By Theo Bloom
The first of country musician Craig Gerdes’ shows was a wild, high energy performance for four straight hours. Never did his and his band’s energies wain, nor did the crowd’s enthusiasm for the outlaw country outfit. The performance was filled with some great instrumentation and fantastic vocals, and the band had an infectious energy that, at times, whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
Gerdes had a two-night residency at Nash Vegas in Columbia Friday, Nov. 16, and Saturday, Nov. 17. Seemingly a blast from the past, Gerdes and his band sound more like the outlaw country acts of the ’70s than any of the pop-oriented country currently dominating the country charts.
Despite being a country act, they’ve got a rock feel to them, and their love of the blues is evident through their music. Lead guitarist Jakob Baxter went off on some wicked guitar solos — one of which he did while standing on the upright bass — and the performance even included a Moby Dick-esque drum solo by Randy Noy. Beyond Gerdes’ own discography, they played many classic country songs and took them in their own unique direction; this includes some Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Billie Joe Shaver.
After the marathon performance, Gerdes was kind enough to sit down and give a brief interview to KCOU’s Theo Bloom.
KCOU: First off, who makes up your fantastic backing band?
CG: On drums is Randy Noy, from Ottawa, Illinois. On upright Bass is Chris Ferrall also from Ottawa, Illinois. And on lead guitar is Jakob Baxter from St. Louis, Missouri. We were here one time before, in February, but the band wasn’t in this configuration.
KCOU: Do you have plans for any performances in or around Columbia you’d like people to know about?
CG: I’m not sure about here in Columbia, but I do play a lot in Missouri and around Columbia. Check out tour dates at my website, CraigGerdesMusic.com.
KCOU: Have you started to work on a follow-up album to “Smokin, Drinkin & Gamblin”?
CG: Yes, as a matter of fact, we’re gonna take the band in the studio and record the band live in studio and do like a live band album. The band that you see like tonight will be the band that’s going into the studio and recording.
KCOU: When can we expect to see the album?
CG: It will probably be summer, Theo, of 2019. Right now that’s our tentative date.
KCOU: What country artists influenced you, and were you influenced by the blues? I thought I could hear some blues in your music.
CG: We always pay tribute to Merle Haggard and that Bakersfield sound, we do a lot of that kinda stuff. And we do a lot of Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams; I think it all came out of the blues. Jake and I, as guitar players in a band, we’re influenced by blues which crosses over into country, which well it crosses over into everything. So yeah you’re gonna hear a lot of blues (laughs), blues influences in our music; we’re both influenced by that.
KCOU: Beyond country, what are some of the other genres that influence you?
CG: I love jazz, I don’t know that it’d speak to my music, but it did for Willie Nelson. Willie Nelson uses, you know, jazz phrases and influences of jazz. I love a lot of ’40s swing music, those kinda things. Like Sinatra and Dean Martin; I love those kinda things. I don’t know that I incorporate it into my music, but those are some of the things that I love that people probably wouldn’t expect me to love. But I listen to a lot of that type of music, which is all kinda jazz-based.
KCOU: It seemed like a lot of people were sending you guys shots. How often do people send you drinks during a performance?
CG: Well, I guess when I entice it, they do. I was enticing it. You know, we’re doing the four-hour-straight-through gig and we needed some fuel, so I was bringing the fuel up for the boys (laughs). People here in Columbia were very nice in offering us trays of shots.
Gerdes’ debut album, “Smokin, Drinkin & Gamblin,” is available on all streaming platforms, and CDs are available on his website, CraigGerdesMusic.com. If you’re looking for some old-school style outlaw country made today, look no further because Craig Gerdes is the man you’re looking for.
Edited by Elena K. Cruz