Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ has had the kind of year that most bands only dream of. In October, the rock group was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Atlanta just a few weeks shy of the 30th anniversary of its first show in the same city.
Although the heavy rock group may not have become a household name over the years, in 2015, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ has everything a band longs for these days: a dedicated fan base, a celebrated legacy and the creative freedom to play whatever and wherever they feel like playing.
“What it comes down to nowadays is that we’ve been in the competition, we’ve been on the major record labels, we’ve been on the big tours. ... But those kind of things don’t really matter to us anymore,” said bassist Tim Nielsen. “All we really want to do is enjoy making music.”
The group still tours the East Coast regularly, while making a few trips to Europe every so often. This weekend, they’ll play the Pour House on a stint of shows in Greenville, Asheville and Atlanta that will feature Warner Hodges of Jason & the Scorchers on lead guitar.
Being decorated veterans of the music industry also has afforded them more time to spend with family and focus on other projects. Lead singer Kevn Kinney continues nurturing his solo career that has spawned six records so far.
Nielsen moved to Charleston in 2011 with his family, and recently, he’s become more involved with the local music scene.
In the past year, he’s shared stages with Mark Bryan of Hootie & the Blowfish, and plans to serve as an advisory board member of Carolina Studios, Bryan’s nonprofit recording studio for underprivileged youth. Nielsen also has offered advice and resources to up-and-coming acts in Charleston, including Jordan Igoe and Justin Osborne of Susto.
“I became passionate about the Charleston music scene as I was seeing myself as somebody who could contribute to the music business not only in Charleston but everywhere,” Nielsen said. “It’s cool to be like, OK, I’m going on a business trip to Nashville to meet with people on behalf of so and so.”
After more than 30 years in the business, Nielsen said he feels like he has a wealth of knowledge to share with younger musicians, particularly in Charleston. But right now, his own music career is the main priority.
“Drivin’ N’ Cryin,’ we are still killing it, we are ... as good as we’ve ever been,” he said. “That’s still going to be my No. 1 thing, no matter what.”
In the early ’80s, Nielsen was living in Atlanta and playing with a rock group called the Nightporters, who opened for The Clash at the Fox Theater at one point. He became friends with Kinney, a guitarist/songwriter around that time, and the two decided to start their own band, naming it Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ after one of Kinney’s songs.
In 1986, the band released its debut album “Scarred but Smarter,” a mix of early grunge, punk rock and even some acoustic folk. While the band found early success among the southeastern college crowds over the next few years, it wasn’t until the group was offered a record deal with Geffen Records in the early ’90s that Nielsen decided to leave his other projects and focus solely on playing with Kinney in Drivin’ N’ Cryin’.
Now, Nielsen said his relationship with Kinney is one of the main reasons the band has remained afloat for so many years.
“People have referred to Kevn and I’s relationship kind of as an old marriage, like how do we still tolerate each other,” he said. “Whenever we’re on the road, Kevn and I do all the driving, we’re always in the front of our 15-passenger van with our trailer and we just ... hang out. We don’t talk about serious business career stuff because it’s all about the art and the music and having fun. I think that’s kind of been our secret.”
The band plays at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Pour House, 1977 Maybank Highway, with an opening set by The Travelin’ Kine, a local folk-rock group. Tickets are $17 in advance and $20 at the door. For more information, visit www.charlestonpourhouse.com/schedule.