Emma Reynolds spoke to Kristy Osmunson from Country duo American Young prior to their appearance at the British Country Music awards on 21st October. They talk about fashion, intimate house shows, songwriting and more:
Are you excited for the awards?
Oh my gosh, so excited, I mean I think it’s gonna be a whole new experience because it’s always good to see how awards shows are run and everything. This guy that ran the Academy of Country Music Awards here, he’s my neighbour and one of my favourite people in the world. Anyways, he has seen so many things in his career but there’s always so many things to learn so it’s really exciting. You guys do culture in a way that we just can’t even comprehend.
You’re up for an award and performing aren’t you?
Yeah, it’s so nice and gracious. I was looking for a dress for the show, and I just had this brainchild, it’s called countrymusicfashion.com and like how has that not been done? So I went and checked out countrymusicfashion.com and it was available, and like I don’t know if that’s like a show but I bought the “.com” how fun?
What are your plans when you get to the UK? Other than the awards?
So, I don’t know if we’re gonna play shows. There’s a little show that we did called “The Little Rabbit Barn”. It’s outside London in the countryside and it’s the first house show I ever did. The guys open up their garage and then on their back patio they do a big tent and turn it into a concert venue. The woman made the most amazing curry and we stayed down the street at a friend’s house and it was the first I’ve ever done where someone just opened their house and had like a house show. You know, it’s always venues and hotels and that kind of stuff so whenever we come to the UK I always wanna call them first and see if they’ll let us come and play because it was so fun, and I didn’t know people and it was on such a different level. We played and then we went in the house and everyone was eating together.
It must have seemed really stripped back and authentic as well.
Oh yeah, it was awesome! So fun. So I threw a little party here at my house, and got totally freaked out by having so many people come over, it was good to do, but I must say the lady of that house had great courage. She cooked and I thought to myself, this is way harder than it looks. And I think I had like 30 or 40 people over here and I was pulling my hair out!
So was it a good reception when you performed at the house?
You know, it was awesome. We had a little party and performance on the back porch and it was really fun. We had the Nashville meet in London and do you know Yola Carter? She’s a UK country singer, give her a listen because her album is just spectacular. Anyway, we had the Americana Fest and I just ended up doing a jam with a few of my friends. But Yola Carter is amazing, definitely one to watch, and do you know Sonya Lee? She is going to the UK for like 6 months. I say this like you have a little island of like 50 people and y’all know each other. So, Sonya is going to be over there, go check out her show! She’s one of my best friends and she’s amazing and Yola of course. She’s just put out a really cool record.
It must be really great to have so many friends in the same boat as you making similar music, potential options to collaborate.
Oh, it’s incredible, the songwriting community and music community in general, I mean it’s funny I think everything I do in life, like all the people that I work with or my roommate or my dentist, like everybody I know down here, I know through music. It’s always either a show or a friend of a friend or musicians I meet on a plane.
Can you tell us a little more about the sound of American Young?
So, we’re really going to the idea of the basic. Just very basic instruments. So, the American Young sound started because our friend Paul Wheely was a legendary producer and he was Jon’s publisher at the time and he gave Jon the 1940s Gibson, this old acoustic guitar that was just magic! It was like the first week we started the band and we started playing that guitar and 'Love Is War' the first time we went in and recorded that. Anyway, we sat down with just two guitars and vocals in the room, just singing that and then we recorded it and then built the tracks around it. It all kind of just originated from that track. On Friday we’re doing a session and working with an incredible man called Jim Ed Norman and he is just a legend. He took over Curb Records and he was the unofficial member of the Eagles. He did all of the arrangements, all the strings, 'Hotel California', he’s just amazing.
Tell me about songwriting.
Songwriting for me is normally really honest. I just finished last week a project that I think is overwhelming right now. It is the first of its kind called “A Soldier’s Child” and basically under the last military administration we have 3000 children with no parents who have lost their dad or their mum to military conflict. So, the day that our election happened, I tweeted I was running for President and all of a sudden all of these things started coming into my life. So we started this songwriter camp for these kids to tell their story. And a lot of the time what’s happening is we’re giving money to the family and the widows but we don’t have anything to do with these children. They’re gonna have grief stories and that is going to affect them for the rest of their life.
So who set this up?
Well, my mentor, Bob Regan used to be president of NSAI which is the National Songwriter’s Association. And so, basically, it’s all over the country, in every county, we have a songwriter representative from NSAI and wherever you’re at in the United States you can contact your nearest songwriter. It’s a really great community programme. He also set up the songwriting curriculum at Belmont which is our university here that I went to. And I went in and was a guest lecturer for him at that university and when he was setting up that programme and writing the curriculum it had never been done before and they were saying “how are you gonna teach songwriting to kids?” So anyway, Bob Regan started this conversation called “Operation Song” and basically what we do is go in with veterans and get them to tell their story and we put it to music because what happens is they’ll be telling a story that has been circling in their brain, Scientologists call it Ingram I think, it’s like a traumatic memory, and so you’ll put that traumatic memory to music, and all of a sudden it changes the emotion surrounding the traumatic memory. So, saying this, when I’m working with Operation Song and I’m listening to these veterans telling their stories and we’re working on it and then we record the song and then they get the opportunity to sing or play it, whatever they want.
We have now, 2,795 kids left to take down their stories and we record all these stories and give them to the kids so they have something to listen to and remember. However, what I’ve been thinking is “how do we properly get these stories out?” I would really like to get the whole thing on film and make some kind of documentary.
Would you say all of these things that inspire you are the inspiration for the new single and album?
“Better On You” was written by Jon and that’s about him falling in love with his new girlfriend and it was down on a beach in Florida so that was fun. The new single is fun and light-hearted, the new album, we are just getting ready to start, and since the beginning I’ve written lots of true stories about what’s happened here and honestly we’ll see which one makes it because I was sending out some of them to my old label heads and was getting some feedback and the truth is always the best policy. It was awesome to work with Lee, I just love him. He’s wonderful, we got signed the same time and there were so many nights on a bus together. He’s a wonderful person, and it’s been really fun to work with him and do songs that he helped write.
If you had a dream festival or venue you could perform at, where would that be?
So, actually, funny you say that. I think it’s called Country Music Solar Festival. My neighbours up in Idaho invented the Solar Road so we have this amazing dance floor that is this huge solar pad right downtown in Idaho and I want to have a solar festival that would be all solar powered. So, Royal Albert Hall, obviously. Oh, and the first place I ever sang when I went away was the Vatican and that was from 5’o’clock mass and it was one of the most amazing memories of my life. So, I need time to sing at cathedrals, I love that.
Has anything embarrassing happened during a performance?
Well, the first set that I ever played at the Country Music Festival outside the country was Switzerland and I had just bought myself the most amazing pair of strappy high heels that I was going to wear on stage as I had always been a cowboy boots girl. But I bought these amazing high heels and I was the first one out on the stage and playing and so I go running through the curtains with my violin and I trip on a cord and faceplanted into the front of the stage. I popped up and kept playing. It was a really funny moment.
Read more about American Young and their recent single here.