Travel Profile: Kinky Friedman
By Sean Ritchie | Published on April 6, 2017
Travel Profile: Kinky Friedman
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Nobody could invent a character quite like Kinky Friedman, the stogie-waving, black-hat-wearing Texas Jewboy singer, storyteller, tequila purveyor, animal rescuer and full-time iconoclast. Governor of the Heart of Texas Friedman has been resurrected, and he’s hitting the road to prove it. The legendary outlaw country singer/songwriter, novelist and self-styled Texas Jewboy’s latest album, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met (Avenue A Records/Thirty Tigers), mixing originals with interpretations of the music of his greatest contemporaries, has been a hit since its 2015 release. It received rave reviews across the board, making it Kinky’s best and most popular effort ever. Yes, the Kinkster is back, and his Resurrected Tour starts in tomorrow, continuing to the middle of May.

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Sean Ritchie: I wanted to start this off by talking about your home state of Texas. Describe the natural beauty a bit, because I know it’s a very diverse state. Where would you direct a first-time visitor to go to get a real sense of it?

Kinky Friedman: Texas is kind of a religion. It’s more than a state of mind. It really has a mythology to it. The people here all have a kinship; it means something to be a Texan. That’s different than most states. If you meet a Texan overseas and you are a Texan that’s really a religious experience. You have a real natural affinity for each other. In fact, it saved me in a bar in Bangkok, Thailand. My friend was wearing [this funky outfit], we were in the peace core in Borneo and had a week of vacation. There were a bunch of Green Berets in there too — the war was going on. As usual, the littlest guy in that bunch was starting up with him — a Hawaiian guy. It was not looking good.

Travel Profile: Kinky Friedman© Trey Perry

I was scanning the bar and saw this big [guy] there and I heard him talking to somebody. I swore he had a Texas accent. I said to myself, “If I can befriend this big Texan before this Hawaiian guy pounds my friend into the ground, that would be helpful.” Turns out not only was he from Texas, but he knew friends of mine from school. Anyway, we hit it off and once I befriended him there was nothing the little Hawaiian guy could do! The Kinkster saved the day by befriending another Texan.

Back to the state, I favor the hill country mostly, because most of the people never see it. But, unfortunately now it’s being eaten away by folks from Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. I give it about another five years. The hill country is changing rapidly and not for the better. So, if you want to see it, and it is beautiful, now’s the time. It’s like what’s happening to Austin. If you ever lived in Austin before you will hate it now. It’s not just the traffic. It’s the skinny little trust-fund babies from [Los Angeles]. I don’t know who they are, but the cool people are not coming.

SR: Wow that’s really sad to hear that the development is taking over the beautiful landscape like that. It is unfortunate. To switch gears, tying it into your music, what gave you your initial interest in music? What makes you want to continue performing today?

KF: I think naturally I was a musician, but more in the Hank Williams style, meaning three chords and the truth. The songwriting was always more important to me. I’m a songwriter first. A songwriter, especially a struggling songwriter, is about the highest spiritual state that a man can achieve. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s also hell, especially today. As Billy Bob Thornton says, “The audience becomes the show.” I think you’re not going to meet any more cultural heroes, because everyone is trying to do it. That’s what I think. I don’t think you’re going to meet a John Wayne or a Jimi Hendrix anymore. Certainly, not the two of them together!

The other thing that’s going on is cultural ADD. No one listens to a whole song anymore; forget a whole album like we used to do. I’ve noticed that myself. When I go on vacation someplace I can’t stay more than a day or two. I have four dogs, and they need to be taken care of properly when I go away or I can’t be comfortable. I can’t be comfortable anyway, because I have cultural ADD. In other words, less is more. I think traveling around playing music is a high calling, it’s significant. Being a songwriter is sailing as close to the truth as you can get without sinking the ship. That’s what I try to do. It’s a great occupation, it really is a calling, especially if you’re not sure if anything is going to happen to what you wrote.

Travel Profile: Kinky Friedman

SR: That’s really amazing to hear the passion that you have with your music. Now, I read that Willie Nelson is sort of your personal muse. Expand on that for our readers.

KF: Willie called me in the middle of the night one night and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was watching Matlock. Willie said to me, “Stop watching it, that’s a sure sign of depression. It’s very negative to be watching Matlock. Turn it off and start writing Kinky, start writing.” Which I did, and that’s how I came up with these last 12 or 14 songs. They are the first songs I’ve written in 40 years. I’ve been writing books and stuff, but not music, because I didn’t think it had a chance of getting out there anymore.

I have an upcoming tour about to start and these kinds of non-stop tours are a very good thing. It is a tonic. The older you get the more you appreciate it. It really is a privilege to be able to get out there, play for people and connect with them. These new songs to me are phenomenal, even though it’s been 40 years, the new ones have percolated through my life. I sprinkle the set with about six of them. I still do all the old stuff too, but the songs are older than the audience in most places. Germany is a perfect example. I’m kind of the new David Hasselhoff of Germany. The young people are all showing up now and selling out the shows. They like the trouble makers. Yes, they like the country music, but it’s more about the trouble making.

Travel Profile: Kinky Friedman© Jörg Schubert

SR: Wow, that’s unreal. One thing I want to really touch on is how you say performing music is a privilege. One of our core objectives is to bring people together while traveling, and I believe music is one of the key pillars that does just that. You don’t have to have the same background or speak the same language to congregate in one room. Now, tying it into your upcoming tour, how special is it after all these years to be able to tour the United States like you’re about to embark on?

KF: It’s going to be a real pleasure. It’ll be great financially, but it will be a real test. Most people can’t perform every night in a different town. As Willie says, “The trick is to get on to the next big town without slashing your wrists.” He also says, “If you fail at something long enough you become a legend.” That’s essentially what he’s doing by staying on the road, and that’s what I’m doing by this Bataan-Death-March-kind-of-a tour. There are no days off between 34 cities. This is definitely not nostalgia, because my older stuff wasn’t mainstream to begin with.

I’m looking forward to everything though. It’s like I’m a child, even though I’m 72 years old. I do read at the 74 year old level though. It’s unbelievable. I’m going deaf, which I like of course, because you don’t have to listen to all the bullshit of the world. I’ll tell the audiences stories about being deaf, which are fun. Sound checks are hell, but once the shows start going it doesn’t seem to matter. This time it’s a pretty well put together tour, in other words we aren’t driving eight hours to get to the venue and having to play that night. It will be East Coast and Midwest. It will be a very nice time to be travelling.

SR: That sounds very exciting. Amazing that you’re still hitting the road with such fervor at your age. Lastly, I always like to ask musicians who are well traveled if there are any destinations they haven’t been to, and still want to hit. Do you have a couple still on your list?

KF: Well, I avoid Austin as much as possible! I don’t know. I have been to a lot of places. I don’t really have a bucket list or anything like that. It all depends who you’re with. That makes a lot of difference. I never really liked Europe, but I’ve got to admit these audiences were so good the last time I was there. The young folks really know the stuff. I’d like to go to Iwo Jima. I’ve never been there. I would like to see some of the islands in the pacific. I’ve been to Samoa and Hawaii extensively though. It really is about who you’re traveling with in the end.

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For more on Kinky Friedman visit his website:

Travel Profile: Kinky Friedman

About The Writer
Sean Ritchie

By: Sean Ritchie | Published on April 6, 2017

     
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