CW is Stayin Country with Michael Cosner

Recently (2/15/13) I had the chance to sit down with country music artist Michael Costner for a little Q and A session at the beautiful, historic Don Gibson theatre in Shelby, NC, where he was opening for country music legend Gene Watson.  

Michael grew up in the Greensboro, NC area and began performing around age 7 with his father’s band the ‘Honky-Tonk Goodtime  Band.’

By His mid-twenties he was the lead singer for a regionally touring band ‘Native Son.’ They opened for artist such as Gary Allan, Sara Evans, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ronnie McDowell. Michael left ‘Native Son’ in 2001 to concentrate on writing.

In 2007 he teamed with hit song writer Byron Hill to write music for a film project. Although the film didn’t “make it”, a friendship between Michael and Byron was solidified.

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In March of 2012, Michael recorded his first collection of original material and “Stay Country” was released in September of 2012. Michael and Byron co-wrote all the songs on the EP and Byron produced it.

Michael was just signed with BHP Recordings in Nashville.  The label welcomes him and his “straight forward” country style.

J ~   How did growing up in the South influence your music?

M ~ Considering all I ever listened to was country music its pretty much shaped my musical identity. I grew up on a heavy dose of Jones, Haggard, Gene Watson and Paycheck. I grew up mainly in the 80’s and then you’re talking about Randy Travis and Alan Jackson. One of my favorites of that time was Joe Diffie. He’s one of the best country singers ever in my opinion. But as for the south itself you know the way we do things down here  is a little different. Its just the whole thing the way you were brought up what you believe all of the filter into the music, whatever you’re writing you can’t help it.

J ~   Who has been your biggest inspiration?

M ~ It’s kind of the waves really because whenever I was a young kid listening to the stuff as I mentioned Haggard, Jones, Vern Goslin those were a big inspiration. Then as I got older, it’s kind of like another wave of inspiration. You’re talking about Randy Travis and guys like that and on into the 90’s with Alan Jackson and those guys. It’s probably sub conscience but I’m sure I kind of picked thing from all of them a total combination of them. But at the same time I know how things are I can’t go and cut a song like “Grand tour” by George Jones of something like that.  I’m not naïve enough to think that I could cut that now. I try to keep that in my mind when we’re writing. I know that its got to be kind of contemporary to reach any kind of mass audience.

J ~    Who would you love to tour with?

M ~ If you’re talking about current just because I consider him the best country singer, actually there two.  When you’re talking about real country singers now who, have a bit of notoriety, Josh Turner or Joe Nichols. I mean they’re the best country singers right now to me. However, if you’re talking all time probably George Jones.

J ~   Do you have any interest outside of music?

M ~ I do. I’m a guy. I like sports. I don’t really hunt or anything like that.  My daughter we do stuff together.  (He proudly said) She plays volleyball. Doing the dad stuff is fun

J ~   Do you have a favorite song on your “Stay Country” EP?

M ~ I do and it goes back to the studio.   I like “Kickin’ it down the road”. There are a couple of reasons for that; we were tracking and they’re playing it and the opening lick that the guitar player played. I was like man that sounds like something on a Jerry Reed record and I loved it! I was man that is so cool! And then we got into it the chorus its kind of got a Waylon feel. I really think it has kind of got a contemporary sound going. Its drawn on that it’s a little bit inadvertent but it worked out. I like to pull that old stuff in but at the same time I now I have to keep it kind of contemporary too.

J ~   Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

M ~ I know where I’d like to see myself in 5 years. I don’t necessarily crave being on a huge tour that sells 20,000 tickets each night. Although it would be good if it happened. I think if I can continue to do some of these cool gigs like tonight, working here with Gene Watson and people I really like and respect. If I could do that and maybe get to where I could sell 50 or 100 units be able to sell a few thousand tickets to a show that’d be great. I’d be totally happy with that. Maybe gain some notoriety from the people that I respect where they can say we like what you’re doing, that’d be awesome. The other thing on the writing side, I’m really confident that this year I’m going to get a song cut by somebody. I’ve had some pitched over the last couple of years but just haven’t had anything put on hold or cut yet. But I think this year we’re going to have one cut. So maybe have a handful of cuts by then too. That’d be nice.

J ~   What do you think about the direction country music has taken in the last few years?

M ~ It’s really always been this way. It doesn’t make it right or wrong, it’s just always been this way. I mean you go back to the 60’s when you had Ray price and Patsy Cline laying strings and stuff well, they did that so it would cross over. I get that. I can site examples all the way through. I love Ronnie Milsap. He had some great country songs in the 70’s but in the 80’s some of the stuff he was doing was pretty pop. Earl Tomas Conley, I like him but some of the stuff he was doing was pretty pop. It’s always been this way and I understand why. They want to broaden the audience and I get that. But that don’t make it country. What I consider to be real country music does not have distorted guitars, has a good Steele in it and a fiddle. A lot of this stuff now it seems they’ll throw in a token banjo just to give it a little bit of a twang.

J ~    Describe in 5 words or less what Country music means to you.

M ~ Oh gosh. I can do that is one. Everything! I mean that’s it.

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J ~   If you weren’t involved in music what would you be doing?

M ~ I don’t know growing up I kind of had aspirations of either being a baseball player or an architect. Neither of those worked out. I was a pretty good baseball player. I tried out for the pirates in my teen years. I probably would of done what I did anyway. I went to college and I have a business degree. Maybe I would have some sort of business of my own.

J ~   What do you want people to know about you?

M ~ Here his daughter Kayleigh, who was present during the interview, pipes in “that you like the color Red.”  He said musically speaking. It’s that when it comes to the kind of Country music that I grew up listening to that I consider real country music, that I really revere those people. I mean I put them on a pedestal. You know I dread the day all the people I grew up listening to are gone. I have studied them, the way they do things the way they sound. Its kid of weird I guess. I want people to know how much I revere and respect those people.

By: Jody Ogg ~ @JodyOgg

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Links to Michael