“I was raised on old-school country,” Craig Gerdes told American Songwriter. “I can get lost for hours listening to all of those hurtin’, cheatin’ and drinkin’ songs.”
Like many of us, Gerdes is a connoisseur of the timeless wisdom, joy and beauty expressed by country’s legendary songsmiths. In fact, Gerdes is such a fan that he himself has taken a shot at writing a truly classic-inspired, tear-jerker, country ballad. Did he succeed? You bet your boots he did! On December 11, he released the single “You’re Not in the Picture Anymore,” a phenomenal modern rendition of an ageless sound.
“After the release of our Smokin, Drinkin & Gamblin album in 2018, I had several people reach out to me wanting more of those ‘hurtin’ country songs,” Gerdes said. “So, I went back through songs that I had written but never recorded and came across this song. I wrote it after a conversation with a close friend about a situation they were going through. It was real life, relatable and it hurt — all of the things that help make a good country song.”
Gerdes also had one more thing that helps make a good country song: pedal-steel guitarist, Jim Vest. Known for playing with everyone from George Jones to Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, Grandpa Jones, Johnny Paycheck and more, Vest’s tasteful pedal-steel lines elevate “You’re Not in the Picture Anymore” to fantastic heights.
“Once we decided to cut this tune, I reached out to my old friend Jim Vest in Nashville to produce it,” Gerdes explained. “He also played steel on most of my Smokin, Drinkin & Gamblin album, which includes our remake of the 1977 hit ‘Slide off of Your Satin Sheets.’ The new single will actually be released on his label, VMG Nashville.”
For Gerdes, collaborating with legendary Nashvillians like Vest is a dream-come-true. Originally from Pattonsburg, IL (“so small, I don’t think it’s even on a map,” he noted), Gerdes has been a fan of country music for his entire life. “I’ve been influenced by a lot of different music,” he said, “but I suppose my biggest would probably have to be Billy Joe Shaver, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams (senior and junior), Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, John Fogerty, John Lennon, Steve Earle and Ronnie Van Zant.” With a pedigree like that, the effortless and organic atmosphere of “You’re Not in the Picture Anymore” makes perfect sense.
Still, Gerdes remains humble and focused on what matters most: community. See, like all great country songs, “You’re Not in the Picture Anymore” isn’t just a good tune, it’s a tool for folks from all walks of life.
“Just last night I received a message from a friend who was struggling with the loneliness that December can sometimes bring,” Gerdes said. “He was thinking of family members who had passed and he told me my music and the relatability of the songs is what gets him through those dark times. As a writer, that’s all I could ever hope for. For me, it’s not about fame and fortune; it’s about making a difference in people’s lives through the words of a song.”
Hear the words to that song yourself by listening to “You’re Not in the Picture Anymore” by Craig Gerdes below: