Kerry Degman has lived everywhere. From California to Colorado, from London to New York, from growing up in Oregon to finding a cheap apartment on 12 South before it became bougie. This country artist grew up listening to country legends like Steve Earle, Alan Jackson, and Travis Tritt— as well as jamming out early 2000s alternative rock bands like Anberlin and Dashboard Confessional. He started out playing baseball and modeling, or playing baseball and “smiling for a living” as he likes to call it. After travelling the world for a few years, he convinced his wife to leave California for Tennessee. I think it’s safe to say that he’s acclimated to the South now, as the couple are now starring in CMT’s reality TV show “Music City.”
On the front porch of Belcourt Taps, over his burger and my quesadilla, Kerry and I got to talk about how much country music has evolved. For as long as anyone can remember, country music fans have been complaining that the country genre is just getting worse and worse. Kerry’s retort is, “then why is country selling so much?” In Kerry’s eyes, the genre is more broad than ever. In today’s music climate, Americana-leaning acts like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell can co-exist with Backstreet Boys sounding country, and both styles can prosper. The diversity allows pop-country to lean more pop, and Americana to dive even further back into its roots.
Kerry is a relentlessly hard-working musician, and an equally devoted family man. When I asked him how he balances career and family, he said “you have to give up anything that isn’t this.” He runs a construction company (where most of his employees double as his co-writers). He’s going out to the bar three nights a week (Belcourt Taps that is, where he’s playing writers rounds and meeting other musicians). He’s not home that much (because his wife and son are always out at his shows with him). He even named his three and a half year old boy Wolfgang— after Van Halen’s bassist, not Mozart. He got his wife to agree to the hypermasculine name, because since Kerry grew up with a girl’s name, he didn’t want to raise a boy named Sue.
Kerry makes sure to put family first, but he doesn’t stop there. OMG! I’m A Songwriter is all about giving back to the community through music, and Kerry is part of this tradition. Awhile ago, Kerry was approached by a mother who shared the story of her son who had served in Afghanistan. Upon returning to the states, her son ended up taking his own life. When Kerry learned that more soldiers die from taking their lives than being killed overseas, he knew he had to do something. He started working with the charity Save A Warrior, a non-profit that flies in veterans, active duty service members, and first responders with post-traumatic stress to a five day retreat where they can work on finding real solutions for their mental health. Kerry wrote a song in tribute called “Pray for a Soldier in Pain,”donated all of the song’s revenue to Save A Warrior, and then went on an extensive tour to raise money and awareness for the organization.
In a few months, Kerry will be releasing an EP of songs that are more Americana inspired than anything he’s released before. Find out more about this budding country star here, and make sure to check out his music. If you’re interested in donating, or even just learning more about the charity Kerry supports, you can learn more about Save A Warrior here.