10 Questions with ... Billy McKnight
April 13, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
McKnight formed Soul Circus Cowboys in 2009, after several trips to Nashville during which he wrote songs with renowned artist/writer/musician Henry Paul, a founding member of 90's Country trio, Blackhawk and before that, Southern Rock legends The Outlaws. When McKnight returned to Tampa with that wealth of new material, he quickly set about searching for players he thought could breathe life into those new songs. In addition to Jason Alfano, McKnight drafted Michael Bach on bass and backing vocals and guitarist/vocalists Terry Cole and Stephen Haendiges. Once formed, they recorded their debut album, "Love's Like A Rodeo."
The Soul Circus Cowboys new album, "That's The Way We Roll," offers an equally eclectic combination of sounds, styles and stories, all written (or co-written) by McKnight.
1. Hey Billy, thanks for taking the time for 10 Questions. I have to start by asking about the band's name. It's definitely unique. How did you guys come up with Soul Circus Cowboys?
When we were trying to come up with our name we really wanted it to fit the act we are. So, to break it down, "Soul" is because we have big harmonies and try to be very soulful in our delivery when performing. "Circus," well that's easy, we are a bunch of clowns having a great time. "Cowboys," well that's kind of a Country saying, but it's also a rebel thing and you could be a cowboy in almost everything you do. That kind of sums that up.
2. The band was formed in 2009, so in that sense, you're somewhat "new." But looking at the individual bios, this is a veteran outfit. Tell us a little about the guys and what makes it work.
Yes, between us all we probably have a hundred years in music ha-ha. That has wound up being a really good thing. We have five different backgrounds and influences collaborate on a really tough, edgy country record.
3. You are a real working band, doing tons of gigs every year. First, how many exactly? Second, I'm guessing playing so much makes you pretty much fearless up there on stage, no matter the setting.
I love this next question because at any level in the music business, if you're working, it's a good thing. We are in demand in Central Florida and looking to spread our wings. When you're sharing the stage seven nights in a week, it just becomes second nature. We feed off each other and we are constantly having fun; the music is being performed why we are doing other things and interacting. It's kind of a cool thing to watch. It's kind of like talking on your cell phone while backing up and chewing gum. Haha!
4. With so much live experience in different cities, states and clubs, you must have a good feel for what Country fans are gravitating to right now. What are these folks telling you out there?
Very true and unique in the way that from city to city it does bend a little to the left or the little to the right. I believe this comes back to being seasoned and having a beat on what people like in a live music setting. We are very proud that we appeal to a large demographic music listener. We have something for everyone.
5. Your current single, "That's The Way We Roll" has a 'Work hard, play harder' vibe to it with a Country Rock feel. With Country's musical lanes getting wider all the time, do you feel this is the natural destination for your sound?
"That's The Way We Roll" is definitely a statement on our sound & direction. We went with our gut putting it out there first. No, it is not as commercial friendly as some of the other tracks on our CD because we really wanted people to know who we are, as scary as it is. Because of the competition, we are very grateful that radio seems to be embracing the song. Can I get a Yeehaw?
6. The album of the same title features all songs written or co-written by you. Do you collaborate with the Nashville songwriting community much or would you consider yourself an "outsider" in that regard?
Yes, we write together and we collaborate with Nashville's best. We would be fools not to take advantage of music city's songwriting Haven. As long as we keep our direction, and our niche, we are open to any ideas that will make the listener say "boom!"
7. You're based in Florida right now; any plans to eventually make Nashville your base of operation?
We are very proud to be a Tampa Bay band and the authenticity of that comes with it down here. Music City speaks for itself and we want to be a part of it. It is our goal is to always work closely with Nashville. However, keeping our roots is a must.
8. Tell us how you and Henry Paul made a connection and what influence he's had on your music.
Henry Paul also used to live in Tampa and I was influenced by him majorly growing up in music. So, when we connected and decided to do our first CD together, it was an amazing experience for me. He knew what we were looking for and his brilliance got us on the right track. We are very proud of our first CD.
9. Speaking of influences, what music did you listen to most growing up?
When I was growing up, Tampa Bay was a Southern rock town. Big bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Foghat, Bad Company and Steppenwolf ruled the radio. We have actually had the pleasure of sharing the stage with almost every one of those acts; that was a great experience!
10. How old were you when you decided to make a living playing music?
When I decided to make a living in music I was around 17, however, I didn't start making a living at music until yesterday. Ha! Thank you for the interview, we appreciate you!