ABOUT THE SONG:
“Chevy Van” was originally written and performed by Sammy Johns in 1973. “I always thought it was a cool song – and had a country twang when Sammy Kershaw covered – I always dug the hippie vibe and the story – thought it fit perfectly for my style of Hippie Country….”and that’s alright with me”….” – Chris Roberts.
Chris Roberts – a man of many hats, literally and figuratively — has found his groove. Before his years of humdrum, dead-end jobs and eventual achievement with his custom hat business, Chris wasn’t sure which way he was headed; until recently when he found himself at a crossroads.
It was back in March 2020, as Chris and his band learned that thanks to the pandemic, the rest of the gigs on their Texas club tour had been cancelled. So they decided to make the best of an unpredictable time: They pointed their bus toward Joshua Tree in the California desert, found a recording studio that had accommodations as well as state-of-the-art gear and spent three weeks in quarantine/isolation, writing and then recording a package of new songs — or, in his words, “making rock ’n’ roll/hippie/country magic.”
Now, if you knew Chris, this wouldn’t surprise you. Above all else, he is a man of decisive impulse. Growing up in Austin, working construction, laying carpet, even washing cars during the leaner times, and even when working the land on his friend’s ranch in the Texas Panhandle, he lived in the moment. He was never too proud to do what needed to be done.
In the same spirit, when inspiration struck, he dropped everything and moved to Utah to apprentice with a hatmaker. Chris found that he had a knack for the work — the design as well as the craftsmanship. In 2015, now living in Colorado, he parlayed what he’d learned into opening a second store in Austin with his cohort from his days on the ranch.
For many with an independent spirit, the story would end there: self-made entrepreneur, owner of a successful business — in Austin and in the scenic Rockies, no less. But once again winds of change blew into Chris’s world and toward a different direction.
“Here’s the funny thing,” he says. “I never tried to become a musician. I never thought I would play music. I never desired to play music. It’s just that music kept falling into me and out of me until I had no choice.”
He didn’t take it further until Aspen Hatter had found its footing. “That’s how I was finally able to find the time to get more into my music,” he explains. “Once I stopped having to make every hat myself and push everyday on the computer keyboard, I was able to sit in the corner and play my guitar. People who stopped in enjoyed what they heard.”
Then the songwriting began. “I was on a plane from Denver to Aspen,” he recalls. “A thought came to me, so I asked the flight attendant for a piece of paper and a pen. I wrote my first song then and there. I didn’t have my guitar with me, but I could hear it being played. That’s where it really started, when I thought, ‘Maybe I should try a little harder. I can do this.”
Chris’ ideas stem not from one or three or a handful of influences. “They come from everybody in every genre,” he insists. “It’s everyone I’ve ever seen and heard. And it’s not just music: Everything I’ve seen, heard, felt and experienced shapes me, and it all comes out of me through my songs.”
That leads us to those few weeks last March at Joshua Tree, where Chris and his band created eight new songs, from first flickers of life to final mixes. Straddling the worlds of Americana and raw country/Southern rock, they’re solidly written and executed, laced with innovative but irresistible hooks and finessed with world-class craftsmanship. One of them, “Remember That It’s Me,” has already been released; without any publicity or fanfare, it charted in radio markets throughout Texas. The adventure, then, is underway … but far from over.
“Look, this is not about shining a light on me,” Chris sums up. “To be honest, I really don’t need that. But I do love to play for people. When I see them making a connection and having a moment because of the music, well, that’s why I do what I do.”