One of the things we love to do at Twangville is introduce our readers to artists that are just starting out. These under the radar artists are a big part of why I joined the Twangville posse. This week I was able to sit down and interview Drayton Farley about his new EP “Sweet Southern Sadness”. Drayton is just starting out, but already his storytelling is beyond his years. Also, his stories are critically important and personal. Drayton is from Woodstock, Alabama. The area is a coal mining community no different than thousands of dying small towns in America. With Drayton it is as if the choking out of rural life he has witnessed informs all his songs. That is why I say his songs are critically important and need to be heard. These stories are not covered by network news. They happen in the margins and thus are not important to the major news networks, but these issues are important to people of these communities. These people and places are Drayton Farley’s inspiration. (An interesting aside in case any of you readers are one of the 40 million listeners of the “S-Town” podcast. Woodstock is S-Town and Drayton knew John B. Mclemore and many of the characters involved.)
Chip: Let’s start with the opener “Trains”. In The history of Country and Folk music trains are things that make people happy and are signs of freedom, yet you sing a song about hating trains.
Drayton: I can’t stand ‘em. Trains for me symbolize imprisonment. I worked for a contracting company for Norfolk and Southern for three years and that job put me on the road constantly. In the mix of those three years I got married. The work wasn’t so hard, but the hard part was going out of town every week. I was constantly on the road and newly married. I needed something to blame, so I blamed these trains that kept me out [on the road]. It was a lot of long work … doing derailment clean ups, working 14 -16-hour shifts. That was a dark place for me. It was the first time in my life I had ever had the reason to reach a point of like depression. I was spending my days on the railroad working… and then my nights were lonely in a hotel room with no one around. It was good money, but the quality of life was horrible… one day I decided my mental health was worth more and I walked out.
Chip: There is a lot of sadness on the album but somehow embedded in it is also a lot of hope.
Drayton: There is always hope. A lot of the things I have experienced is just sad times. Poverty or just family members with addiction … or even at some point thinking maybe I have addictions I should curb before they become an appetite. I think sad songs usually speak louder than happy songs… I want to tell the truth and a lot of time the truth is sad. So “Sweet Southern Sadness” that is how that came about.
Chip: There seems to be a tie back to a lot of social discussion we hear now about inner-city addiction issues, but you also see the destruction of addiction in the rural community and Woodstock where you are from.
Drayton: Absolutely there is a lot of darkness there. I think the root of [addiction] would be poverty. I think most people identify the cause of the negatives in their life to the lack of money, or even if it is not the case that is how they perceive it. The idea is always in the back of your head if you had more money maybe shit would be different. I have found out recently that a lot of that is perception and isn’t really the case. Like I could sit here and cry all day about growing up relatively poor… but “Sweet Southern Sadness” is sweet because of where I am from. The friends I had at school the family I had growing up. I didn’t have it too terribly bad …. We didn’t have a lot of money, but it is what I knew and therefore I hold it dearly. It was sweet to me but still sad at the end of the day. The saddest part isn’t the situations these people and the South find themselves in, but more so the sense of hopelessness they tend to hold onto. That is why you hear the hope behind these songs. There is hope but you are in the face of adversity and it gets you down. That doesn’t mean you can’t get out… maybe I didn’t mean to bring that hope element into it all. I had these six songs that were a back catalog of stuff I had written… but if you are going to be sad about it you should present the sadness in a way that isn’t going to tear someone apart.
Chip: Based on your song “Keep Country Music Sad” I take it that you think Luke Bryan’s Tiki Bar “One Margarita” song is going in the wrong direction for Country Music.
Drayton: Yeah I do. I absolutely agree with that. In the same line I don’t disrespect what they are doing. I disrespect they are calling it Country… There is nothing wrong with doing some upbeat tailgating beer drinking songs, but to pretend that is real Country music is a lie… so maybe we should call it something else and let that be the standard and not call Luke Bryan Country.
Below are a couple of songs to sample but you can also find “Sweet Southern Sadness” on most of the distribution platforms and his Bandcamp page.
About the author: Chip and his family live in Birmingham, AL. Roll Tide!