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Chris Cunningham: Not A One Trick Pony

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By Johnny Griffith

Most musicians have a side gig, it’s just a fact of life. It’s challenging to support yourself, much less a family, on playing music just in this area. There are plenty of people who try it, and a few who succeed, but most of the time those who are successful find they eventually have to travel outside of the area to make ends meet. Aside from those few who are out burning up the roads to make the next gig, the rest of us either have careers, and in reality, the music is the side gig, or we pick up odd jobs to get us to the next show to make sure we pay the rent or car note.

Occasionally you find a person whose side gig is an extension of their creativity, and the two forms of expression really build off each other, serving as not only a source of income, but inspiration as well.

Forney native Chris Cunningham has found this balance between music, design, and family using it to be better at all three things. When he’s not playing a gig around the area with his new band, running around with his family, or tracking down fish at his favorite lake, Chris is running his design and engraving business, keeping his creativity engaged. Chris graciously took some time out of his busy schedule to let us get to know him better.

Johnny: Since a lot of our readers probably haven’t had a chance to get to know you, tell us who is Chris Cunningham?

Chris: I am originally from Forney and still live here today. I’ve been married for almost seven years with two awesome kids. I married into them, but five minutes around all of us, there is no denying they’ve spent way too much time around me! I guess, while not playing music, I could be described as a typical outdoorsmen. I hunt occasionally, fish entirely too much, and the rest of the time I enjoy metal detecting. Nerdy, I know, but fun nonetheless.

Johnny: When do you remember being first interested in music?

Chris: Growing up both of my parents were singers. Both had spent years in the church choir, and my dad was always a tenor in a quartette. But my interest in music came after their separation. I spent a lot of time by myself and taught myself how to play and write songs. Most of my songs are on the darker side because that’s where they originated for me. I’m not a puppies and unicorns kind of guy.

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Johnny: What role did your family play in your early musical development?

Chris: I remember my mom always driving me, before I could drive, to some random place to meet up with another band and hit the road. She’s never one time told me I couldn’t, and that to me is the biggest role anyone could play with something like music.

Johnny: Who were some of your early musical influences?

Chris: Very much Cody Canada. The way he writes is so smooth, and I feel like a lot of his songs are written in the same manner as mine: never written down, just freestyled and put together.

Johnny: When did you realize you had a knack for writing originals?

Chris: I just remember realizing I was extremely good at putting words together. It wasn’t that I ever intended to make a song, songs just came out. And they still do. I will go weeks and months without words coming to me, and out of the blue steps, here comes a shiny new song. And it ain’t good until you can make yourself cry.

Johnny: How would you describe your music?

Chris: I’d have to say primarily Red Dirt country, but it can definitely lean rockish when I’m with a band.

Johnny: Where do you draw inspiration from for your original music?

Chris: Real world situations. None of my songs are fictional. They are all real.

Johnny: Do you remember when and where your first gig was?

Chris: Now that I think about it, yes. Probably the Crandall Cotton Gin. It was a restaurant, and they decided to start serving as a live music venue. Now it’s no longer there, and the building was demolished after a fire, which is a travesty, because their chicken fried steak could give people a reason to live.

Johnny: Music isn’t the only artistic endeavor in your life; you also have your own design/engraving business. What drew you to that expression?

Chris: I worked for a company out of Dallas doing the type of thing I do now. At first it was just a job, but once I started learning to use the laser I got really good at doing small things, until I met a guy they hired to do laser work as well named Richard. Richard has had a bigger influence in my life than he will probably ever realize. He helped me realize my potential to do the kind of work I do, and it really expanded my mind as far as what I was capable of doing. When I decided to go out on my own, he was always there to help, and I can’t thank him enough. If any readers would care to see my nonmusical work, go to facebook.com/c3lasered.

Johnny: Do the two ever intermingle? Does your music inspire your design work or vice versa?

Chris: Yes! A lot of lyrics come to me when I’m working and just singing random things at the top of my lungs. The guitar is never too far away. (That sounds like a song right there!)

Johnny: How many shows do you manage to play in a typical month?

Chris: Being married and helping take care of the family I help with, I usually squeeze about two or three good shows in. Booking is tough these days, but I always will play if I am wanted.

Johnny: Do you travel much or generally just play local?

Chris: There is not much of a music scene in and around Forney. Myself and several others do what we can to change that, but most shows that I would deem memorable occur in Tyler, Longview, Cedar Creek, etc.

Johnny: What has been the most interesting memory from your musical journey?

Chris: I think the better question is who, and that answer is Colton Mathis. I swear on everything he is Stevie Ray Vaughn reincarnated. No one can touch the amount of artistic ability he has in him. Nobody.

Johnny: What upcoming shows do you have on the calendar?

Chris: The next show I have is on Saturday, November 4th in Canton at Random Finds inside the First Monday grounds. It is a really good time and always features other musicians who also play in the area. We rotate out and play for about an hour each. I like to call it “fools on stools!”

Johnny: What are you listening to when you’re not playing or writing your own stuff?

Chris: Lately I’ve really been stuck on Cody Jinks and Cody Johnson. The way they both write really intrigues me, and Cody Jinks writes some songs that hit home hard. It’s hard being a writer listening to music sometimes especially when you can’t hear emotion from the person singing because they don’t feel it because they didn’t write it.

Check out Chris Cunningham’s Facebook page for more info on upcoming gigs at facebook.com/chris.cunningham.982.

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Around East Texas

April 21st: Mouse and the Traps and Bowling for Soup

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Upcoming Concerts

April 21st (8pm) – Mouse & The Traps – After more than 50 years together, Mouse & the Traps continue to be one of the best examples of “Texas Rock & Roll.” Formed in Tyler, Texas in 1965, Mouse, Nardo, Dave & Larry continue to give the public just what they want – great rock and roll. Whether you remember “Public Execution,” “Hit the Bricks,” or not, Mouse & The Traps has something for everyone. Tickets are $20-$25.

April 21st – Bowling For Soup at Clicks Live (8pm) – American pop-punk band Bowling For Soup emerged in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1994, but have since relocated to Denton Texas. Tickets are on sale at the door for $19, and may be purchased in advance online for $15 at etix.com.

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Bands

Blind Pursuit: Chasing Dreams

By Johnny Griffith

In science, there is a phenomenon known as the Butterfly Effect which states, that in a complex system, small changes in one place can have a larger effect elsewhere. This is best illustrated in the hypothetical example of a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico and causing a hurricane in China.

A more practical example of this would be the formation of the band Blind Pursuit, based out of Palestine, Texas. An amalgamation of sound and styles brought to the table by each individual member, Blind Pursuit is the end result of five people from different backgrounds and geographical origins ending up in a small town in East Texas and magic happening.

Hailing from Southeast Louisiana, Maine, Cayuga, and Harmony, the odds of these five people interacting were astronomical, but small changes had large effects and Blind Pursuit has been a staple in the east Texas music scene for three years now. We recently tracked them down to get to know them just a little better.

Johnny: Blind Pursuit has been playing gigs around East Texas since 2015. What was the genesis of the band and what is the current line up?

Blind Pursuit: Our first show was February 28th, 2015 opening for our good friends Blacktop Mojo at Click’s Live in Tyler.

Our current lineup includes Marc Mitchell on drums, Craig Jones on bass guitar, John Reed on lead guitar, Katie Reed with lead vocals, and Michael Jones on lead vocals and acoustic guitar.

Craig and Katie hail from Cayuga, Texas. John was raised right down the road in the Harmony Community just outside of Palestine. Marc migrated from the great state of Maine; and Mike spent most of his time about 45 minutes southwest of New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been in Texas since 1998 and spends his time filling in behind the bar at Pint & Barrel Drafthouse in Palestine, and working construction. He met John and Katie again in 2013. John and Katie own Reed Construction where John builds custom homes and Katie does interior design. Craig owns Oak Floor Supply in Tyler, Texas and Marc is in marketing and communications and sometimes moonlights at the Appleton Coffee House.

Johnny: How about the name – there’s a lot to be said in that name. What does it mean to the band and where did the idea come from?

Blind Pursuit: The name Blind Pursuit stems from the belief that we are all pursuing something, whether it be chasing dreams, running after love, or following your passions; at some point, it takes a blind leap of faith to achieve something truly great. In all actuality, we started with the word ‘Pursuit’ and since we had no idea of how or where we were going or how to get there, ‘Blind’ seemed like the obvious choice.

Johnny: Blind Pursuit has a pretty eclectic mix of sounds in your catalog but how would you describe ‘your’ sound?

Blind Pursuit: Wow! That’s a great question, one that we’ve been asking for quite some time. We play what we love. We are a varied group of musicians with different musical backgrounds and tastes, and we play what we would like to hear if we were sitting in the audience. Our own sound stems from songwriting, which is mainly done by our lead singer Michael, and so it definitely has a soulful, emotional style to it, and has a layered Indie rock feel. You can hear a little bit of our southern influences layered in as well as the obvious differences of having two lead vocalists. So if you wanted to pigeonhole us into a specific genre, I would say we fall into the Indie Rock genre, just because it encompasses such a wide variety of sounds and musical stylings.

Johnny: How much of your show is covers versus originals these days?

Blind Pursuit: After the release of our debut album “Offramp,” we do about ¾ covers and the rest originals. New material is constantly being added and we hope to shift the number of originals to a larger segment of the show.

Johnny: About how many shows does the band try to play a month?

Blind Pursuit: We’re currently averaging five shows a month but we are always looking to add to that.

Johnny: Are most of the gigs in the east Texas area or do you travel out of the area?

Blind Pursuit: The majority of our shows are in East Texas. We do travel to north and central Texas on occasion and we are hoping to broaden our travel radius this year.

Johnny: What are you most proud of as a band?

Blind Pursuit: Our album, without a doubt. We feel like it is such an outpouring of who we are and our evolution over the past couple years. It’s like we have given birth to our own child. So much love, nurturing and hard work has gone into this project. Our resources and time have been singularly focused towards this and we could not be prouder of how it has turned out. We worked with so many great musicians and our Producer, Phillip Moseley was a great asset. They have been invaluable in helping us birth this album.

Johnny: What has been your favorite moment, on stage or off, as a group so far?

Blind Pursuit: I think it has been a thousand small moments of connection with our fans. We’ve heard stories where our songs touched someone going through a divorce, or something we sang really resonated with someone going through a tough time, and you just stop for a second after the mad rush and adrenaline goes away, and you think about how you’re affecting people and the connections you’re making. When we see people singing along with our songs, grabbing their person and dancing, when you see an emotional reaction – that’s the good stuff, the reason we do what we do.

Johnny: What is in the works for the year?

Blind Pursuit: We’ve got another handful of songs and hopefully, that will translate into a new project as well. Whether the next step is an EP or a full-length album is yet to be determined.

Johnny: What’s in the water down in Palestine, between Blind Pursuit, Blacktop Mojo, Kolby Cooper, and others… seems like Palestine has become a serious music town. What’s your take on it?

Blind Pursuit: Every once in awhile, “magic” happens in the most unlikely of places. If you’ve seen the documentary on Muscle Shoals and the music that came out of that small studio in Alabama, then you kind of have insight into the madness behind the magic.

All these acts from Palestine are backed by the most awesome community of people who rally behind us and get the word out, grassroots style. The people here truly love music and they believe in us, or we wouldn’t be able to do what we love. We have a connection, not only through the town we’re from but through our producer and the studio we’ve all recorded at, Audioworx.

Johnny: What experience do you hope first timers will have at a Blind Pursuit show?

Blind Pursuit: Someone recently left a review on our Facebook page that sums it up perfectly: “Bet you will leave their concert feeling like your soul is a little more free than when you walked in.” We hope that everyone will leave feeling a little lighter and a little more connected to their fellow man. In a world where we are bombarded with distractions, we hope people can come and reconnect and feel more human than when they came in. We hope the love and passion that we have for life and music can be felt and translates well to concert goers.

Blind Pursuit can be found at facebook.com/Blindpursuit and blindpursuit.com.

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