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Chris Knight makes music on his terms

WANT TO GO?

Chris Knight, With Fifth on the Floor and Matt Woods

WHERE: The V-Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington

WHEN: 10 p.m. Friday

TICKETS: $13 INFO: 304-781-0680 or www.vclublive.com

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some singers win a lot of awards. They take home Grammys, get trophies from CMT, MTV or the Academy of Country Music. Others line their walls with gold records. Country singer Chris Knight got a framed certificate that declares him an honorary Texan, conferred on him in 2007 by Texas Governor Rick Perry.

"I don't know what that's all about," said the Kentucky native and longtime resident of the Bluegrass state, "but I'm glad that I got it."

The 53-year-old singer/songwriter, who performs Saturday at Huntington's V-Club, said he's not sure what sort of benefits, privileges or responsibilities come with it. He's never tested it out, although he could at any time.

Knight has played Texas more times than he can count.

"I guess they like me," he said.

The feeling is mutual.

Texas has been good to him -- not that Kentucky or anywhere else he's played has been particularly bad. It's just the state of Texas is a whole different musical culture. They love the kind of gritty alternative country he plays, and there are always plenty of places to play.

"In Kentucky, you've got Louisville, Lexington and a couple of clubs here and there," he said. "As far as going out and taking a band, it's few and far between, but in Texas, you can play for six months and never have to repeat a show.

"You can make a living playing music in Texas and never have to leave. It's just a different thing."

Texans just like their music more than most folks, Knight thinks.

Knight's approach to country music is more weathered and wise. While he started playing guitar as a teenager, he didn't actually embark on anything approaching a music career until he was in his late 20s.

"Yeah, I was kind of a late bloomer," he said dryly.

Knight started writing songs when he was 26, but didn't really try performing them until he was 30.

"I didn't know how to do a gig," he said, "and I couldn't get along with club owners. They wanted me to advertise their beer sales."

Knight said he'd get into arguments and tell them, "I'm here to play songs. I'm not here to talk about Ladies' Night."

"That didn't work out too well," he said. "Not until I got the record deal."

Which didn't happen until Knight was 37 and had been in Nashville for a few years.

Knight said part of the reason he waited so long to start playing out was that he didn't want to be irresponsible. He'd grown up watching his father get up for work at 5 o'clock every morning. Knight also had worked his way through school, gotten a degree from Western Kentucky University and had a job in the field he'd chosen -- he graduated with a degree in agriculture and worked as a mine reclamation inspector and miner's consultant.

It wasn't a bad life, but he wasn't satisfied.

"About the time I turned 30, I got to thinking that these were not the greatest songs, but I could go further with them if I wanted."

There was nothing holding him back except his own insecurity, and, eventually, even that faded away.

He said, "I wasn't married at the time, and I was living in 10-x-15 trailer outside of Slaughters, Kentucky."

Knight figured then was as good a time as any.

"But I didn't do it until I was ready to do it," he said.

Since then, Knight has written songs for Kentucky Railroad, Montgomery Gentry, Randy Travis and others. He's recorded eight records. His latest, "Little Victories," was released in September 2012.

Knight's songs often have a gritty country feel, although he acknowledged that his life isn't quite as gritty and hard as it used to be.

He's in a pretty good place. He enjoys going out and playing. He has that honorary Texan certificate and, at some point, he was made a Kentucky Colonel, another unusual honor.

"The last time I played the Master Musicians Festival in Sommerset, they gave me a certificate," he said. "I don't know what to do with it. There may be stuff I can do with that. I need to check on that." Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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