In a manner of speaking, Kevn Kinney’s musical career was down the drain. Having given up on music, Kinney was toiling in an Atlanta-area sewage plant, and it was only after being rescued from potential obscurity by local musician Tim Nielsen that Drivin N Cryin was born and Southern rock history was rewritten. Hailed as the thinking man’s rock and roll band, Drivin N Cryin approached its music with a candor and depth lacking in the late 80s hair-rock rage. The band released seven albums between 1986 and 1997 and reached its commercial zenith in 1991 with the mega-hit “Fly Me Courageous,” before falling prey to the fickle whims of the major label record industry. Following a return to their independent roots, Kinney and bandmates Nielsen, drummer Jeff Sullivan, and guitarist Mac Carter return to a record store near you with Great American Bubble Factory—the title inspired by the continued decline in opportunity for the blue collar American worker—their first record in well over a decade.
It’s been 12 years since the band’s last record. Is it good to be back?
We have always played shows, but it is good to be back with this record. We actually tried to start this thing back in 2001. We had a lot of stuff written, and we were going to do it then, but 9/11 happened and we put it on the back burner. And it’s actually been more than 12 years—this is the first true band collaboration record that we have put out since 1992. We had a record out on Geffen and then a collection of singles, but this is the first real Drivin N Cryin record with the full “rock on” thing in a long time.
How does the new record showcase where you are as a band?
There is a lot of classic Drivin N Cryin here. We switch genres, going from heavy metal to folk tunes. Vocally, there are happy endings, along with some editorial, because our songs usually have a quasi-political feel. There aren’t a lot of songs about chicks and beers, you know? We just went into this one determined not to sound like any other band. We kept repeating, “Be us! Be us! Be us!” We put some songs together in our practice space and it was just like the old days. It was great.
As you tour behind the record, what can fans look forward to?
Our shows are never the same. They are stream of consciousness. They don’t start the same, end the same, or go in the same order. Sometimes they start off rock, sometimes they start off acoustic. The thing about playing with Tim, Mac, and Dave, is that we can play any song we ever recorded. We don’t just rehearse 30 songs for our tours. We can pull from over 150 songs, so our shows can turn on a dime. We can wing it and it’s really comfortable. It’s almost like we read each other’s minds.
How does your solo work influence what you do with Drivin N Cryin?
It hits me on many levels. It humbles me. I can play with Drivin N Cryin in some cities and play for 2,000 people. But if I go back solo, there might be 80 people there. It keeps my chops up. I can try out songs in different keys or extended versions of songs. It’s also great for songwriting—it forces me to practice. And a gig by yourself tests you. You find out what you can handle. I do a lot of acoustic shows and sometimes they are in really cool little singer-songwriter places, while other times they are in fish restaurants and people are talking the whole time.
If you could build the next Great American Bubble Factory, where would it be?
Well, Ohio, of course. That’s a swing state, right?
You can catch Drivin N Cryin during a two night run at The Pour House in Raleigh, NC (October 9th-10th) and at The 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia (October 16th).