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. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 23


    Smithsonian Museum Day Live: Museums across the nation partner with the Smithsonian to offer free admission for one day. Among them are Florida Holocaust Museum, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs.Cracker Country in Tampa, Ringling Museum of Art. Note: Dalí Museum is free for Pinellas County …

    The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is among the museums participating in the Smithsonian's Museum Day Live, offering free admission. (LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Special to the Times)
  2. Tampa Repertory's 'Flying' soars in some places, sputters in others


    TAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre has always insisted on putting on plays that mean something. Several shows over the last couple of years have zeroed in on the social and cultural baggage that comes with being female (The Children's Hour, Silent Sky and Grounded come to mind). None of those …

    The Southeastern premiere of Flying, Sheila Cowley's play at Tampa Repertory Theatre about veterans of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots, includes (from left) Holly Marie Weber, Rosemary Orlando, and Becca McCoy. Photo by Megan Lamasney.
  3. After 22 years, it's last call for beloved Ybor venue New World Brewery

    Music & Concerts

    YBOR CITY — Steve Bird spreads his tools across a patio table. He has awnings to unbolt and paraphernalia to unpry, from the busted Bop City neon by the stage to the Simpsons "El Duffo o Muerte" mural in the courtyard. He'll uproot a fountain and dismantle a roof and attempt to keep his bar intact. The …

    Various decor and memorabilia fill the walls and shelves at New World Brewery in Ybor City.
Long time music venue and hangout New World Brewery in Ybor City will be closing it's doors and moving locations. Patrons enjoy one of the last events before New World Brewery changes its location to Busch Blvd in Tampa.  [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  4. Florida bought more Pasta Passes from Olive Garden than almost any other state

    Food & Dining

    Floridians would like their bowls of pasta to never, ever end.

    Florida was the No. 2 state with the largest number of Olive Garden Pasta Pass purchases, an unlimited pasta pass for $100. Photo courtesy Olive Garden.