La Crosse Local

E.166: Chris Kroeze | Country Artist

Listen to “E.166: Chris Kroeze | Country Artist” on Spreaker.

We recorded my whole record that I put out in 2019…in 3 days in Nashville…we worked 18 hour days…temporary suffering for the benefit of having that done (on recording the album).

Today we sat down with Chris Kroeze runner Up on NBC’s THE VOICE, this Wisconsin based Country Artist shares getting into music, his earliest influences, and playing shows year round to pausing during covid. We chatted about the recording process and what it’s like getting back on stage. Catch him locally, during La Crosse’s Riverfest.

Amy Gabay 00:05
Today we sat down with Chris Kroeze, runner up on NBC’s, The Voice. This Wisconsin based country artist shares getting into music, his earliest influences, and playing shows year round to pausing during COVID. We chatted about the recording process and what it’s like getting back on stage. You can catch them locally during La Crosse’s Riverfest. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website, I’m Amy. And I’m Brett. And this is La Crosse Local.

Chris Kroeze 00:54
I was born in Barron, Wisconsin, born and raised. My dad always played guitar sitting around the campfire. I remember watching him play, you know, four or five years old is kind of when I remember it for the first time. And you know, he had always had a guitar leaning in the corner of the basement that we weren’t allowed to touch. And every time I had a chance, I’d sneak over there and strum the strings. Even my mom could see that I was really interested in the guitar. And so they bought me one for my sixth birthday. And it was like a super cheap, like, probably from like Sears or something. You know, they didn’t expect much. They just figured, you know, it’s kind of a toy guitar. And my dad said all of a sudden, you know, he showed me he showed me how to play a couple of chords right away. And he put stickers on the fretboard to show me where my fingers would go. And then he didn’t think that it would stick necessarily, but then all of a sudden my dad was like, oh, he’s actually like, figuring it out.

Brent Hanifl 02:09
So, was there always, you know, was there always music around the house? What were some of your earliest influences?

Chris Kroeze 02:14
My mom’s into music, but my dad’s like, really into music. You know, he loved, mostly not as a performer or anything, just loved music. And he had a huge collection of cassette tapes. He had this huge stereo, you know, like the triple stack deal. One of them had like a 32 band EQ and double tape decks and radio. And yeah, so I got that in my bedroom when I was like, super young. And these huge speakers, and then this giant box of cassette tapes. And so I mean, I found, like, all my stuff that I’ve learned to love. I guess, like, I mean, I found super old classic country, you know, like Hank Sr. and early Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson and all the classic stuff and Patsy Cline. And then also like Guns and Roses, ACDC, Nazareth because he was into all that kind of music. So, that was that box of cassette tapes was definitely a huge influence.

Brent Hanifl 03:04
Just looking into you and just pumping my head full your music the past couple days, it seems from 2015 and on until the pandemic, it sounds like you had a busy stretch. You know, playing shows pretty much year round, or every couple days. You know, and then you hit on The Voice. What was it like going from this sort of, what I saw is like a world running tour to not touring at all?

Chris Kroeze 03:24
Yeah, it man. Kinda like wild. I mean, especially like last, you know, year, a little over a year ago now, like mid April 2020. We’re sitting here watching my calendar just like disappear. And I’m like, what are we gonna do? It was just crazy. You know, you tried to be optimistic. I’m like ah we’ll be alright by June, and then June rolls around. Crap, well, maybe July and, you know. But yeah, it was just wild. You know, it was stressful and yeah, it was hard to deal with. But, you know, it could have went a couple different ways. But I tried to figure out, you know, what can I do? You know, everyone’s telling me what I can’t do. What can I do right now? So, I got into like the video editing and stuff, and trying to stay more active on social media, you know. If you can’t go out and play for people you got to try and do something to stay halfway irrelevant, I guess. Yeah, so I dove into that. Did a lot of recording and made a lot of videos and stuff right at home. And did a bunch of the live stream stuff, which was great right away, but man, they’re just tough to perform. You know, if you’re, there’s no reaction from the crowd. You know, it’s tough to know what’s working and what’s not. Yeah.

Brent Hanifl 04:06
So, it seems kind of a mixed bag for you. I mean, it seems like you got into some different creative avenues, been engaging with people differently, but also just kind of a yearning to keep it moving. You know?

Chris Kroeze 04:46
Yeah, I can’t like I mean, this is, I don’t have a backup plan, so.

Brent Hanifl 04:53
So, during this time, or you know, even before that, what was your songwriting and recording process? Like were you kind of down and dirty, or working out on the road and just kind of jump into a studio and knock it out or?

Chris Kroeze 05:04
Yeah, man that 2019 was crazy. You know, when I came off the voice, we started booking shows, and it got nuts fast. But yeah, I mean, I’ve got some great musicians in my band and stuff. And we’ve been writing together with those guys. And I know if I had three days off, I’d go down to Nashville for two of them and write. And we recorded my whole record that I put out in 2019 in like, I think three days in Nashville. I mean, it was quick. I mean, we went down there, worked like 18 hour days to get it done. But yeah, where there’s a will there’s a way, you know. It’s like, temporary suffering for the benefit of having that done. But yeah, I mean, I would go down there, I would say, at least a couple days a month for writing and recording or whatever. Yeah, the writing world is so crazy. Like there’s you know, you do a co-write with one person, and then they introduce you to another co-writer, and all of a sudden, you’ve got all these people you can go write with, which is cool. Yeah. And they’re I mean, there’s, there’s so many people that there’s guys down there that you’d never know their name, but they’ve written like, 20 number ones, you know.

Brent Hanifl 06:12
That’s wild.

Chris Kroeze 06:13

Brent Hanifl 06:14
You know, in terms of this, just reading up on you, in terms of music life, The Voice? What have you gotten out of this past six, seven years?

Chris Kroeze 06:22
Well, a lot. I mean, it’s, you know, it’s kind of a fairly successful career. I mean, especially for where I live and whatnot. I don’t know that I could go back to doing what I did, prior to The Voice, because that was brutal. Yeah, I mean, I was playing, you know, 275 nights a year. And I was booking it all myself. And a lot of it was just solo shows. Me and a guitar in the bar for four hours. And that’s, that’s brutal. It wears you down a little bit. I mean, one summer, I think it was summer of 2017. I still got like my calendar books that I used to book with because it’s fun to look back on. And the one summer I had, it was 93 shows through June, July and August.

Brent Hanifl 07:05
Wow. Yeah.

Chris Kroeze 07:07
It was, I had Monday off every week. And I would play Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday.

Brent Hanifl 07:17

Chris Kroeze 07:18
For a whole summer, and it was brutal. I mean, it was fun when I was booking it. I’m like, oh, this is gonna be awesome. You know, I have all this work. And then, like, middle of July rolls around, and I’m like, what was I thinking? But yeah, so I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I don’t know if I could do that. Again. It’s worked. But it’s, it’s you know, I’m fortunate I get to do what I love.

Brent Hanifl 07:39
Completely, completely. Also, you know, a little different from hitting those bars, you’ll be playing Riverfest Saturday, July 3 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. That’s a you know, great family festival that I always attend and take my kids. How’s it been getting back on the road? It just seems like you’re probably getting your calendar going and kind of kicking it off. How’s it been?

Chris Kroeze 07:57
It’s been, like, amazing, honestly. I think the way I can explain it is like, take your favorite thing you love doing, something you’ve worked your whole life towards, and you absolutely love it, and then have it taken away for over a year. Like you’re going to be pretty excited to get that back. And I’ve never seen more energy from crowds, you know, from the people attending. I’ve never seen people more into it and more excited to be there. And I also feel like I have a lot more energy and I’m excited. It’s not, you know, you’re on the road for a while and it’s like you got a green room and whatever, you can start nitpicking like these little things. Oh, they were supposed to book four hotel rooms, they only booked three. And it’s like now it’s like, we’re just so happy to be out there working that it’s like, none of that little stuff matters. We’re just happy to be there. We’re just excited. And you don’t take it for granted as much when someone takes it away, and you get it back.

Brent Hanifl 08:51
So, people that may be familiar with your music, or not, what can people expect from the show coming up? Crowds are excited. I know I’m excited. I’ve gone to a lot of shows last couple weeks. What can people expect when they show up?

Chris Kroeze 09:01
I would say expect to come and have a good time. Be ready to participate. I like to get the crowd into the performance a bit and try to have fun. I don’t know I’m not, what you see is what you get. Sometimes I say stupid things and flub my words and say well, that was you know. I don’t know, I’m just, I’m just kind of starting to get a little more comfortable on stage and whatnot. And I hope people leave feeling like they know me. You know, I want it to feel like, I don’t want it to feel like you’re at a concert where you can’t get out of your chair and get up to clap and hoot and holler. You know, I want it to be fun.

Brent Hanifl 09:37
You know, I know you’re getting back on the road with touring, but what’s next for you? What are you excited for in, you know, 2021 or even 2022? Is there anything coming out?

Chris Kroeze 09:45
Yeah, yeah, I’ve got a few more singles that I haven’t released yet. Pretty excited about that. We’re pushing another one to country radio right now. Summer Song is out on country radio and we released a song called Tie A Knot on like Spotify and Apple Music and stuff. Excited about those. Yeah, I’ve got a couple of good singles. I think one will probably come out this fall and maybe one more in the winter. And then you know, it’ll probably be either fall or winter again this year that I’ll go back to Nashville and record another record. Yeah, and just kind of keep moving forward. You know, it’s hard to put concrete goals on it because I don’t know what’s gonna happen. But as long as I can keep playing music and keep making these baby steps and you know, keep this keep this thing rolling, I’ll be happy. To be honest, alot of people look at me like a crazy person because I still live in northern Wisconsin, but like I love my life exactly how it is right now. If I can keep this going, I’m happy.

Brent Hanifl 10:39
People can come check you out at Riverfest in La Crosse Saturday, July 3. If they want to find out more, you know, check out some music. What’s the best avenue for them to go to?

Chris Kroeze 10:47
Instagram, Facebook. We’ve got Yeah, Spotify, Apple Music. Pretty much I try to put the music out like everywhere possible, even free on YouTube because not everyone’s got a subscription to one of the premium platforms or whatever. So, I mean, it’s it’s definitely available everywhere. So, you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook and can probably see me be goofy and dumb. You know?

Amy Gabay 11:18
La Crosse Local podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse Local. Find out more about us at and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.

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La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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