If the two faces in new duo American Young seem familiar to country fans, that shouldn't come as a surprise. Kristy Osmunson was the founder and fiddle player for (the now defunct) Bomshel, while Jon Stone has had success as both a solo artist and a Nashville songwriter/producer who's engineered hits for such names as Lee Brice and Rascal Flatts.
When Stone met Osmunson, he actually did not have immediate intentions to return to performance, as he already had his plate full with songwriting and production work. However, a casual jam session made both realize that this was a musical pairing that had to be pursued. After playing their songs for colleagues and receiving glowing feedback, Stone decided to make the plunge back into life as a performing artist...and part of what promises to be one of the year's most intriguing new duos. We had a moment to chat with both Osmunson and Stone about their decision to pursue American Young, how their respective musical journeys have brought them to this point, and their new music including single "Love Is War" which is now available for download.
Our Country: Kristy, can you talk about your decision to pursue American Young rather than continue with Bomshel?
Kristy: Kelley wanted to go solo. American Young is the first project I didn't really have to chase down. Or, I should say, Jon didn't need much convincing! I had come to a point where I thought maybe my time as an artist had come and gone, and had finally just put it in God’s hands. I had actually just wanted a co-write with Jon, and one of our mutual friends had suggested I ask him about starting a band. We sat down to play together and had this moment where we looked at each other, held our breath and jumped. I think I kind of recognized my musical mirror.
Jon is such an insanely hard worker and it is really so refreshing to have someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes music as much as I do. I realized that I have been chasing the obvious for a long time. Art is not always that way. Just because a person looks the part, and they may be the greatest singer on the planet, if the goal is just to get rich and famous...you shouldn't necessarily get in a band. For me, the music business has always been about the growth and the experience. The artistic development project might mean 18-hour van rides and the possibility of no showers or no money. Playing music has given me rocking-chair stories that no money could ever buy.
So, was it a strange shift to go from a female duo to a male/female dynamic? What are the advantages or disadvantages of each?
Playing with a girl band is so much fun and one day I will produce a successful girl band. (call me if u have an amazing one:) And if I hear one more time, it's hard to get a female played on country radio... I'm going to scream. I don't think it has to be hard. I think this industry is waiting for anyone to come in with something new to say. And I personally, would love to have a few more female pickers on the road to jam with.
Playing with a guy is completely different. I have learned a TON, and also I've had to grow a pair. Jon has helped me develop a voice... in more ways than just singing.
Jon, it seems as if you'd initially settled into producing and songwriting. Can you explain why you decided to go back into performance, and as part of a duo?
Jon: Well I really enjoy making records and writing but when I met Kristy and we started singing together and creating music, I realized that I had to make this a priority. I've always been an artist..I just never had such a perfect storm to express it.
Male-female duos that are not romantically linked often have to operate with fans believing they actually are involved. (For example: the Civil Wars, even though they've noted many times they aren't.) Do you think this suggestion of romantic tension is useful in performing/songwriting?
Jon: No, I think making music for the right reasons carries no false gimmicks or connotations. What we do is real, honest and unique. We are who we are and definitely not afraid of who we aren't...
Kristy: Well, my husband even says that Jon and I argue like an old married couple. But to be honest, I think the fact that we aren't romantically involved is the thing that is going to make us last for a really long time. As far as musical chemistry goes, Jon and I are extremely passionate about what we do on a spiritual level. I believe in the pure and honest delivery of communicating emotion through a musical experience.
Jon, you've written a number of songs for other artists, which is a common practice for songwriters in Nashville. Is there one particular song you wish you'd have kept for American Young?
Jon: Nope. American Young is a unique entity. The songs American Young records are hopefully songs that only American Young would record...so therefore, songs I've written for others wouldn't have worked for American Young.