19th Jan2011

History Lesson: Cowboy Junkies

by Todd

It’s been nearly a year since the much-beloved singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt tragically took his own life. Now the band Cowboy Junkies is remembering the late artist with a new tribute album of his songs. It’s called Demons and is due out in Feb. on the Junkies' own Latent label. Vic Chesnutt was a close friend of Cowboy Junkies and had talked about a collaboration with the group for years. Margo Timmins talked to TDOA writer Amy about their newest project and the history of Cowboy Junkies.

TDOA: I’ve had Demons on repeat all day. What do you think makes this collection of covers so unique?

MT: Well, from our point of view the uniqueness stems from the writer, Vic Chesnutt. We have never done an entire album of one writer’s work. This was very special for us because we are all big fans of Vic’s music.

TDOA: Can you talk a little about Vic Chesnutt? I’m not sure that all of our readers will know who he is.

MT: Vic died last Christmas. He was a very prolific, talented and unique writer. He worked his ass off but never really got the commercial success that he deserved. I think his work was a little too intense and quirky for the general public.

TDOA: Margo, I can’t get over your vocals. Timeless is the word that I would use to describe them. How do you approach singing?

MT: I try and find a way into the song from a personal point of view and then I work at trying to figure out what would be the best way to communicate the emotion/story expressed in the song. Some songs come naturally and others take a while for me to figure out. I was a little unsure of the Demons project when we began, I wasn’t sure if I could do justice to Vic’s songs, but I’m very excited about the way it turned out.

TDOA: Cowboy Junkies has been around a long time – what do you think has contributed to that longevity?

MT: We truly love what we do and take great pride in our work…hopefully that has translated through to the audience and they have shown us enough respect and attention to allow us to continue.

TDOA: Even as a seasoned performer, Margo, I read that stage fright is an issue for you. Has performing gotten easier?

MT: Yes, I got over the stage fright many years ago…I love singing and being on stage these days.

TDOA: Few bands survive 20+ years with their original lineup. Why do you think that you all have stayed together?

MT: We still enjoy playing music together. When things go slightly sour we always fall back on the fact that we love playing together and that it would be foolish to let anything spoil that.

TDOA: At The Dumbing of America, we interview a lot of bands who’ve been around for a very short amount of time, or are just getting started. What advice do you have for them?

MT: Make sure that you are proud of whatever you put your name on. “No Regrets”, should be your motto.

TDOA: How do you think the alt-country genre is doing?

MT: I don’t really follow music as a genre…some bands are great, some bands suck and most bands are painfully average, no matter what the genre.

TDOA: Plenty of other alt-country artists have followed in Cowboy Junkies’ footsteps. What do you think were your major contributions to the genre?

MT: I don’t really know….perhaps our respect for those who have gone before.

TDOA: After this, what’s next for Cowboy Junkies?

MT: We are in the middle of a 4 album project called The Nomad Series (http://latentrecordings.com/cowboyjunkies/nomad_series/). Demons is volume 2 and we are about to start recording volume 3, Sing In My Meadow. So we have a lot of recording in our future.

The digital release of the record is available now through their label’s website at: http://latentrecordings.com/cowboyjunkies/

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