Stock Rising for Leroy Virgil (Interview)

Leroy Virgil Hellbound GloryWhen I wrote my review of Hellbound Glory’s new album Old Highs and New Lows I forgot to mention the other great players on the album besides the frontman Leroy Virgil, especially the drummer “Chico,” whose the other member of the band that has been there since the beginning. But as their recent album gets older but the songs don’t seem to, Leroy Virgil is beginning to be exposed as an A list singer songwriter in the underground scene, with skills that are even getting him some attention in the broader country world.

In a review from Country California, CM Wilcox says:

“Beneath all the booze and swagger lies a wordsmith. Virgil characterizes the partners in the dysfunctional relationship of “Either Way We’re F**ked” as “mutual parasites,” bristles at being treated as “nothing but debris” on “In the Gutter Again,” and elsewhere manages what could very well be the first seamless integration of the word “sclerose” into a country song. He’s an exceptionally clever writer.”

Leroy stopped down for an interview on the most recent episode of The White Trash Revival. You should head on over there and listen to it in it’s entirety, but a few of the meaty nuggets are transcribed below. Leroy doesn’t want to be a star, doesn’t want to be famous or rich. But he does want to play music, and be able to afford to put food on the table. If there is any underlying theme of what this website is all about, it is to make sure that exceptional talents like Leroy Virgil are able to do that: make the music we all love, and feed themselves.

Donnie Cash: How long have you guys been together, Hellbound Glory?

Leroy: We’ve been together about 4 years, chunking away at it. But I’ve been singing country with various projects for about 10 years now.

Donnie: How did “Scumbag Country” come about?

Leroy: It came pretty naturally. A buddy of mine kinda put it together. We played a gig right on the coast in Northern California and we stayed up all night singing, playing guitars, drinking booze. We played another gig the next night and we were driving and he says “You know Leroy, you’re just a fucking scumbag.” And (I said) you know that has a good ring to it. You’re right I am a scumbag. And you know, “Scumbag Country” is a cool way to call our music.

Leroy Virgil Hellbound GloryDonnie: I liked your album Scumbag Country and I like the new one even better.

Leroy: It’s a pretty personal record for me. Some of those songs are 10 years old. Called it Old Highs and News Lows because of that. “Hard Livin’ Man” I wrote when I was 19-years-old, I was living with a roommate back in Washington, getting into some trouble with crystal meth and just raising hell. I just kinda wanted to put all my best songs together about drugs and drinking. Just about every song has either happened to me, or has happened to someone I know. I write songs about real shit that happens.

Donnie: Most of the guys that are big in country say that you have to live the lifestyle to write a good song. And you’re songs are good, so there it is, you’ve lived the songs that you write about.

Leroy: A little more than I’d like to, to tell the truth. Its a battle. You know sometimes you feel like you gotta keep pushing yourself lower and lower into the gutter to get more material. That’s in the back of your head when you’re writing songs. I’ve been writing songs about doing drugs since I was a kid basically, when I first started doing drugs. When I was 15-years-old smoking crank from lightbulbs. I’ve pretty much been a lifelong user. Trying to quit though. I promised. The only time I ever said no is when someone asked if I had enough. I’ve never really been addicted to drugs. I’ve been addicted to being self-destructive my whole life.

Donnie: You know its probably hard, because you don’t get any mainstream radio play. You do have us little guys.

Leroy: Its not all about getting well known. Basically I just want to be able to sing some fucking songs for people and be able to eat decently. Macaroni and cheese is fine with me. I don’t want to be on sort of mainstream radio because most of that shit sucks. I still love Alan Jackson and George Strait but there’s obviously something wrong with it. It sounds like 80’s metal, not metal but 80’s glam rock. I don’t like to get into the whole thing of talk too to much shit about the mainstream, because it’s always going to be like that. It’s just not my bag. I’d rather listen to more honest music.

I can’t listen to music if I don’t think I’d like the guy singing it. That’s why I’m not big in to Old Crow Medicine Show. I like some of their songs, I’m just not a fan. Not to talk shit. I have to feel that sort of spirit. You know like Hank, when Hank sings or Hank Jr. sings or when Hank the third sings. And I feel like boy, if those guys were sitting in the room right now drinking beer I’d probably get along with them all right.

Donnie: Where do you want to be in the next five years?

Leroy: I thought I’d be dead by the time I hit 32 so. I’m 28 right now. Probably have a kid by then with the wife. Probably still be driving around playing music. Hopefully make enough to keep paying rent and put some mac and cheese on the table. I really don’t have any aspirations to be a star or be well known. I just like signing songs. I really don’t like the part of having to . . . its hard to explain. I just be like to be able to sing songs for people. I don’t want to be a star at all. It’s a convoluted answer, I know. I don’t see myself being Tim McGraw or Jason Aldean.

Motherfuckers who are in it for fame and fortune aren’t in it for music. I have an ex-wife who wanted to sing country music, and she didn’t even fucking like it. She just wanted to be famous. It’s like why would you want to be famous if your famous for something that isn’t you? A buddy of mine opened for Jake Owen a few weeks ago. I guess he was a decent guy on a personal level. But my buddy showed up for a sound check, he was opening, and they were listening to rap music. He said he wasn’t really country at all, he seemed more like a surfer dude. I guess he actually did a cover of Vanilla Ice.

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