Reagan Boggs: Modern Day Mountain Woman

Sounds Like Nashville is excited to bring you a look at a talent that you might not be aware of – but you need to. Hailing from the rural Appalachia of Pound, Virginia (population 1,037), Reagan Boggs is a lot of different things musically. At times, she can be as pure as such mountain songbirds as Patty Loveless or as edgy as such artists as Shelby Lynne or Matraca Berg. But, all throughout her latest album, Empty Glasses, she manages to be simply be Reagan Boggs – and that’s pretty damn special, as you will hear.

The new album was released today, and is the follow-up to her Quicksand disc – which netted her attention in her home base, as well as on the Texas Music Chart. She feels that the music on Empty Glasses reflects her diverse musical stylings.

“I had gotten a review in the other day, and one of the lines said that I transcend genres. It’s hard when people ask me – and kind of to my detriment in a way – because when people ask me what kind of music I do, I draw a blank – because I have such a hard time with that. I can’t seem to classify it. It’s very country based, with some other influences running through it. I went through so many phases of my life. I was a Blues singer, a Bluegrass singer, I sang Gospel, and was a Rock and Roller too. I just love music….of all kinds.” She lists such artists as Jason Isbell, Patty Loveless, Ryan Adams and Patty Griffin among her influences, saying “I love anything that makes me feel something. It doesn’t really have to be a specific genre.” She related that growing up in an area where there was little to do, and no cable, music was king – and that’s where she gained her biggest inspiration.

As is the case with many artists today – both newcomers and established ones – Empty Glasses was funded by her fan base through her web site. Boggs says that she feels that having that relationship can be very beneficial as the fans are inclined to pull for you perhaps a little harder. “What’s been so great is they’ve gotten to be a part of it, and they’re invested in it. They like to see me do well, because they’ve helped….which is awesome.”

One song from the disc that is making an impact with her fan base is “Most of That Left.” She says that the inspiration for the song was not actually relationship-inspired, but from someplace else.

“Generally, to some degree, my songs are pretty much personal. I draw on experience, for sure. That song was based off of the story that Adriana Trigiani wrote about Big Stone Gap, Virginia. They filmed the movie there, not too far from where I’m at. I listened to the audio book because I hadn’t read it, and I was curious as to what it was about. There was a scene in the book that spoke to me, and that song came out of that story. I don’t do that often, but that song was pretty much unrelated.”

On the other hand, the chilling “West End” was straight from her emotional valve. “That song was inspired by a venue that I played at one night in Bristol, and how it seems to be so common these days for some sections of a town to die or fall behind, as people move to another section. There’s a lot of cool places that get replaced by cookie-cutter franchise places. That was a heavy song, in a way. I try to challenge myself to write songs that aren’t necessarily relationship songs, and are more story based. I’m a big John Prine and Chris Knight fan. I love story songs, and trying to paint as much as you can visually. You only have three or four minutes to do it, so you have to be very selective and good in doing it with your words. I try to step out and do that as much as I can.” As Boggs sings the lyrics about a bygone era, you can see the places along her native area – such as Drive-In theaters, or the one time wildly popular Dixie Pottery store in nearby Abingdon that are now just relics of time alongside of U.S. Highway 11. “That’s exactly what the song speaks to,” she laments. “You end up with the things that are left – all of pawn shops, and title loan shops – those tend to stay around, but the cool stuff goes, and you end up with crime. It’s a sad situation.”

There are some happier subjects on Empty Glasses, including the closing “My Little Man,” written about the singer’s son – but it’s not one you are likely to hear at a show. “I wrote that not long after he was born. He’s six years old now, and I still can’t sing that one in public. It’s a very emotional song. I felt like this album was a good place for it. It’s hard to put into words the love that you have for your kids. I still don’t know if I captured that the way I wanted to. I wrote him a letter not long after he was born to put in his baby book. That’s pretty much what that song is.”

Boggs and her team are planning a full spring and summer of touring to spread the word about the album, and she can’t wait to hit the road. “I’m looking forward to getting back down to Texas, and seeing a lot of my friends in radio that helped Quicksand to chart last time. I appreciate how much they supported the record. I’ll be playing a lot of dates in the southeast, and we’re planning to get out and promote this record hard. I owe it to the people that supported me. I want to everything I can do to make this record as successful as I can.”

By Chuck Dauphin for Sounds Like Nashville