Kentucky's Jeremy Pinnell brings straightforward act to Norman 

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Jeremy Pinnell is not one for theatrics.

Those who venture out to this week’s edition of The Deli’s Monday night Band Practice music series in Norman, 309 White St., won’t be in for pyrotechnics or small talk from the country artist whose OH/KY album brings back strong visions of a honky-tonk past.

“I’m not much of a talker, you know? I’m trying to get better at that, but I’d really just rather play music,” Pinnell said during a recent Oklahoma Gazette phone interview. “I always get crazy when you hear bands telling stories between songs.”

This is not a problem because Pinnell’s music speaks for him.

OH/KY, released March 25, is a highly personal record. It delves into Pinnell’s struggles with drug addiction and former loves. His vocals and lyrics are strikingly emotive.

Pinnell said he recorded the album several times with assistance from his band, The 55s, before arriving at the finished product. The act is based in Kentucky, 30 minutes south of Cincinnati.

Their first few cracks at the project did not sound right, so Pinnell didn’t release them. The group repeated the process until everyone was comfortable with the results.

The process became therapeutic for Pinnell. Music has always been a calming force in his life, even when everything around it seemed troubled.

“I never really put too much thought into it, but it always seems to be that way,” he said.

The musician grew up listening to everything from the Ramones to Johnny Paycheck and Bonnie “Prince” Billy and began his music career singing in church. From an early age, he preferred writing music to learning other songs.

“I was just a young kid,” he said. “I wasn’t great at it or anything, but I tried it.”

Over time, he got better, but he also said his skills declined when he stepped out of music for a while. Like any other talent, good songwriting takes consistent practice.

“You get real bad really quick, man,” Pinnell said. “It don’t take no time at all.”

OH/KY has a strong honky-tonk feel, but he has not always pursued pure country music. Early on, he focused on folk and changed direction after a friend suggested that country might suit him better.

Pinnell was born and raised in Cincinnati. Growing up, he did not like the area; it bored him. As he got older, his attitude changed. He has come to appreciate his home and recognizes the impact it has had on his music.

“There isn’t much to do,” he said. “You can’t go to the beach; you can’t go to the mountains. You’re stuck right here. You either play basketball, go to work or you write music. Or sometimes do all three.”

Pinnell should feel right at home in landlocked Oklahoma. Though his Norman stop is his first show in the state, he has passed through before. He remembers flying in to Will Rogers World Airport when he was 18. He stepped out to use a pay phone and was immediately blown back a step.

“I always remember that wind, how powerful that wind was just whipping across there,” he said.

The chance to finally perform here excites the soft-spoken musician. What thrills him most about the coming tour is the opportunity to take in new experiences.

“It’s funny how when you get older, you get excited to go to places just to see stuff,” he said. “I think when you’re younger, you just kind of run through it all as quick as you can.”

Stream and buy OH/KY at jeremypinnell.com.

Print headline: Eclectic evolution, Kentucky’s Jeremy Pinnell looks forward to his Oklahoma debut on Monday.

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