This week’s column brings my interview with a singer-songwriter from the Coastal Maine town of Hancock Chris Ross. I first chatted with him back when he was fronting a band called The North back in 2015, so when I saw that he was going to be heading to Somerset Abbey in Madion on May 4 I decided it was time to reconnect and find out how his solo career is working out.

It should be noted that he’s also going to be opening for John Hiatt at the Waterville Opera House on May 28. But back to our telephone chat on April 1 that found him at home in Hancock, I began by asking him if he had performed at that fine Madison venue before.
Ross: I played there once last year, yes.

Q: How was it?
Ross: It was good, it was cool, it reminds me how incredible the architecture of churches are and how I kind of wish they were also all music venues, you know what I mean?

Chris Ross Submitted photo

Q: Yeah, I do.
Ross: But it was great, it has a really cool vibe. I like the idea of having people sitting at tables, it’s like a listening room vibe so I get to kind of stretch my story-telling muscles and do that sort of thing. Yeah, it’s a great kind of unique space that I wish there was more of it the state, for sure.

Q: Are you getting out a little bit more nowadays?
Ross: Yeah, of course winter’s always a little slower than the rest of the year, but I’ve been kind of steadily busy for as long as I can remember (chuckle); but things are picking up a little bit. I’m looking at my calendar now and I’m in like Bangor, Greenville, Brewer, and Lisbon over the next couple of weeks, but I’m always someplace doing something.

Q: Are there any times when you’re really out straight?
Ross: Well, if you’re going to do this for a living you’re going to have slow months, you’re going to have fast months, and you kind of just hope that they fit together in a way that keeps you alive (chuckle), you know what I mean? But this is a thing I love to do and every time I kind of feel like, “Oh, crap, how am I going to pay that?” So it’s all good, I’m living A dream if not THE dream, you know what I mean?


Q: Yeah, I do, but in my case this is THE dream, being able to chat with artists like yourself. Anyhow, are you thinking about putting together a new album or something?
Ross: Yeah, it’s always in my brain and there are songs nearly enough to start going through the process. There’s a part of me, and this is more of an existential rant on music and the business and everything, that still loves the concept of the traditional album: 11 or 12 songs, art work, liner notes — all that kind of stuff. I’m not sure, though, that it’s the smart move anymore; so I don’t know what I’m going to do but it might end up being like a series of just single releases or something like that. I don’t know exactly what the plan for recording is going to be but I do know that I have songs that I want to share on that sort of level. I’m just trying to figure out what the smartest, best way for that is going to be. Nowadays musicians sustain themselves through live shows — that’s just how it is, and that’s cool, too.

Q: And the one positive thing about that method of music delivery is that it is instant gratification. With CDs or LPs you can get letters or emails from folks telling you how the album really moved them, but with live performances you can experience instant feedback.
Ross: Yeah! I’ve been doing this long enough to know that that isn’t just like A perk of the job, it’s THE perk of the job. But there is a bit of a scary part when you’re like, “Oh crap, I’m going to have to do this when I’m 80?!” (laughter) but for now, it’s all cool.

Q: Is songwriting something that’s hard for you?
Ross: Umm, it’s harder than it used to be — I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or not. I think when I was in my early/mid-20s, when I was more prolific in the literal sense — when I was writing a lot more songs, it was easier because all the problems that a 25 year old has are seen through a lens of being a lot dumber. The older you get, you realize how much more nuanced and gray new relationships and human experience is, and I’m somebody who really needs to remain earnest in my work and authentic and as honest as I can be. And if I know that the honest truth is nuanced, it’s a lot harder to write nuance than it is to write in black and white: “I was angry!” So, yeah, it comes slower, but I think that the work that comes is better as I’ve gotten older.

Q: You have much more to draw upon as far as experience goes and like that, for sure.
Ross: Yeah.

Q: What can folks expect up at Somerset Abbey?
Ross: The songs are, for the most part, sad and occasionally I’ll get lucky and find an angry song — this is the well I’m drawing from. So since I know that the subject matter is going to be heavy, I try to be light in between the songs; I try to create some laughter and levity in the room. I don’t know, every show I kind of am bringing it in its own way, I don’t really make an exact set list, I just write down a bunch of song options on a piece of paper and just play whatever feels right.

Q: And if you get stuck?
Ross: Then I’ll take a glance down at the paper and see which song is kind of saying, “Play me.” But I’d say it’s a night of songs and stories. It’s the kind of thing that I’ve been doing a lot more of in the last few years and it has brought me a lot of joy, and really made me feel like, “Oh, this is a lane that I can go for!” and it’s nice, you know? I don’t want to make any promises because I have no idea what the songs are going to be that day or what the stories are going to be that day, but I try to be 10% better than the people think I’m going to be when they show up.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Ross: I would just say the standard stuff like, “Give me a follow on the social medias and see where I’m playing because I’m always somewhere doing something.” That feels like enough, although I encourage people — in terms of Somerset Abbey, specifically — I hope they will give my show a chance, but even if they don’t, I hope they give some show there a chance because it’s a really cool room, and, selfishly, I would like it to stick around!


Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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