Photo by MCE Photography
Cary Hudson sings songs about Mississippi country girls, learned how to play the blues from R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, and takes his dog Elvis with him on the road. He went to Oxford for graduate school at Ole Miss but started The Hilltops band with John Stirratt (bassist with Wilco) instead. He moved to Los Angeles, formed Blue Mountain, toured the world and played shows with Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Wilco, The Jayhawks and Willie Nelson, but switched from electric to acoustic guitar to start over as a solo artist. He was chosen as one of the Top Ten Alternative Country Guitar Players by Gibson magazine, and his songs have appeared in TV shows and movies including George Clooney’s film “Up in the Air.”
“I started singing in church and then played old 70’s country and classic rock, my musical influences stopped about 1972,” says Hudson. “It has taken a long time to find my voice. I have been doing this for a living for 25 years but in the last 7-10 years I feel like I am starting to get it. Now I feel like I might have an idea of who I should be and I may be closer to finding who I am.”
How does Mississippi influence your music?
My music is country blues. I grew up in the classic rock era and was into the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin and discovered their main influences were from Mississippi. I started to delve into the blues about the time I moved to Oxford and started seeing the old guys such as Sun Thomas, Big Daddy Jonson, R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough and realized it was still happening. Some of them became friends and mentors.
I grew up in Mississippi and my grandfather had a farm 7 miles outside of Sumrall. I had a country upbringing and I have always been connected to country living. I did a lot of farm work hauling hay and watermelon and picking beans and peas and shelling them. I am always outside doing things. My dad and I built my cabin out of cypress poles and a cypress tree that was knocked over during Katrina.
How does your new album Town and Country reflect where you are today?
I recorded half of the album in uptown New Orleans at the Fudge Recording Studio and half in the Studio in the Country in Bogaloosa, AL. When I am not on the road, I spend half of my time in my cabin in Mississippi and the other half in New Orleans to be close to my daughter, I split my time between the town and the country.
“August Afternoon” and “Hermit of the Hidden Beach” were recorded on the porch of my cabin. They were spontaneous and fun for us to play and you can hear me stomping.
Where does your songwriting begin?
Love is the classic inspiration and I start with that, and then write about other parts of life such as having a kid or the death of grandparents. I have a file of lyrics and melodies and keep a notebook with me all the time. My antenna is always up looking for a good line and I will hear something good and secretly write it down so no one will know that I stole it. It is a way of filtering reality. My dad and grandpa were always making little rhythms. That affected the way I talk and see the world.
Music comes naturally and I always have ideas in my head and when they quickly come together some of my favorite songs happen. It happens about once a year.
What is the story of “Fiddler’s Green?”
There is a short story about Fiddler’s Green being a place where sailors go in the afterlife. It is not heaven or hell, but it started me thinking about the old blues guys like R.L. Burnside in heaven. “Fiddler’s Green” imagines what would happen if the powers of this world, the politicians and preachers, get to heaven and things are switched because it says in the Good Book that God judges the heart and not external achievements. St. Peter tells them to clean the latrines for 1,000 years and wait on the fiddler and his buddies.
What changed when you switched from electric to acoustic guitar?
I had to switch from electric to acoustic after 25 years because things change. My left ear is shot and taking a band on the road is now herding cats and it gets hard. I want to save my relationship energies for being at home with my girlfriend and daughter. I think about the old guys and I want to age gracefully and keep doing this for as long as I can.
I started playing solo gigs about 15 years ago and it became the way I play after Blue Mountain ended, but I am finally starting to learn how to do the solo thing. The elements are in place for it to work well, I just need to relax. I also want to focus on organizing my back catalog of Blue Mountain music and other records I’ve produced, including those that are out of print, and put out an LP.
What are your hobbies away from music?
Music is my great hobby but I read, canoe, and walk outside. I go up a mountain and dig for crystals in the dirt in Arkansas and in February I am digging for amethyst in Georgia while I play there. I am always picking up rocks by the river. I am not a geologist and I don’t know why I do it, but I have been doing this for as long as I can remember. Rocks and arrowheads are on my shelves and I know the stories behind most of them.
I started making necklaces and jewelry out of the crystals about three months ago. I learned how to rack them and now I make one every day because it has become my mediation. I wake up in the morning and focus on breathing and making the jewelry. It is a good way to start the day and I feel better when I do this. It gives me something to touch base with.
Check out www.Caryhudson.com for tour dates and to order Town and Country and other albums.
Photo by Michelle Stancil