Country music has always had a distinct sound, and country artists arguably have the most success when that distinct sound is unblurred. Hailing from Nashville, Southern Gothic is different. A country band at its core, Southern Gothic has taken a telltale sound and expertly blended it with rock and pop in the upcoming track “Past Midnight.”
If you’re already a fan of the band, you know this isn’t their first rodeo. Their album New Hometown debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Heatseeker chart, and #17 on its Country Albums chart. In the same month, their first single from their album Sheets Down reached #1 on CMT’s Pure Country 12-Pack Countdown—a spot it held for 4 weeks. After taking a break in 2016, songwriter and Southern Gothic front man Connor Christian (who also plays the piano, guitar, and mandolin) set out to reshape the band’s sound, aiming to incorporate nods to the rock and pop songs that he listened to in his youth. “Past Midnight” is evidence that Christian led the band in the right direction.
“Because I love Chris Stapleton or Shovels & Rope, that means I can’t love Sia and Tame Impala or Young the Giant? That’s crazy,” says Christian. “I love music and I want to be able to explore…”
This is certainly a refreshing point of view for anyone who loves music of all kinds. As artists, we sometimes get so caught up in defining the lines of a genre and fitting a certain playlist sound that we lose the opportunity to create freely. Southern Gothic’s mixed-genre sound in “Past Midnight” is a prime example of the brilliance—and malleability—that can be produced when artists step out of bounds and truly find their voice.
“This song, as released, could only be a Southern Gothic song because I feel like my voice is very distinct, and even a casual fan will hear it and know that it’s us. On the other hand, with some small changes I could hear anyone from Hunter Hayes to Charlie Puth or even a more rockin’ version by someone like Maroon 5 or X-Ambassadors. So, while we’ve made this song our own, I feel like Keith [Hetrick, Grammy-nominated R&B and pop producer], Mason [Thornley, co-writer, and I] wrote it in a way that I think lots of artists could find their own voice in it.”
Interestingly, Christian’s experience with genre-bending isn’t limited to Southern Gothic’s lifetime. “[M]y very first real record deal was as a rapper. I was in a band called GruvnHi (groovin’ – high) which I would describe as a frat-rap band… We were signed by Lisa Lopez from the band TLC to her label, Wish Records. Unfortunately she passed away during the recording of our debut album and it never got released, and eventually Arista dropped us. Before that I was in a couple of metal bands, and before that, a CSN-style folk band. [Southern Gothic] actually evolved from a band—we were called Princess at the time—that was a super weird mixture. [W]e’d do cover gigs to pay the bills playing everything hard rock—Rage Against the Machine, Marylin Manson, Alice in Chains, etc. BUT, our original music was very much me trying to be Elton John. [He] is, without a doubt, my biggest musical influence.”
Christian’s musical cross-training has paid off in the form of Southern Gothic’s strong upcoming single. “Past Midnight” is out October 23, and Southern Gothic’s EP Burnin’ Moonlight is out December 4.