After moving from Chicago to a farm in rural Southern Indiana shortly after the pandemic hit in March 2020, singer-songwriter David Quinn began writing the dozen tracks making up Country Fresh. His third album, due out on April 15, centers around his love for the Midwest and the simple things in life we often take for granted.
Having grown up in Southern Illinois, Quinn was living in the Windy City to be close to his bandmates at the time that COVID swept across the globe. Admittedly not much of a fan of city life, Quinn wasted no time in getting out of the concrete jungle once the world shut down, something he documents in the twangy “Down Home,” singing:
“Take me out of the big old city
find a place just to call my own
pretty tired of this way of living
find a place way down home”
“Once everything got shut down and shows dried up, there was no point to live there anymore,” Quinn tells The Boot. “Within a month I was out in Indiana because I could tell this was going to drag on and, at the least, the rest of the year would be shot.”
He ended up settling with his girlfriend in Southern Indiana in a home built by her grandfather years before, near their family farm. Quinn immediately fell in love with the laid back lifestyle on the farm, where he worked as a ranch hand tending to horses. In addition, he worked to turn their new house into a home by fixing it up to have usable water, air conditioning and other creature comforts.
“I got to wake up everyday and ride horses, hang by the water and enjoy the scenery,” says Quinn. “Not much changed in day-to-day life on the ranch, which weirdly helped me to keep my mind off of COVID. I ended up having a great year despite everything terrible that happened around the world. It was and still is a great escape that I don’t plan on giving up anytime soon.”
Visions of Quinn’s time on the farm can be heard throughout Country Fresh on songs like “Cornbread and Chili,” written about his mother’s heavenly home cooking and “Grassy Trails,” which focuses on the feeling of riding his motorcycle through the winding country roads near his home. However, the tune that exemplifies that time the best is appropriately the title track, “Country Fresh.”
The honky tonk banger vividly describes the picturesque scenery around his Southern Indiana home, from the sign near the county line saying “welcome home” to the lake through the trees. It even describes the farm where he works in the sun, just having some fun before proclaiming that he’s just doing what he pleases, living “country fresh” everyday.
The phrase is one that Quinn discovered while recording his previous album Letting Go at Nashville’s Sound Emporium. It was there that he stumbled upon an ashtray propped up on the back wall and adorned with the phrase, which Quinn quickly turned into a catch-all way to describe anything he saw as cool — from music to old trucks, the country lifestyle and more.
“I don’t dislike the city, I just miss seeing the greenery of nature when I’m there,” says Quinn. “I like to hike, be on horses and ride my motorcycle. Driving is actually a big catalyst for getting my creative energy going. I love riding the winding roads around home and not having to stop for a while. It gets me visually stimulated and helps to clear my head.”
Throughout the record, Quinn pays homage to the Midwest, the part of the country he calls home. The topic comes up on songs like “Boy From Illinois” and “Heartland,” but is also represented through “black dirt country,” a label Quinn concocted to describe his and others music from Illinois, Indiana and other parts of the Midwest — similar to how “red dirt” has come to signify music born out of Oklahoma and parts of Texas. This includes artists like John Prine, Uncle Tupelo and The Bottle Rockets, all of whom’s influence can be heard on Country Fresh.
“[The Midwest is] centrally located, so all kinds of people from all walks of life live in and travel through the area,” says Quinn. “It’s like a melting pot or patchwork quilt of different experiences coming together just like my music incorporates elements of country, southern rock, bluegrass and folk to make ‘black dirt country.’”
Helping bring to life Quinn’s “black dirt country” sound on the album are an all-star class of musicians, including drummer Miles Miller (Sturgill Simpson), slide guitarist Laur Joamets (Drivin N Cryin, Sturgill Simpson), guitarist Jamie Davis and pianist Micah Hulscher (Margo Price); pedal steel player Brett Resnick (Kacey Musgraves), multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin (John Prine, Jack White), and longtime friend and bassist Andy Holcomb. Quinn had worked with all of them on his previous albums other than Kaplin and Miller, who both were brought in on the recommendations of Kelsey Waldon and others.
Quinn’s hope is that Country Fresh will give people both inside of and beyond the Midwest a greater appreciation for its beauty, culture and the stories of the people who live there, through the lens of his “black dirt country” music. He also hopes listeners come away with a better respect for life’s simple pleasures.
“I also hope people learn a greater appreciation for the simple things in life, many of which we all took for granted until the pandemic,” says Quinn. “I want them to be happy and take solace in the oftentimes mundane parts of life that we second guess like cornbread and chili, swimming or taking a ride on your bike.”
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