In an alternate reality I have just been listening to “The Butthole Truckers”. That was what friends had jokingly dubbed Kentucky duo Everette before they settled on this more radio friendly name, inspired by George Clooney’s character in one of only about five DVDs they had when back in university together; O Brother, Where Art Thou?
“Coming up with the band name is the hardest thing ever. It’s harder than coming up with your kid’s name.“
(They’re dads, so they’d know.)
“We had record deal offers and all kinds of stuff and we still didn’t have a band name. We actually had folders of music that said ‘Butthole Truckers’, it was just normal… Beating that made it even harder because how do you beat the butthole?”
The long-time friends, Anthony [pic. below, left] and Brent [pic. below, right], have just finished playing a mini-set on the most intimate stage of England’s The Long Road festival. It’s a gazebo erected by Kentucky Tourism where they’ve been eye-to-eye with a circle of about 40 delighted fans, including me perched on a bar stool on the front row. It’s a huge contrast to their recent shows such as playing Nashville’s Nissan football stadium during CMA Fest, but it’s not an unwelcome change.
“When you get to stand in front of people and you see the twinkles in their eyes for what you’re doing, it’s really connecting and it feels so good. The smaller stuff feeds the soul more immediately.“
“You’re building a song out of thin air in the room, beating your head up against the wall trying to write it from your perspective, but you also hope that other people can connect to it as well. And when you see that [connection] as performer it’s the ultimate drug, whether the crowd’s 20 people or 20,000. I think even when we do play the bigger [venues] we still try to make that intimate process happen. That’s how we started just playing around a bonfire with friends and things like that, having some drinks. So, that’s our goal; to always bring bonfire to the crowd.”
They have indeed delivered on the campfire vibes at The Long Road with a couple of well-chosen singalong covers (like Man of Constant Sorrow from their name-inspiring movie, and Free Fallin’ with help from The Cadillac Three at a bigger show the next night). But, mainly, it’s songs largely inspired by their own life stories. The first weekend out in their university (in Bowling Green, Kentucky) ended with being spotted driving the wrong way down a one-way street and a night in jail. That led to the clever, catchy belter Dang the Whiskey.
Brent tells me;
“There’s a lot more times that I probably should have went to jail than that one, but that was the one that actually happened.“
At the other end of their spectrum is tear-jerker Momma I’ll Be OK, inspired by life on the road.
Their brand of truth (and way more than three chords, since Anthony is a classically trained guitarist) perfectly straddles traditional techniques, contemporary chart country and southern rock. But they may have ended up on completely different chart genres given their start.
“My first impression was, who the hell is this guy? He [Brent] was in a rock band, playing lead guitar and singing harmony. And he had the most beautiful hair and was doing The Edge from U2 kind of stuff. I was honestly kind of jealous. I grew up playing metal and rock and roll and punk, and at the time I was studying classical guitar and I saw Brent doing what I wanted to do. I was like ‘look at this guy and his pretty ass hair’. But as soon as we started talking about life and different things, clearly the universe went ‘here you go, you guys belong together’.”
Now, after 16 years of playing music together, Brent still has the ‘pretty ass hair’ but they’ve come a long way from their early gigs, like the one at Country Ham festival where they received harsh criticism from a square-dancing granny. The Long Road festival crowd are more appreciative. So far, unlike Country Ham, no one here has told them to slow down and “play something we can barely move to”.
Instead, word has been spreading that Everette are a must-see at this year’s festival – even getting a mainstage shoutout from their headlining friends The Cadillac Three.
By the time they play their final of three sets (to herald the festival’s last afterparty) it is in the largest tent which is heaving with revellers who already know all the words to even their newest songs. They’ve told me they want to come back to the UK after this tour* and hopefully they weren’t just being polite. But I expect the next time they play here, there’ll be no more sets in tiny tents where I can grab the front row.
You can next see Everette live in London on 2nd September 2022, where they’re supporting Sara Evans. Their next album ‘Kings of the Dairy Queen Parking Lot – Side B’ is due on October 7th (2 years after Side A), plus their latest single – the rocky ‘Make Me Want One’ – has just dropped.