As a whole, they have a really neat blend of what they describe as “Appalachian Soul,” which is a beautiful and unique mixture of southern rock, folk, roots rock, country that you can’t quite compare to anyone else in the genre.
And frontman Isaac Gibson recently stopped by the Whiskey Riff Raff podcast to talk about the band’s insane year, his unique songwriting process, and of course, the incredibly special and unique music coming out of Appalachia.
It’s no secret at this point that the music coming out of those hills is the best stuff country music has to offer, which stands to reason, because that is where the genre started, after all.
But as someone who grew up in the area and has a lot of personal ties to the region, it’s even hard for me to put a finger on exactly why, and what specifically it is, that makes it so special, which is part of the magic too, in my opinion.
I don’t think there’s another place in the country that has been as misrepresented as Appalachia within pop culture, but there is a certain intrinsic, mystical element to it all that inherently draws people in, which I do think is a large part of the appeal.
And Isaac told the guys that the unique struggles of living in that region, and the physical landscape of the mountains themselves, naturally lends to creativity and stories unlike you’ll hear anywhere else:
“I think if you’re gonna narrow it down and kinda put a box around it and call it all country music, which I guess you kinda have to do, I think that there’s no better place in the country to have been born and raised than right here.
To experience that life, and to know what these things are that you hear about being sung in so many country songs. I mean, this is about as country as it gets out here. It really is.
It’s a very rural area, it’s very socially secluded, it’s very geographically secluded.”
He continued, saying that a lot of young artists have to lean on sheer creativity alone to “make it,” because of the disadvantages that also come along with being there, which I think we all know about some and is probably a story for a whole separate post to really get into detail there.
Isaac also credited Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers and Chris Stapleton with starting this sort of renaissance of Appalachian music in the mainstream view, for lack of a better description:
“And I think it’s led to a lot of young artists who have relied on their creativity and their minds help them sort of overcome some those disadvantages that Appalachia has, and it’s presented some brilliant artists in the process. It’s a cool place to be a part of, to be from.
It’s a cool scene to be a part of, to be growing within that ranks… It’s like the whole world just all of a sudden sort of turned on to Appalachian artists when Tyler and Sturgill, and Chris Stapleton even for that matter, started doing it.
Those guys are really the ones that paved the way for hillbillies to get up and play this weird, un genre-fiable rock and roll country music.”
He added that the artists in Appalachia don’t have a set of “rules,” or a formula to follow, like Nashville country, for example, which allows for creative freedom that is simply unmatched:
“I think that the country music scene, the country music world, that’s evolving and developing in Appalachia is something that doesn’t have to… from the jump, there’s not been any boundaries or limitations set on it.
It doesn’t have to fit a formula, it doesn’t have to be quantized. Lyrics about the same shit over and over, like you see in a lot of avenues of country music today, unfortunately.
So I think just having the creative freedom of being the different little brother has sort of been an advantage for Appalachian artists.”
And it clearly shows in their music specifically, which you should definitely check out if you haven’t already.
Whatever’s in the water (or maybe it’s the moonshine?) in the mountains of southern Appalachia, it’s good stuff, and I’m just tickled pink to see the region finally getting the positive attention it deserves because of great, authentic music.
Presented by Templeton Distillery, make sure you give the whole episode a listen if you haven’t already. Download the podcast on Apple Podcasts by searching “Whiskey Riff Raff” or click here.
We’re also available on Spotify and wherever else you can listen to podcasts.