Back in 2011, Nashville-based songwriter Jon Stone had written a number one hit for country artist Lee Brice. At the celebration party, Kristy Osmunson, approached Jon with the idea of following his dream of being an artist. After a while, Kristy's persistence paid off and after one time playing together the chemistry between the two was cemented and American Young was born.
Following the great country story-telling tradition, American Young are characterised by their haunting harmonies, honest arrangements and universal lyrical themes. Photogroupie caught up with Jon and Kristy when they were at a fundraiser for The Little Yellow Schoolhouse in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, ahead of their UK tour and album release.
PHTOTOGROUPIE (PG): YOU SAY THAT AMERICAN YOUNG IS MORE THAN A BAND, IT'S A MOVEMENT. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?
KRISTY OSMUMSON (KO): We both got into country music because it feels where our heart is and it's such an amazing storytelling genre that carries on the legacy of generations. I think it's time to move it deeper than a three-minute beer commercial. It's exciting to add some depth and variety. Not that it's a bad thing, we like three-minute beer commercials, but we also feel that there is a time and a place to advance the conversation and dig a little bit deeper. So that's what Jon and I do.
JON STONE (JS): It's about the human experience, Hemingway said it best 'write hard and clear about pain.' A lot of songwriters are great literature fans and the best songwriters in history are great editors also - that's a huge part of the writing process and connecting. What our music does is get across a lot of ideas very subtly.
PG: SOME OF YOUR SONGS ARE VERY PROFOUND, POWERFUL AND MOVING LIKE THE TRUE STORY OF KRISTY'S MOTHER IN GOD SENDS A TRAIN. I IMAGINE THAT WAS HARD TO DIG DEEP BECAUSE OF THE SUBJECT. WAS THAT A PARTICULAR TOUGH SONG TO WRITE?
KO: It wasn't a hard song to write, it just took me a long time to get to it. It took a long time for me to let it go. It wasn't until we were writing the song that Jon knew what happened to my Mom. When I left Idaho I'd left everything that I was and decided I was going to be a completely different person when I got to Nashville. The amazing thing is that when you meet someone who pushes you to another level where you go 'I think I want to put that out' and not keep it shut inside. It was great because when you see other people put themselves in your own story you realise there's a purpose behind everything that you do. It happened for a reason. The song really helped my family emotionally and to move past a lot of things. I'm very blessed to see that come to the light of day, it wouldn't have happened without Jon.
PG: IT'S OBVIOUS THAT YOU HAVE A GREAT CHEMISTRY AND WORK WELL TOGETHER. DOES IT HELP THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO BRING DIFFERENT THINGS TO THE BAND; YOU BEING MORE OF THE FRONT WOMAN AND JON BEING ABLE TO PRODUCE FOR EXAMPLE?
KO: I definitely think so. The key to a great relationship is keeping the other person's brilliance in your focus. My job is to love the best of Jon and I see him better than he sees himself and he sees me better than I see myself. When you have someone that sees the best of you, it makes you so much better.
PG: YOUR LIVE SHOWS ARE QUITE SPONTANEOUS AND AIM TO REALLY CONNECT YOUR MUSIC ON A DEEPER LEVEL. HOW DO YOU CREATE A SPECIAL SHOW FOR THE FANS?
KO: There's a lot of magic and spirit in the moment. Jon and I usually know where we are going to start and end, the bit in the middle where the spirit gets to play and meets us where it would like to. The audience like it to have a little of the X factor. You can make a record, you can make a set list and say 'this is how it's going to go' but when you get into the show you have a whole load of people there who are taking it where it's going to go too. The audience is the other part of the band. We really enjoy the live element, it always re-purposes and refocusses the project.
PG: YOU BOTH HAVE GREAT EXPERIENCE ON STAGE AND OFF, WHICH DO YOU PREFER?
JS: I would say that I love being the studio, I would say that's a big calling of mine. As much as Kristy's is playing live, I really love the studio, that's where I feel the most comfortable.
KO: I'm the same when we have an audience, that's where I feel the most connected.
PG: WHAT SONG CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
JO: For me it was a Black Sabbath's Paranoid when I was 11.
KO: (laughs) And he's been paranoid ever since! Mine was Garth Brooks, he just changed my life immediately. The song I'd choose though would probably be John Lennon's Imagine. That would be my favourite song in the world.
PG: KRISTY, YOU PLAY A MEAN FIDDLE WHICH IS ESSENTIAL TO COUNTRY MUSIC AND A BIT OF GUITAR. DO YOU AND JON PLAY ANY OTHER INSTRUMENTS?
KO: We both play a bit of everything. When you're in the studio and you sit up until two in the morning and you need a piano line or bass line or whatever you start doing it. Whatever it takes to get the job done, lets put it that way. We play whatever it takes to bring the magic alive.
PG: WHO IS YOUR MUSICAL INSPIRATION?
KO: Garth Brooks was my performance inspiration, he put on a better show than anybody I'd ever seen. That changed my life, I really felt that I wanted to do that. As far as songwriters go, I hadn't really digested and dissected that world until I met Jon, so I'd say Jon is the most influential songwriter I know.
JS: I would say, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Townes Van Zandt, Jackson Browne, those guys as songwriters. I'm a big Jimmy Page fan too.
PG: TELL ME ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM.
KO: The album is a self-titled called 'American Young', we are just preparing the album artwork. We're very proud of it. We are both album fans, we love records. You know, Pink Floyd records changed my life. I don't necessarily know if that's where the trends of music are going because it's more singles now, but we really tried to make 'the album' we spent hours obsessing over the sequence. It takes a lot of time and thought to get an album out. Now we can just let it go and see what happens.