Trae Crowder Interview: "Liberal Redneck" Asserts, "The South Is Not This Crazy, Dystopian Wasteland of Bible-Thumping Troglodytes"
Image attributed to Nicol Biesek
Celina, Tennessee, native Trae Crowder and his pals Corey Ryan Forrester and Drew Morgan have taken their message to the written page in The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta the Dark, scheduled for release by Atria Books on October 4, 2016. The three-man standup comedy group’s book includes their New South Bill of Wrongs, a take on the Bill of Rights for a New South where everyone gets along better and the Ten Commandments of the South which includes, “Thou shalt not put your God above everyone else’s life and rights” and “Thou shalt not make bad music and call it country.”
Crowder got his start as a standup comic following an open mic night at Side Splittters Comedy Club in Knoxville. His "Liberal Redneck" videos include topics of race, religion, LGBTQ rights, gun control and Donald Trump have had more than 50 million views. Crowder, Forrester and Morgan are currently playing to sold out venues across the country in the wellRED comedy tour.
"All the people that are literally afraid to even go south of the Mason-Dixon line, and there’s a lot of those people out there, we want them to know it’s not as bad as they think it is, that there's some hope for the south. Ultimately, we want everybody that reads the book to take that message away from it … that there’s hope for the South. We hope."
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How’s the comedy tour going, Trae?
Trae Crowder: It’s going pretty awesome! I can’t complain. We’ve still been selling out most everywhere we go. The crowds have been very into it, taking a lot of pictures, and we’re signing a lot of t-shirts. It’s been going good.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Congratulations on the book! How did the writing process go with you, Corey and Drew as authors?
Trae Crowder: We would have weekly meetings where we would talk about what we were working on at the time. We would each write sections of the book. First of all, we’d talk about it upfront and say, “Yeah. You’re about to write this section. Here’s something I think you need to make sure to mention or make sure to cover.” That would go all three ways.
Then, we’d write it and all send our sections to each other for proofreading comments or punching up, adding jokes to it before we sent it to any editors. That’s pretty much how we broke it down.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Great title, The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta the Dark. So, is it possible to drag Dixie outta the dark?
Trae Crowder: We hope so. It may take a little while (laughs). But, I really honestly do think that the South will get there eventually. But, it might be one of those deals that when we get to where the rest of the country defines as “there,” we’ll still be 20 years behind because they will have moved on to cyborg rights, and we’ll be like racists against robots in Mississippi or whatever (laughs). So, I don’t know, but I think so. I hope so.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How did you choose the list of the “Ten Greatest Rednecks of All Time”?
Trae Crowder: It was very hard. We talked about it a lot, and we wanted to have representatives from different fields (laughs). The top of the list being Dale Earnhardt was obvious to us, but that might be kind of a generational thing. For our generation, they jumped right out immediately.
Then, we started to talk about country music and southern rock, and we realized that you could write a whole damn book on a lot of those guys, which is why we made that a disclaimer. We just had a phone call and talked it out. We got to a point and said, “Okay. Let’s just go with them. We’ve got to move on.” But, we tried to do it justice.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): From your point of view, what’s the worst part about being a southerner, and what’s the best?
Trae Crowder: The thing that I’m most ashamed of is the whole racism stereotype. I understand why it’s there. But, the whole legacy of racism is the one that gives the biggest black eye on the South. I have a personal connection with my uncle being gay, so the homophobic stuff obviously bothers me, too, but that was pretty much a national problem with the South lagging behind the rest of the country. I feel like the rest of the country treats the whole race relations thing as, “It’s worse in the South than anywhere else,” which I don’t really think is fair, but that particular stereotype is probably the one that bothers me the most.
The best thing about the South to me is a tie between our music and our food. I’ve always been of the opinion that the South produces better music and better food than any other region in this country. Music and food are two of my absolute favorite things, so probably that and also how fiercely loyal people are in the South. We’re pretty tribal in the South, which I guess could sometimes be a bad thing, but I feel like we take personal relationships more seriously.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): In the book, you open up about being poor and say that most people that come from your circumstances either end up dead or in jail. Why did you take another path?
Trae Crowder: Honestly, I know this isn’t really touched on in the book as much as it should be, but it’s something I’m very cognizant of because it’s something that if I ever get the opportunity to do, I’ll talk a lot more about it in something that’s more personal to me as an individual as opposed to a group thing. I didn’t feel like this book was the right setting to go that far into it.
But, honestly, it’s all because of my dad. He was poor. We were poor, but he was also very supportive of me in a lot of ways. He always stressed the importance of school and doing well and basically just getting the hell out of there (laughs). Where I grew up, many people just did the same thing for a living that their dads did. The dads wanted their sons to do that. It’s a whole cultural thing.
My dad wasn’t really that way because I’ve wanted to be a comedian for years, and he knew that. He always said, “You should. You absolutely should.” But, he also wanted me to go to college, so I did. Going to college and making the grades was the number one thing that allowed me to get out of the situation I was born into. I’ve always thought that education is the single most important factor in mobility in that way.
I’m a big proponent of education through my personal experience. Even though the school in my hometown ain’t the greatest, my dad was always super upfront about the importance of it. He always wanted me to do the best I could. So, honestly, I credit my dad with my ability to avoid the fate of all my cousins on my mom’s side of the family.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your dad was the most influential person in your life?
Trae Crowder: Without a doubt, yeah. On a personal level, yeah, for sure.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): "The Liberal Redneck" is definitely not a Donald Trump fan. In the first presidential debate, what was your crazy Trump moment?
Trae Crowder: My crazy Trump moment in the debate was when Hillary talked about how he hadn’t paid his fair share of taxes, and he responded by saying, “That makes me smart.” I know how he’ll spin it. He’ll say that the tax code is broken, there are all these loopholes and he exploited them. That’s not lost on me. But, I don’t think that’s something that a presidential candidate should be bragging about at a debate on a national stage, just being so explicitly proud and flippant about the fact that he doesn’t pay taxes when he wants to run the government. That was my craziest Trump moment.
What I thought about the debate overall was that I wasn’t on board with Trump from the jump, but I thought he just dug himself further and further into a hole as the debate went on, so by the end of it, he was just completely off the rails. My wife and I watched the debate together, and she threw in the towel at about the hour mark. She said that she couldn’t listen to Trump anymore because he was pissing her off so much. She had to stop watching it. But, I persevered though the whole thing, and I felt like, by the end of it, it had really devolved from his perspective.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You recently made a video complaining about the DEA planning to place kratom on the Schedule I list of controlled substances along with heroin and LSD. Why are you upset about it?
Trae Crowder: First of all, it’s beneficial for people who are trying to beat opiate addition. That’s one of the primary uses for it anecdotally. If you research it, you’ll find tons of personal stories out there about people’s experiences with kratom when using it for that reason. But, even if it wasn’t for that, I still would think that what the DEA’s doing is wrong. I consider myself to be pretty patriotic, and I love freedom because I’m an American, and I think that’s one of our most important principles here ostensibly, the concept of personal freedom.
This is a plant. It’s just a plant that’s native to Southeast Asia, so it doesn’t grow here, so people don’t know about it. It’s just a plant that’s biologically related to coffee, and it’s just the leaves of the plant that people grind up and make tea with. In Southeast Asia, people have been using kratom literally for centuries with no serious consequences from it. I’m just of the opinion that if people want to engage in this all-natural activity, whether it’s for recreational purposes or therapeutic, if you’re in a country that values freedom ostensibly, then you should be able to do that. That’s number one.
When you add on top of that the fact that it has been shown consistently to be so helpful to people who are trying to beat addiction to actual hardcore opiates, I think it makes it ten times worse. That’s personal to me because my mom is a recovering addict. We buried my first cousin, whom I was very close to, last year. He overdosed on prescription narcotics. My aunt (his mom) died the same way when I was 15 years old.
It’s just something that’s close to me personally, and I’m of the opinion that anything that helps people beat that particular demon is a good thing and is not something that the DEA should just be unilaterally banning without any opportunity for public comments or further research, just banning it because they want to. I just don’t think that’s right for a lot of different reasons. So, it got me pretty fired up when I heard about it, and that’s why I made the video. And, you know, Melissa, you’re never going to believe this, but my videos don’t actually change the world …
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Oh no!
Trae Crowder: I know! I was shocked, too. I thought, “Well, I’ll make a video, and it’ll fix this national crisis.” (laughs) In print, the “tone” of the language doesn’t show up sometimes, but obviously I’m joking about that. I don’t know what’s going to come of it because the DEA tends to do what they want to do, and I’m sure they will in this instance, too, so we’ll see. I do think it’s despicable. It’s not right, and it goes beyond just being not right. It’s heinous, in my opinion.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Trae, will you actually be performing nude at a gay nudist retreat?
Trae Crowder: (laughs) No. I will be performing next August at a gay nudist retreat at one of or the biggest one in America apparently. But, I will not be nude. Of course, they were like, “Feel free. You can be nude.” But, I’m not planning on doing that (laughs). I will be, at least, partially clothed, so literally everyone else there but me will be a naked gay man (laughs). The guy who runs it said, “If you get up there and get nervous, just try and picture us all wearing clothes.” (laughs) But, yeah, that is happening.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What else is coming up?
Trae Crowder: I will be on Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO on October 14. I’m very excited about that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That’s great! What do you want readers to take away from reading The Liberal Redneck Manifesto?
Trae Crowder: If the people who are reading the book are southerners, and they’re already on board with us philosophically, then we want them to know that they’re not alone in the way they feel and think about things. If they’re southerners and are on the other side of the fence, there probably won’t be too many of them reading the book. But, if they do read it, hopefully or maybe they’ll think twice at least at a couple of those issues.
For everybody else that’s not from the South, we just want them to take away that the South is not this crazy, dystopian wasteland of Bible-thumping troglodytes that a lot of the rest of the country thinks it is. All the people that are literally afraid to even go south of the Mason-Dixon line, and there’s a lot of those people out there, we want them to know it’s not as bad as they think it is, that there's some hope for the south. Ultimately, we want everybody that reads the book to take that message away from it … that there’s hope for the South. We hope.
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