An Interview with Jonny Fritz: “Dad Country” Songwriter, Former Truck Driver (Part 1)

Jonny Fritz Hi

Jonny Fritz (or the artist formerly known as Jonnny Corndawg) is a country musician our team has grown fond of over the past few weeks. As a songwriter, guitar player, and all-around-cool-dude, Mr. Fritz has an unmistakable wit and zen all his own.

Though Fritz was born in Montana, raised in Virginia, and now calls Nashville home, it only takes a song or two to figure out where he’s really from and that’s the road. Jonny’s ethos of life on the road pokes fun at country nostalgia almost as much as it revels in it – and even though the kind of truck-driving, motorcycle-riding, country-living consciousness that flows through his songwriting might draw more comparisons to indie-folk, rock, and the outlaws than it does to “country radio” in 2013, it’s country through-and-through.

Fritz has a name for his point of view: he calls it Dad Country, which not-so-coincidentally is the name of his second album that came out last week. Stream the album below. It’s something we knew would resonate with the uShip blog audience we’ve come to know over the years. It doesn’t hurt that he’s hilarious.

uShip VP Rick Wittenbraker and I had an enlightening chat with Jonny while he was out on the road to promote his new album. Check out part one of our interview below, and check back for part two next week.

uShip: Can you explain the concept of Dad Country to folks on the site?

Jonny Fritz: Dad Country is my genre. It’s me. Country music in 2013 is a difficult thing. If people know what country music is and they aren’t big fans, they either know
about Kenny Chesney or they know about Johnny Cash. You’re one or the other. I’m neither. I’ve just kind of made up my own genre that’s me. I’m gonna do country and it’s just my style. It’s not like filling some bad boy persona that’s created by Wal-Mart or something, it’s really just my own weird world. And some people ask, “Are you like an outlaw?” and I say “No, not really.” I’m more like somebody’s weird dad or something. And I think that describes it best. It’s just my own world. 

uShip:  Yeah, so you’re kind of taking the pretension out of it.


Jonny Fritz - Tooled GuitarJF:  
Yeah, exactly. It’s not “tough” or “bad boy.” It’s not that cool. It is just me. It is cool and it is fun, and it’s a bit off and I love it. But it’s not Wal-Mart country. 

uShip:  So, you also make leather crafts and know your way around motorcycles and trucks. If you weren’t a musician or a leather worker, what do you think you’d be doing for a living?

JF:  Oh, I don’t know. You know what though? I’d be driving a truck, honestly. A couple of years ago when I left Nashville to go to New York City, I had kind of given up on music. I was so sick of starving. I was down in Nashville just completely broke and down-and-out. I started working at these trucking schools and stuff and thought – there is such a demand for truckers and I love driving so much. I’ve never liked having a home.  It never felt necessary to have a place I thought I could drive a truck. I did it after I dropped out of high school. I drove a ‘59 White diesel truck – it was called a White Mustang. [Here’s a White Mustang if you’re curious.] – Which is funny, because everyone is
like, “They didn’t make Mustangs in ’59,” and I’m like,” “No, damn it! A ‘59 White.” It was a great truck, a boom truck and I was right at home in that thing. I always thought about what it would be like over-the-road trucking. I started to pursue it but I guess I felt like I would get completely ripped off by the school and the companies. And I just thought— I just don’t believe this is anything other than a scam— so I backed out and stayed with music and music ended up working out.

uShip:  So you were going to a CDL school?

JF:  No, I never went to CDL school. I wanted to and planned on it, and I was studying for my CDL for a long time. I never got it. Any time I would drive a truck I was in the country— and you didn’t need a damn license, you know. Everybody I knew was wasted and driving. It didn’t even matter if you had a license as long as you stayed on the road. I did it a lot. My boss would ask, “Do you have a commercial driver’s license?” I thought he was serious and I said, “No sir, but I can get one.” It was kind of a joke for a while. Every once in a while he would see me driving the truck— and he was 72 years old, an old Virginia boy— and he’d wink and say, “Did you get your CDL?” After a while (I was like, 17) I caught on and I said, “Oh yes sir, I’ve got my credentials. I’ve got my papers.” And he’d say, “That’s my boy.”

uShip:  That’s awesome.

http://youtu.be/Y2_RIg0vZPQ

uShip:  There are some parallels between touring as a musician and being a truck driver. As far as the grind, being on the road. You have to be one place then the next, and
your path is pre-determined for that amount of time.

JF:  Hell yeah. It definitely is. There are a lot of similarities. At times, one is more glamorous, and at other times, it’s the other one. I’d like to see some improvements in the trucker world. I feel like somewhat of a trucking activist. I would love to see better conditions on the roads, no pun intended. There’s obviously a need for better food and lodging and stuff at truck stops. I love truck stops and every time I go into one I’m always like — How come there isn’t some sort of super cheap version of the rooms and the showers and stuff? Why is that stuff so expensive? Lives could be so improved upon. And what about a gym, like exercise bikes or something?

uShip:  They’re such a huge part of the economy. Sometimes it seems like nobody is watching out for “the little guy,” making drivers’ jobs easier.

JF:  Yeah, exactly. But the most red-blooded Americans are the truckers. It’s a funny world. I love it though.

Jonny Fritz’ latest album Dad Country was released in digital, CD and vinyl formats on April 16. Pick up a copy at a store near you, through Jonny’s website, or online at iTunes or Amazon. Check back for part two of the interview next week.

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