We spoke with singer/songwriter and star of CMT’s Music City, Kerry Degman, about country music, family, “You’re My Person,” and the long-awaited Season 2.
Degman calls us after just returning to Nashville following a family trip to Colorado to celebrate he and his wife’s consecutive birthdays and wedding anniversary.
“Nashville has kind of an early Brooklyn vibe to it right now,” Degman opens about the city that inspired the CMT reality show, Music City, that he stars in alongside his wife, Rachyl. While the show only premiered in March of 2018, Degman’s country roots stem much deeper. “My dad only listened to country music when I was growing up,” he says, citing that as his initial influence. “I have so many memories of just riding around in my dad’s truck listening to Tim McGraw, and all the 90’s country legends.”
Degman identifies as a songwriter first and foremost. “Historically, country music has always been a storytelling genre, and that’s something that I really enjoy,” he says. “I appreciate other genres of music, but I’m not very good at just finding a hook line and repeating it 20 times. I really like to get down and tell the story behind the chorus.” He compares writing a country song to writing a novel, except instead of 200 pages, you only have two and a half minutes to tell the story. Degman says that his average first draft is usually somewhere in the realm of an 8 minute song, which was epic in the 70’s rock/”Stairway To Heaven” era, but needs to be cut down a bit today. “You have about 17 seconds from when a song starts to get to the chorus and to draw people in.”
“The industry is changing so much, and the audience is changing so much,” Degman admits, “You learn to do what you want, within the realm of what the people want to listen to.”
“The first song I ever wrote was so bad,” Degman reminisces, laughing at the memory. “It wasn’t really about anything, it was just a bunch of gibberish in a song that was way too long,” he says of his alternative rock/country debut. “It was a whole lot of nothing and I was so proud of it.” He has certainly come a long way since that initial song, and now pens lyrics alongside rising country stars and seasoned songwriting legends.
Degman’s debut single, “You’re My Person,” was released in March of 2018, and was co-written by Love and Theft’s Stephen Barker Liles, and – yes – it was inspired by none other than the infamous Grey’s Anatomy friendship line. “Nobody did their homework,” Degman admitting about the songs beginning, “But Stephen was watching Grey’s Anatomy, and we just dove into that line.” Degman says that he and Liles are both happily married, and were essentially just trying to figure out what their wives would want to hear. “Two guys sitting around in a room and trying to figure out what their wives would want to hear is not always the best idea,” Degman joked, “but it worked out this time – and the wife liked it, so it’s all good!”
Degman was shown on Season One of Music City penning a song with fellow Nashville singer/songwriter Brooke Eden. The song called “Outlaw” is set for release in late 2018, just before the premiere of Season Two.
“I learned a lot the first season,” Degman admits, looking back on the filming of CMT’s Music City. “The first season was really hard on us. We didn’t really know what to expect, and watching it back was so bizarre. But we did learn a lot that made the second season so much easier to exist in that world,” he says, adding that he essentially learned to anticipate what not to say, or what could potentially be taken wrong or out of context. “You’re always playing a chess game while talking in front of the camera and filtering yourself.”
For the most part, he says, filming simply consists of him going about doing whatever it was he intended to do that day, with the minor detail that there’s about 80 people there watching him with cameras and making sure that they capture every minute of it.
“The edits change everything. I almost don’t even want to watch anymore…” he says, adding that it’s always difficult to watch yourself back on TV. The biggest difference with reality TV, he says, it that you’re seeing it played back as a different version than how you remember it happening. “They’ll edit in something you said somewhere else, and then you have to have that conversation with the wife,” he jokes, stating that seeing the drama on TV lead to more drama in real life, even if it happened months ago.
As for Season 2 spoilers, Degman says there will be a wedding, and a whole lot more relationship drama.
Degman spent his early years dreaming of becoming a professional baseball player, but through a whirlwind series of events, he found himself on the fast track to being a model. “I hate having my picture taken,” he says with a laugh at the irony of the career path. Degman goes on the tell the story of how his parents had him take his younger sister to a modeling agency, and while she didn’t come out with an offer, he did.
“They put me on a plane and I moved to New York the next day, and I was pretty much off to Paris and Milan within days. It happened so fast I don’t think I ever really appreciated it,” he admits, “But it was perfect for that point in my life when I was young and dumb and needed to learn something in a hurry.”
Fast forward years later, camera shy or not, Degman’s photo is easily identified from his presence on Music City, as is his wife, Rachyl’s. “At the end of the day, I think the most recognizable face on the show is my wife,” he says, “When people come up to me, it’s never Are you Kerry? it’s more, Are you Rachyl’s husband?”
“What can I say? She’s a babe,” Degman says with a gleam in his voice.
While Degman is a self proclaimed adrenaline junkie and serial hobbiest, stating that he’d love to be a Formula One racer driver, or an astronaut, or jump from space like the Red Bull guy… his heart lies with the simple times and his family. He admits that being in the music industry has been tough on his wife and son, but it has also given them immense opportunities to explore and meet his extended family.
Degman’s mom grew up on an Indian reservation in Montana, and while playing a show in Whitefish, he got see family he didn’t even know he had. “My mom is so interesting,” he says, “Every time I talk to her she brings up a relative I haven’t heard of before. When I told her I was playing Whitefish, she said, Oh we have so much family up there… and sure enough, all these distant family members show up and take me fishing.”
“The music business has shown me something new and interesting every single day,” he says. Adding that it hasn’t always been the easiest route, but it has sure been worth it.
Catch Kerry Degman in Season Two of CMT’s Music City out January 2019, and stream his single, “You’re My Person,” out now!