Kristy Cox – The Universal Language Of Bluegrass
By Gareth Hipwell
Even beyond their similar topographies, the red clay foothills of East Tennessean Appalachia are perhaps not so far removed from the grassy, granite slopes of the Adelaide Hills. After all, South Australia’s prize wine country with its dusky bluegums (in place of Kentucky bluegrass), daubs of wattle heath (instead of hickory or shortleaf pine), and vines weighed down with fattish grapes – was long home to late great luthier and mandolin-maker John Liddy. Besides which, music is blind to trivialities such as soil type and mean annual rainfall. There’s a certain symmetry, then, to Adelaide local Kristy Cox’s present situation in Nashville – Tennessee’s own picturesque state (and bluegrass) capital.
Country Update spoke with Kristy ahead of the release of Part of Me – the vibrant songstress’ wonderful fourth studio album, and her second release on U.S. bluegrass label Pisgah Ridge Records. While quite at home in Music City, it seems Kristy is intent on keeping one foot planted firmly on Australian soil.
“I think I spend about seven months of the year here [in Nashville] now,” Kristy explains. “I’m not a fan of winter, so I tend to head south for the winter. I think that’s one of the things I love about Nashville: music aside, it’s a really beautiful city. You really get all four seasons here – you get spring, like at the moment, when all of the trees are blooming and everything’s pink and purple and white, then you get snow in winter, and the trees drop all of their leaves in autumn. I think the small-town mentality of Nashville reminds me a lot of my hometown of Adelaide.
It’s the same population size as Adelaide, so it was kind of really easy for me to adjust to the pace of Nashville, I suppose. But that being said, whenever you move to another country, there’s always an adjustment and a giant learning curve. I think the thing that has really hit me the most about being here is the food – we have such different food! I miss Australian food.”
The road to Nashville has been paved in gold for the captivating singer. Kristy netted the Female Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year gongs at the Australian Independent Country Music Awards in 2013, before taking out the inaugural Bluegrass Recording of the Year Award at the 2015 Golden Guitars for Living for the Moment (2013) single ‘One Heartbreak Away’. The move to Tennessee has itself thrown open the door to a world of opportunity for this leading light of Australian bluegrass – in more ways than one.
“I think I’ve grown a lot since I’ve been here,” Kristy says. “I think living in another country and living away from everything you know really makes you grow up as a person. Over the last two albums I got married [to fellow South Australian country star Travis List] and had a child (daughter Adelaide) too – that kind of forces you to grow up!
As an artist, I think living here has helped me to develop into the artist that I want to be. Being in Nashville, you’re constantly surrounded by fantastic music and amazing songwriters, and every night of the week you can get your music fix – it makes you strive constantly to improve, because every night of the week there’s somebody out there that’s a lot better than you are! It makes you put your work cap on, makes you go home and say, I need to do more. As musicians, we’re always striving to be better, and this town pushes you to be better. But, at the same time, everybody around you is so supportive and positive – you don’t really feel like you could ever not succeed. Everybody around you just gives you a really positive energy and a feel-good vibe.”
… read the rest of the story in Issue 81.