When I hear a musician is from Kentucky, I right away think about the eastern part of the state. After all, the Appalachian region has always been a wellspring of great musical talent. But Chris Knight breaks that rule, along with so many others.

Chris is from western Kentucky, where the coal is stripped from the ground instead of dug from deep mines. He was born in the town of Slaughters (pop. 205) and today lives just up the road closer to Sebree (pop. 1,500).

Knowing how successful he’s become as a singer and songwriter, I asked him why he didn’t move on down to Nashville, just two hours south. His one-note bark of a laugh pretty much said it all. I sensed he didn’t care for the Nashville scene.

“I’ve lived here all my life,” Chris said, “why would I leave now? I didn’t start out young in the music business like so many do. I went to Western Kentucky University and then worked as a mining consultant around the strip mines here. I got my first songwriting deal when I was about 34 and recorded my first album a couple years later.”

Chris also has a powerful connection to the state of Texas, so much so that he was named an “honorary Texan” by then-Gov. Rick Perry. “It was all because of this one radio station out of Plano,” Chris explained. “The music director there got hold of one of my albums and really liked it, so they started playing it a lot. People started asking us to come down and play, and it just went from there. To this day, we do real well in Texas, all over the state.”

Chris has reached a point in his career where he doesn’t have to push as hard.

“I play about 80 to 100 shows a year, and maybe five or six of those are festivals.” In contrast, many touring bands play well over 200 shows a year. “It’s worked out real well. I can pick and choose a little bit, and spend more time at home.”

When I asked Chris if he’d ever heard of Madison, Indiana, his answer was fairly typical. “I’ve heard of the boat races,” he said.

I assured him that playing RiverRoots Festival on the banks of the Ohio River will be an enjoyable and memorable experience.

“People should know up front my show is not going to sound like Top 40 country music. It’s more about the lyrics and what I’m trying to say. Audiences are great these days, they listen more than they used to. And once they get what I’m doing, I feed off that energy,” he said.

Chris is bringing his full band to RiverRoots on Friday, June 8th. He’ll be playing the headliner slot at 9:30, right after Todd Snider. I asked Chris which songs people should listen to on YouTube if they want to get a good sample of his style. He said, “Little Victories, Hard Candy and Down The River will give them a pretty good idea.”