By Erin Kalejs
For Avery Roberson, country music is in his blood. It started with his grandfather, a bluegrass musician and continued with his son; Roberson’s Father who played in the Hutchins Brothers, a country band back in the late 80’s. Now, the North Carolina native is following in their footsteps.
He first made that decision when he was only eight years old after watching a clip of his father playing with his band live in Nashville. From there he started learning how to sing and play the guitar and at 14 began posting videos of himself performing on Facebook.
Six years later, his life changed when he went on a plane for the very first time to audition for The Voice and despite “being scared to death” blew everyone away with his intimate rendition of Tim McGraw’s ‘If you’re reading this’ and got a four-chair turn, all thanks to his “Mama” for secretly signing him up.
Since his time on Season 20 of The Voice, Roberson has moved to Nashville and continued to make country music. In the latest episode of Small Talk, we discussed the inspiration behind his latest single ‘You’, what makes a good country song, and why there’s so much more to country music than just beer and pick up trucks.
A lightly edited transcript of that portion of our conversation follows.
The Curve: Who are your biggest musical influences?
Avery Roberson: In terms of modern country music it would be, Tim McGraw, Chris Young, Garth Brooks, they’re my main inspirations. Recently I’ve also been listening to a lot of Morgan Wallen, I know everybody loves him but he’s also a really big inspiration for me.
TC: Since your grandfather was a bluegrass musician do you ever listen to and take inspiration from bluegrass music?
Avery: Definitely! Every time I go back home me and my Dad will listen to bluegrass tapes together.
TC: There seems to be this divide right now between people who think country music should be more traditional and have less of a pop influence and others who think it needs to keep evolving. What do you think of the current state of country music?
Avery: I don’t really like putting a label on it because I put out various kinds of country music. I think it’s all about feel and if that’s what they’re feeling and they want to put a more modern song out then put it out.
I’m not against it but I’m not hating on old country either, I do like it when someone brings back old school country on the radio. I will say that some of the songs nowadays on the radio sound really similar and they sound like the same song and artist but I still like modern day country just as well.
TC: Your latest single ‘You‘ came out back in January, what was the inspiration behind it?
Avery: I was sitting in my basement and me and my buddy were thinking “what could we write a song about? We need a title.” So we were joking around and throwing out stupid names and then he said “you” just as a joke and I thought wait a minute let’s try writing about that! So I came up with a really cool guitar melody and we just went from there.
TC: What do you think is the key to writing a really good country song, are there any specific elements that just have to be in there?
Avery: It has to be very relatable and in a way it has to be very simple so that it’s not very complicated. I guess as everyone says it has to stick to “three chords and the truth” that’s the way I see it, you don’t really have to do a whole lot to make a good country song. It just needs to be truthful, relatable and catchy.
“I feel like the reason why some people don’t like country is because they haven’t heard any meaningful country songs. They’re just hearing the new stuff that kind of sounds like pop country that says the same thing every time. So they haven’t had a chance to like it.”
TC: For people who aren’t country music fans, they think it’s just about rednecks, beer and pick up trucks, why do you think a lot of people have the wrong impression of country music?
Avery: I think it’s because that’s all they hear, a lot of songs on the radio nowadays which are catchy and I still like them, but a lot of them do talk about that stuff and in a way that is the lifestyle for a lot of country people.
But at the same time I feel like the reason why some people don’t like country is because they haven’t heard any meaningful country songs like old Garth Brooks songs or anything like that. They’re just hearing the new stuff that kind of sounds like pop country that says the same thing every time. So they haven’t had a chance to like it.
TC: During your time on The Voice you worked with Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson, two of the biggest names in country music, what was it like to work with them? Did they give you any memorable pieces of advice?
Avery: It was just a surreal moment, they’re both very nice and down to earth. It was a really fun and good experience and showed me that everybody is human. Just because someone is famous doesn’t mean they’re any better than you, they’re people just like everyone else so that helped me become less nervous.
I remember doing a practice session in front of Blake and the whole time I was closing my eyes because I was so nervous in front of him and he told me “it took me five years to appear on TV and I worked hard for it. I’m sure you worked hard to get to this point but you’re only 20 years old. You have to understand that you made it here for a reason so there’s no reason to be scared.” So, that’s the best advice I got, just to let loose and have fun, don’t take it so seriously.
For much more with Roberson, including his songwriting process, and the challenges of ‘making it’ as a country musician in Nashville’s competitive music industry listen to the full episode.
To hear more in depth interviews with fascinating people from the world of arts and entertainment— from actors and directors to artists — check out Small Talk on Spotify.
You can follow Roberson’s music here: