Christopher Denny’s been busy. In addition to releasing his debut, Age Old Hunger, in August (via 00:02:59 Records) and a recent tour to New York City to celebrate it, the Little Rock, Arkansas, crooner was married on September 1, three days before this interview. We talked about his distinctive voice, the complexity of age, and the people who inspire some of his songs.
How was New York City?
It’s what Levon Helm would call “an adult portion of life.” With everybody rushing everywhere and having to make trains and such, you better have yourself together. I didn’t care for it the first few times I went, but New York grows on you. That said, my wife didn’t care too much for it, so that’s all there’s to be said on the subject of New York in our house for the time being.
You have a pretty distinctive sound. Where does it come from?
I don’t know exactly where the sound comes from. I think that some of it comes from the things I’ve heard in this life, but there are parts that have come from the lives before. I try not to forget any of the things. I suppose hearing Jeff Buckley was also kind of a breaking point. I looked at this guy on the album, and he sounded so different from how he looked. I knew that I would never fully understand it, but that I needed to find my own voice. I thought about how Lefty Frizzell would sing a song, or Clarence Brown, or Otis Redding, and things came out different. The more free I get, the more different it sounds.
A lot of Age Old Hunger sounds like it was written by a much older person. How does a twenty-three-year -old guy come up with these songs?
None of us really know how old we are. We all came from the light, and we’re all heading back that way. I wrote “Age Old Hunger” about a moment in time and how I felt at that moment. Like the other day, I was in a hotel room with my now wife, and I was listening to Bob Dylan sing “The Worried Blues.” I just wanted to cry, because I immediately understood what he was singing about. There are certain things that are age-old and not Chris-old, and that’s what I’m writing about.
So even though you’re singing in the first person, it’s not exactly literal?
Well, of course the little me that was born into the world now has questions about if things are going to be all right, but I write my songs for all kinds of people. The other day I was out by the railroad tracks, and this guy comes walking. He’s got the look. You can tell that he’s just done some long time, and he’s real skinny like he’d been on the meth. He gets about five steps from me, and he just drops and does like a hundred push-ups real quick. I wait for him to stop and ask what he’s doing. He tells me that every time he thinks about doing drugs, he does the push-ups. That just knocked me out. I got a little piece of him in me now, you know.
Then what song most represents on the album most represents you?
“When Am I Gonna Realize” is a song written to myself from myself. I just had to decide to prove to myself that the people who love you are the most important things in life. Of all the songs on the album, I would say that that one is the most Chris. I probably would have named the album after that one, but it didn’t seem like a very mature title.
Video: Live in New York, February 25, 2007( http://www.christopherdenny.com/niagaravideo.html?TB_iframe=true&height=280&width=360)