PLAYING ATLANTA: Chris Coleman and The Reason He Leaves

COLUMNS|Playing Atlanta

One thing that I’ve noticed as the years go by is that, as we get older, our lives get simpler. Not that the problems, stresses, or worries disappear, but the things that kept us rattled as teenagers into our early twenties seem to settle into their designated place, and the things that really matter – family, friends, our four-legged children – become our focus.

Atlanta Americana artist Chris Coleman knows that all too well. After years on the road, as a solo artist and a sideman, he captured that wisdom on 2017 LP The Reason I Leave. It’s an intimate, emotive, eleven-track time capsule of the lessons learned, the mistakes made, and, ultimately, the peace he found on the road and in the music.

Though he’s been hard at work on his next record, Chris sat down with Audiofemme to talk all things music, travel, and a lifelong love for freedom.

AF: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Chris! Let’s dive right in. We know you’re an avid traveler; how has your time on the road inspired you as a musician? 

CC: I grew up in an army family, so in a way, I’ve always been a transient person. I remember as a kid, we would move every two or three years. I’ve lived everywhere from San Diego, to Washington D.C., to Atlanta, and now my wife and I live in Athens, Georgia. We have a Sprinter Van we’ve built out as a camper and travel in quite often. When we aren’t on the road for work, you can usually find us road tripping to our favorite places or snowboarding. I find myself so inspired traveling in the van, simply because most of life’s distractions are thousands of miles away.

AF: Your songwriting is reminiscent of Ryan Adams, Neil Young, and Dawes, diving deep into your stories and experiences. How does music allow you to express yourself? Do you ever find it difficult to translate your emotions and experiences into music? 

CC: I started playing guitar and writing music really young. Moving to new places so often as a kid, I definitely struggled to find where I fit in. I’ve always had my guitar and a passion for music. All of the artists I admire tell a story with their songs, and I try my hardest to do the same. I find the best kind of peace when I write about the things that are difficult to talk about. For me, it’s way easier to write a song about my emotions or experiences than it is to talk about them.

AF: Was there a moment when you realized music was more than just a hobby? 

CC: Music has always been my life. I’ve kind of felt my whole life that music is what I was made to do. I just turned 31, and I’m at that age where a lot of my friends are slowing down from touring, focusing on side hustles, and studio stuff. I really can’t picture myself doing anything but traveling, playing music, and writing songs. It’s my passion, it’s my hobby, it’s my career.

AF: You’ve recently built a studio of your own. Do you plan to record your next album there?

CC: I’m really excited about my new space! We moved from a 500-square-foot tiny house, so we’re really enjoying the elbow room. Just having all of my instruments out and accessible has been huge. I’m not sure if I’ll do my next record here or not. I’m writing a bunch and demoing new ideas here for now though!

AF: What’s your creative process like, and what inspires the music? 

CC: The creative process always starts with a trip for me. I wrote this last record in Park City, Utah and in the van on a National Parks road trip. Being outside someplace beautiful, with no cell phone service, really inspires me. There’s something about being outside with just my wife, my dogs, and my guitar that clears my head. I’ve been trying to conjure that same inspiration at home my whole life.

AF: How has being in the Atlanta music scene impacted you as a musician? 

CC: Freelancing for different artists as a guitar/keys/bass player over the years has forced me to branch out and try many different styles of music. I’ve gotten to meet and learn from a ton of different great players with a variety of styles. I can’t imagine how different my playing would be without Atlanta’s influence.

AF: What’s next for you?

CC: I’ve been writing for my next record and touring with a new Atlanta band, MyFever. It’s been a huge stretch for me since their style is new for me. I’ve enjoyed the challenge though.

Keep up with Chris and his travels via Facebook and Instagram, and stay tuned for his upcoming release. 

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