Kris Hitchcock and Small Town Son: From Small Town to Big Dreams

Kris Hitchcock has many theories about why music-loving people inevitably turn to country. His strongest philosophy reveals that we all sprout from insubordinate teens that eventually need a story to cling.

"We all rebel when we're younger because country isn't popular," the Small Town Son lead singer said of the band's genre. "As you mature, you start to listen to music that is more about your life."

After he realized how much he loved the storytelling that went into country music, he started thinking about writing his own music, most of the stories unavoidably being his own. However, his efforts to write music in bands prior to Small Town Son always resulted in him writing lyrics for others.

"I've always been one of the primary songwriters, but I was just writing for the other guys to sing to. I always write lyrics that had a lot of stories in them, but I often had to change what I had written. By the time I wanted to sing what I had written, it felt very natural."

So two years ago, after meticulously handpicking each member of the band, Small Town Son came to fruition. In addition to Hitchcock as frontrunner, the band is comprised of Ian Szarafinski on lead guitar, Billy "The Bear" Justice on drums, Mike Howe on bass guitar and backup vocals and Susan Belliel on violin.

Together with the band's instrumentals and the honest, clever lyrics, the result is a country band that sounds like it came from a rock and roll band, according to Hitchcock.

"We've got loud drums, but we also have a fiddle and mandolin. It's a lot of ‘80s folk rock with a country thing going."

And while Kris Hitchcock and Small Town Son are good at a lot of things, being content is definitely not one of them. In its short time together, the Kalamazoo-based band has gone from playing in small bars to opening up for Luke Bryan and Easton Corbin. This spring, the members will be playing on their own Royal Caribbean International Small Town Son cruise. Hitchcock also recently started writing songs for other artists to sing and is hoping to pitch to Luke Bryan in the near future.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself," said Hitchcock about the band's goal to get to the Nashville level, "but, I think we'll get the chance to play in front of a record label in the next 16 months."

Photo: Cynthia Winegar Higgons