Music flows through the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky just like the many rivers and lakes that run through it. Names like Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, Patty Loveless, and Keith Whitley all took their first breath of life in the area, and Jackson native Chad Warrix says that music was everywhere he looked growing up – so much that he never thought about it as a career.
“I grew up with music all around me,” he recalls. “I was a typical kid. I never really considered music to be something I would pursue the rest of my life as a career. I just knew I loved music from an early age. My mom was a musician, and she loved guitar. Everybody on her side picked an instrument – banjo, mandolin or something. I always grew up with it, and maybe even took it for granted that it was available. I was into riding ATV’s and dirt bikes, or being outside playing basketball and baseball.”
As he grew older, Chad says his parents really began to encourage him musically. “My mom and dad encouraged me to take piano lessons early on, and later in life - as I picked up the guitar on my own, I became known as the musician guy around town. I was always in bands, and I was the kid that always had a guitar with me.”
Following his parents’ encouragement, Warrix took that guitar and his dreams to Nashville upon graduation from high school to attend Belmont University. “I enjoyed college, and that was my way of giving back to my parents. Nobody in my family had ever had a college degree, and they really wanted that. While I was here in school, I really got the bug for playing. I was playing on Broadway, traveling, and doing music more than I anticipated I would. Ever since then, I’ve been a road dog – playing every place you can imagine from one person on a back porch to arenas and stadiums.”
One of those places he performed at proved to be an important part of the Chad Warrix story. “At the end of school, we were playing a little club out in Antioch called the Courtyard Café. I didn’t know it at the time, but one of the acts we saw there were the Warren Brothers. Phil Vassar and the Kinleys played there too. But, I was doing a rock band that had nothing to do with country. We were playing two or three nights a week, and had a pretty good following. At the same time, a buddy of mine that I had known a little bit from back home in Kentucky named David Tolliver decided to move to town. He was known as a singer, and started to come out to see me at the Courtyard. We became fast friends, and he started traveling with us – tuning guitars and driving the van. He wanted to do country music, so I told my manager at the time, ‘You gotta hear this guy do Country.”
Warrix’s career was in the process of taking off, albeit in the rock direction. “At that time, my band got a deal out of New York City, but my manager was working with him, helping him to get a writing deal at EMI. About a year and a half later, the rock deal went away, and David and I went to a show together at the Mercy Lounge. He had a writing appointment the very next day with a big writer in town, and asked me to join them. So, we went to write the next day. While we were writing together, the co-writer said ‘You guys sound amazing singing together.”
The two would combine their talents in the duo Halfway To Hazard, notching a hit radio single with the powerful “Daisy.” Chad says that the duo enjoyed a great run, but he’s also upbeat about what the future holds for him as a solo artist.
“I always kind of kept a thing in my back pocket that I would try. I always thought I had one more shot after the duo thing was done. I wanted to be the one that was making the decision just for me. It’s good to have people to bounce your ideas off of, but this time around it feels good to know that my decisions are going to be the ones we go with – right or wrong.”
When asked to describe his music, he says “It’s not a huge departure from Halfway To Hazard by any means. There’s a lot of the same musicality in my solo stuff. I’m a Kentucky boy, so I like to have a lot of banjo in there. I grew up listening to country like everyone says in their interviews,” he says, while also remembering his mother being a fan of Bob Dylan and his sisters being enamored with the Eagles and Bad Company. It all made a mark.
“I was one of those kids that would take a cassette tape and record radio shows. I loved all that. I never could get enough music. I still can’t.”
Warrix loves the experience of being in the studio – as an artist or otherwise. “I like being on both sides of the glass. I love being a performer and writer, but I also like producing, turning faders, and making all the sounds come out the way they do.”
Chad Warrix is committed to making the kind of music he wants to make. “I’m pretty confident in what I like to do and want to do, and I think there’s an audience out there for that too. Knowing what works when you play live, what songs people identify with, what they like to hear – I get all that. I don’t need to rely on someone to tell me what their opinion is, because what I have learned is nobody knows. If they try to convince you they do, they are just filling you full of bull. None of us really know. At some point, you’ve just got to follow your heart. If it happens that millions of people identify with it, love it, and it catches on, then great.”
Chad feels you’ve got to follow your heart, rather than current trend. “You will always be a day late and a dollar behind if you are trying to chase the latest craze. Just do what you do, and hope and pray that it comes around. Music comes and goes in cycles. I’m a pretty good musician, and can fake just about anything, but I don’t have any interest in doing that.”
At the end of the day, the word “star” has little influence on Chad Warrix, compared to keeping his musical integrity. “I’m probably one of those guys that doesn’t look that good on paper. I’ve never had the huge accolades or awards. But, the thing I am the most proud of is my reputation – I can walk into a room full of musicians and the people feel like they know me, and I feel like they respect me. That feels good to be respected by people you respect. I couldn’t care less about celebrity. That doesn’t motivate me. I know it does some, and everybody should have something that motivates them. For me, I like being respected as a musician. I do want to make money, so there’s got to be some sort of correlation between commerce and art. I’m trying to figure that out.”
Warrix received a major honor in 2011, when a display of mementos related to his career went on display at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. “That was a big deal for me,” he says with pride. “It’s pretty humbling. I was flattered that they would want to have any of my stuff there in the halls alongside of stuff by Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs, and the Judds.”
He also is a firm believer in giving back to his home area with the Crockettsville Charity Concert and Trail Ride. “This will be our fifth year, and we’ve raised about a half-million dollars for one of the most poverty-stricken areas in America – where I’m from in Eastern Kentucky. We give all the money to local charities. We do a huge concert on Saturday night, and we do a 45 mile off-road ATV ride on Sunday. We’ve had as much as 20,000 people for the concert, and 500 units for the ATV ride. I’ve asked many of my friends, Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley, Randy Houser, and Keith Anderson, Danielle Peck – so many people have come up to be a part of it. It’s so cool. We’ve built the stage from cedar logs on a farm that this local family donates every year. I’m really honored to be able to be a part of it.”
Though, the music business can be a crazy thing at times, Chad Warrix is one artist who is sure he’s doing what he was meant to do. “I know I was born to do this. I enjoy connecting with people on stage, or when people tell me they really enjoy a song I’ve recorded or written. The other day, I played golf, and I had played two holes the way that I usually play golf – pretty terrible. On the third hole, I hit off the tee, and just nailed it. One of the wives of the guys playing said ‘That’s what keeps us coming back right there. You can have a bad day every day, but if you hit it one good time, you’ll come back and suffer all day to get that feeling.’ That’s how it is with music with me. Sometimes, there will be some really bad stuff go down, but there’s that one moment that it motivates you and keeps you going on.”