Make us your home page

Chris Knight to bring his vision of rural America to Riverhawk Music Festival

Music artist Chris Knight will perform during the Riverhawk Music Festival on Saturday at the Sertoma Youth Ranch on 88 Myers Road south of Brooksville.

Wild Wind Photography

Music artist Chris Knight will perform during the Riverhawk Music Festival on Saturday at the Sertoma Youth Ranch on 88 Myers Road south of Brooksville.


When Chris Knight sings a song, you sit there and listen. That's all. In exchange you get a raw, unvarnished look at the way people learn to survive when their worlds constantly dish out dejection, frustration and disappointment.

Unlike today's country radio tunesmiths, who crank out song after song about bonfire parties and pretty women dancing on the tailgates of pickups, Knight's vision of rural America is more likely to paint a somber picture of a guy who's hoping to get his worn-out Ford F-250 running again so he can continue to earn a living.

The writer of songs such as It Ain't Easy Being Me, Down the River and Banging Away said that he's not particularly interested in creating hit songs if the price he has to pay is having to perform something he doesn't believe in.

"There are people who can get away with doing that, but I can't," Knight said in a phone interview last week. "There has to be a connection there for me. If it's not there, if I can't relate to it, I can't honestly sing it."

Knight, 53, compares himself to a being a novelist who is always fascinated by the push-pull of the human condition, and he spends a lot of time wondering what compels a character in a song to act in a specific manner.

"You're an outsider looking in," Knight said. "You try to imagine what must be going through a person's mind and wondering what they might do and how it might affect someone else. Sometimes there's a good result; other times there's not."

Knight, who will perform two shows Saturday at the 12th annual Riverhawk Music Festival at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, grew up and still lives in the tiny mining town of Slaughters, Ky.

He said that growing up in an insular community where everyone knows everyone offers plenty of fodder for the kind of four-minute vignettes he pens.

But few of his songs are autobiographical, he said.

"There are some that are based on real events and embellished," he explained. "If you're a songwriter and you end up in jail for a night due to disorderly behavior, then you write a song about being in the penitentiary for a decade. I just do what songwriters do."

The son of a pipe liner, Knight worked his way through school and graduated from Western Kentucky University with a degree in agriculture.

He spent 10 years working as coal mine reclamation inspector. Although he's always had a passion for music, he began writing his own songs when he was 26, inspired by the songwriting of Steve Earle.

"I never wanted to be without a job, and playing music seemed like such a gamble," he said. "But I finally decided if I was going do it, I needed to put everything I had into it."

Knight was 37 and still living in Kentucky when he signed a songwriting deal in Nashville. Shortly thereafter, he signed with Decca Records and released his first album in 1998. Although he had some success as a songwriter — he wrote the Montgomery Gentry hit She Could Change Me and had tunes recorded by artists such as Randy Travis, Blake Shelton and others — he never made much of a dent as a country radio artist.

However, Americana stations took note of Knight's talents and began touting him to a nationwide audience through his recordings of Cry Lonely, Oil Patch Town and Enough Rope. Since then, he's continued to amass a loyal following that eagerly looks forward to every recording release. So far, he's released eight albums, including last year's Little Victories, on his own label.

As for his next recording project, Knight is hesitant to offer many details, other than to say that he won't record again until he's satisfied he has something worth putting out.

"I'm like that," he said. "I don't write as much as I used to, and I'm not the same person I was 20 years ago. I need to find something I'm excited about writing. My older brother once told me, 'You know, someday they're just going to run out of songs to write.' In a way, that's true if you listen to radio a lot. If I can't be as proud of something I write as I have in the past, I might as well not write it."

Logan Neill can be reached at or (352) 848-1435.

. If you go

Riverhawk Music Festival

When: Performances begin at 5:40 p.m. Thursday and will continue from 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Sertoma Youth Ranch, southeast of Spring Lake on Myers Road (off Spring Lake Highway and Church Road), just north of the Hernando-Pasco county line (off Interstate 75, Exit 293).

Admission: General admission is $20 Thursday; $40 Friday ($20 after 6 p.m.), $50 Saturday ($25 after 6 p.m.) and $25 per carload Sunday. It's $15 each day for ages 13 to 17. Children under 13 are admitted free with a paid adult. Campground parking is $15. Weekend passes are available at the gate.

Information: Visit

Chris Knight to bring his vision of rural America to Riverhawk Music Festival 11/04/13 [Last modified: Monday, November 4, 2013 5:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. A forgotten ballad from The Princess Bride? Inconceivable!


    As we wrap up May Movie Month on Lost and Found, we seek the perfect ride-off-in-the-sunset movie song.  For those who love storybook endings, perhaps your favorite '80s movie is The Princess Bride. Would you like to see the video for that perfect ending of a Storybook Love? As you wish. 

  2. After last year's drug-related deaths, Tampa's Sunset Music Festival says it's stepping up safety, security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Alex Haynes worked three jobs. He had a fiance and an infant son. He owned his own home in Melbourne. Last summer, the 22-year-old attended the Sunset Musical Festival at Raymond James Stadium.

    He left in an ambulance.

    Last year’s Sunset Music Festival was marked by dozens of medical emergencies.
  3. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in


    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  4. Pain does not exist in the Karate 3 soundtrack ... does it?!?


    Should the Karate Kid series have stopped at the original? Probably, but if we didn't have Karate Kid 3 would will still have the lost song Listen To Her Heart by the Little River Band?

  5. Bar review: The Landing at Jannus in St. Petersburg

    Bars & Spirits

    I've spent many evenings in St. Pete's Jannus Live courtyard, enjoying one of the best open-air venues in the Tampa Bay area. It's where I saw my first concert in Florida: Toadies, on the Rubberneck tour sometime in the mid '90s.

    The drinks at the Landing at Jannus in St. Petersburg are about as cheap as you’ll find at any other regular downtown bar, a nice surprise.