrate the occasion, he’ll be driving back up to the Springs for a CD release show at Front Range.
In the following interview, the singer-songwriter talks about his lyrical shift toward more topical songs, his reasons for leaving the Springs, and how he felt the first time people sang along to his songs.
Indy: There’s a lot more piano on this album compared to your previous records. Are you starting to write on piano?
Chauncy Crandall: Well, that’s Dylan Tiefer playing the piano, but yeah, I just started and I have yet to really write much on it. I’m just getting into the realm where I have enough control of my fingers to even chord the songs out. But I am getting there.
Switching instruments can also affect the way you write songs. Have you found that to be the case?
Yeah, I think that you’re right. If I start strumming a mandolin, I’m typically going to start writing a melody that’s much more in the country or bluegrass realm, whereas if I start playing chords on the piano, it goes automatically into more of a gospel and R&B realm. And the guitar, for me, has always been country, rock ’n’ roll and blues.
I’ve been playing long enough now that I can see the distinct differences between the way most songs are structured, compared to the way that I’ve structured my songs, which I started out doing from complete and total ignorance. I just knew what sounds came out of the guitar and my voice, and what I liked and what I didn’t like. So I’d write a song that typically had to do with a story that happened in my life, or an emotion that I wanted to get out, or something I wanted to express. It was never meant to please an audience or to be catchy so people would sing along to it.
Were you surprised when people did start singing along?
Yeah, the first time I ever saw people singing the words to one of my songs, I was surprised. And also very elated.
Tell me about your new album’s title track. It seems like a lot of folks have given up on following the news these days. You’re not one of them?
I actually don’t really watch the news. [Laughs.] But every time I do, it seems like we’re figuring out problems that should have been figured out a long time ago, as far as just the way we treat people and those kinds of things. And “Daily News” just started out with me trying to write a song about patriotism.
"I started out trying to write a song that was literally the exact opposite of what it came out to be." click to tweet
That’s not exactly how it turned out.
Well, there are a lot of things I love about my country, and I feel very blessed to have been born in the U.S. I have a lot of opportunities, such as living a life like I do, playing music for a living, and other things that I probably wouldn’t have anywhere else. So I wanted to write something towards that direction. However, as I started trying to research and read more in order to do those things, I just found myself becoming more and more frustrated. So that song came from a place where I was trying to show honor and reverence, and in the end had become frustrated with the reality of what’s really happening.
In the first verse you refer to a “greedy prick who’s already rich” name McAllister. Is that a reference to Norm McAllister?
Yeah, Senator McAllister from Vermont, who was caught involved in a big sex trafficking scheme. And obviously he’s not a senator any more, but he walked away relatively untouched and unharmed, And, you know, that’s pretty ridiculous when you think about how disgusting that whole realm of life is. And then in the second verse, when it’s talking about blood in the alley, that’s about the Santa Clara swimmer that had raped a girl and they finally found him guilty, but he still got a slap on the hand. So I was just looking at news reports and writing them down in a poetic manner, you know what I mean?
So you were basically reporting the news, like Bob Dylan used to do.
Yeah, and when I wrote that song — I told this to Amanda, too — I felt like it was in the spirit of Bob Dylan. Or of any protest folk song. That’s really the spirit that I wrote it in.
You’ve written other songs about class and power, but I can’t think of any that were as specifically topical as this. Is that something that you’ve consciously avoided up until now?
Maybe a little bit. I think my writing is developing to a point that I can be more topical. But like I said, I started out trying to write a song that was literally the exact opposite of what it came out to be.
Are there specific stories behind any of the other songs?
Well, “Brokedown in Pensacola Blues” is just an analogy for how I was kind of in a gutter when I left Colorado, drinking too much and all those things. So it’s all about my wife coming into my life and making me happy again, about following the woman you love into a much better place.
So if you could only choose one, would you say you’ve grown older, wiser, happier or angrier after three albums?
I would say happier and wiser. But I can’t. So happier.
Why is that?
There are a lot of reasons I’m happier. I’m happier because I am definitely treating my body better and I feel better, healthier. And I’m happier because I have a wife and a home that I just adore coming home to every day, and I’m not completely indulged in substance abuse and alcohol abuse. So that makes me much happier every day, waking up with a new start and not being hung over.
You’ve also got a beach there, right?
I do have a beach here. And also, for the first time, I’m really making a living just playing music. That’s been a goal that I’ve had since I started doing this, and it makes me feel proud and gives me a little bit of happiness, too. But overall, I think most of my happiness comes from my wife and my dog and my two cats and my home.