The boys of Old Crow Medicine Show have been enjoying new found popularity since Darius Rucker took a cover of their signature song “Wagon Wheel” to the top of the country charts in March of 2013. Looking to capitalize on the added attention brought on by Rucker’s chart topping rendition, Old Crow released their newest album, Remedy, in July and have seen it garner solid reviews.
We spoke with Chris “Critter” Fuqua, one of the founding members of the band, in advance of their show on the 13 in the Egyptian Room.
NUVO: Can you give some insight into how the song writing and recording was different, if at all, on the first album post Darius Rucker “Wagon Wheel”? Was there an increased sense of, “Now that we have all this new attention, we have to put out the best album we’ve ever made.”
Critter Fuqua: No, I didn’t feel any pressure like that and I don’t know if any of the other guys did. I can only speak for myself but I think we always try to put out the best record we can. It just so happens that I think that this is the best record we’ve ever put out. But no, I don’t think…. The Darius Rucker thing with “Wagon Wheel” was a win-win situation for us both and it was an incredible blessing but I don’t think that put any pressure on us to feel like, “Oh my God, we gotta write another ‘Wagon Wheel.’ ” When we continue to do what we do, we always come out with something good and, you know, I think if we’re feeling pressure from some sort of industry thing then it’s not gonna be what it should be, right?
NUVO: I read somewhere that “Wagon Wheel” is an American musical standard in an age when musical standards no longer exist. What is your relationship with “Wagon Wheel”? It was released in 2004… So 10 years, one Darius Rucker cover, and countless performances later how do you feel about the song that gave your band so much exposure and kind of set you on your way?
Critter: What is my relationship with the song?
NUVO: Yeah, it’s been said that Robert Plant hates playing “Stairway to Heaven” even though it’s Led Zeppelin’s signature song. Is there ever a moment where you think, “Man, I really don’t want to play this song again.”
Critter: Actually, no. The song’s great. You know, I don’t know if I really understand artists who say that they are sick of a song that has become so popular for them. “Wagon Wheel” is probably the most important song of our career and I don’t get tired of playing it as long as people want to hear it.
NUVO: On Remedy there is a song called “Sweet Amarillo” and it’s another Bob Dylan “outline”, for lack of a better word. Correct me if I’m wrong, but he sent that to you guys directly to use, right? How did that come about?
Critter: I’m not real sure. I guess that he had been listening and “Wagon Wheel” was on his radar ever since the number one with Darius and his manager said, “Hey, let’s throw them another scrap.” So they picked out another scrap from the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid sessions and sent it our way, via his manager.
NUVO: The band has always said that Dylan is your biggest influence. What current bands do you listen to and did any of them influence you on the new album?
Critter: I don’t listen to a lot of current bands. I think my favorite bands out there in the country music scene or bluegrass or whatever you want to call it would be The Del McCoury Band, who has been doing it forever. Sturgill Simpson and….. you know, I don’t know. I guess it just depends on what I’m in the mood for. I’ve been listening to some Dolly Parton. I just got the new Judas Priest album which is pretty rockin’. You know it’s just whatever I’m kind of feeling. It’s a wide variety that I listen to.
NUVO: The Avett Brothers are a band that you have opened for in the past, you both share Americana music and you both grew organically by touring. As a fan of both the Avetts and OCMS, I have talked with other fans that express the desire to keep bands like yours small and unknown. They want to keep you for their own. Now I’m sure that you want to grow and to expand as artists. How do you feel about fans that don’t really want to share you with the world?
Critter: You know, that’s fine. I can totally understand that. People have always been like that. It’s kind of unique — it happens in other art forms but it’s kind of unique to music. Especially in a band like ours where we came up very organically and we had a long chunk of time where we were playing small gigs and recording homemade albums and stuff. So people got to know us and they feel like the discovered us, which is kind of true. I think with some mainstream success there is a tendency to want to say, “I saw them back when.” You know that’s great and all but to continue doing this we have to grow and expand.
NUVO: I think as artists you always want to grow and push the limit.
Critter: That and this is our job. We have to be able to make a living too. We have a lot more people on the payroll and the crew. Just like any business, it’s got to grow.
NUVO: You are playing next Saturday at the Egyptian Room at Old National Center here in Indianapolis. What should people, who aren’t huge Old Crow fans, expect from an Old Crow show?
Critter: I love the Egyptian Room by the way. It is one of my favorite theaters. What should they expect? Maybe a cab ride home instead of driving, because it’s gonna be a fun night.
NUVO: Since you love playing at the Egyptian Room, any other fond memories or good stories about Indianapolis?
Critter: You’ve got a great World War I monument there.
NUVO: Yeah, we’re kind of known for those. Outside of Washington D.C., we have the most monuments in the country.
Critter: Yeah and it’s great.
NUVO: I mentioned to my buddy, Nicholas Joel, that I was speaking with you and he wanted me to ask you what inspired "The Warden” and "Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer." He is of the opinion that those are the greatest prison songs recorded since we lost the Man in Black.
Critter: You know, they might be. Jeff wrote “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer” in a trailer outside of our bus a couple of years ago in Vermont. We had these air conditioned trailers for our dressing rooms. You know, you’d have to ask Ketch what that songs really about. “The Warden” was written by Gill Landry and his buddy Felix Hatfield, so you’d have to ask them the inspiration.
NUVO: I have one question about a song that you actually wrote. On Remedy you wrote a song called “Firewater” and it’s a song that really spoke to me because I recently lost my uncle, Dave, to the demon that is alcohol abuse. The lyrics are quite deep and thought-provoking. What was the motivation behind the song?
Critter: Yeah, I’m a recovering alcoholic. I took four or five years off from the band and went to treatment and got sober. So it’s a personal song. It’s about the disease of alcoholism and how it is a deadly disease if it’s not treated. So it’s pretty personal.
NUVO: Yeah, like I said that was the song that stuck out to me because it was really personal for me as well because of my uncle. It’s a great song.
Critter: Well thank you. I think that alcoholism, surprisingly, in this day in age is still taboo and people don’t want to talk about it but, in fact, most people have been touched by its evil clutch. Not indirectly, but with loved ones having a problem or themselves having a problem.