Chuck Mead Tells the Stories of Kansas on “Free State Serenade”

“People think there's nothing out in Kansas, but there’s lots of cool legends and all sorts of good stories,” he says.

photo courtesy Plowboy Records

Nashville music veteran Chuck Mead has been in the city for two decades now, leading the acclaimed alternative country band BR549 and then later as a solo artist. He’s seen the Southern burg shift in sound and look to its present status as “It” city, but his latest album, Free State Serenade (out March 4), is all about his home state of Kansas.

“I feel grounded there,” says Chuck, calling from the road. “I’ve made Nashville my home for over 20 years, and I love it. But my formative years were spent at home in Kansas. I guess I just reached a certain spot of my life where there were some stories that I wanted to tell that had to do with that, that kind of spontaneously came around. Pretty soon I realized I was doing a whole record about that.”

Chuck covers real-life stories such as William Quantrill’s Civil War raid of Lawrence, Kan., and the In Cold Blood murders of Holcomb, Kan., in the dark rockabilly numbers "The Devil by Their Side" and “Evil Wind,” respectively. “People think there's nothing out in Kansas, but there’s lots of cool legends and all sorts of good stories,” he says. “Shoot, I got some good stories from living in Kansas and I’m just one guy.”

Guests on Free State Serenade includes BR549 bandmate Don Herron and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Critter Fuqua, and Chuck says it’s all about of trying to refine his approach to writing. “I reached a point where I wanted to talk about that stuff,” he says. “I’ve been trying to be a good songwriter for a long time and maybe I’m getting a little closer,” he adds with a laugh, “when you talk about real stuff.”


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