After 15 years as an independent musician, Stoney LaRue is still happily the “Travelin' Kind.”
But the hard-touring red dirt star also is happy to call Oklahoma home.
“Thank God for Okies,” he said by phone last week from Odessa, Texas, where, naturally, he was getting ready to play a show. “I just feel so alive and at home whenever I'm there.”
The Taft, Texas-born and southeastern Oklahoma-bred singer-songwriter, who is known for playing upward of 250 shows a year, returns to his home base of Oklahoma City this weekend to headline the Red Dirt at the Zoo II concert at the Zoo Amphitheatre.
“I remember going to shows there whenever I was a lot younger — in my more impressionable years, I'd say, between like 17 and 20 — and being like, ‘I can't wait to play here,'” he said, listing Bob Dylan, ZZ Top and George Thorogood among the stars he has watched at the venerable Oklahoma City venue.
“It's just kind of a fun place, and you just get up there and you take your turn and hope people like it.”
LaRue, 36, has played the Zoo Amphitheatre a few times along his winding way, and on Saturday, Texas country singer-songwriters Wade Bowen and Aaron Watson will join him on the lineup.
“I love those guys tremendously. And we'll find each other in the oddest spots in America, you know, from Denver to New York City, and then we'll be like, ‘What are you doing here?!' So it's great to cross paths with them,” he said.
“We're all like brothers coming together again. Obviously, we haven't seen each other in a long time, but you know how families when they grow up, they may become a little distant but that doesn't mean that you don't love 'em as much as you always have.”
LaRue's love for the place he calls home has prompted him to pledge a portion of the proceeds from Saturday's show to the ongoing tornado relief efforts.
“I've been around the world. I haven't gone the total places I want to go in this world, but I've been to different cultures. And I see this culture, the Oklahoma and Texas culture, as a very unique place in itself. It's very proud of its music ... and its lifestyle. And this is something that you don't see across the land. Why have so many prevalent artists and musicians and political figures come out of this state and the surrounding area? Because it's just a beautiful place to live. Thankfully, I get to raise my kids here,” he said.
The concert will benefit the OKStrong Disaster Relief Fund, which Gov. Mary Fallin established with the United Way of Central Oklahoma to assist with the long-term recovery from the May tornadoes that ravaged the state.
“I think that in any disaster, at any kind of point in life, that it's a long-term thing that you're trying to mold and build, and hopefully with a good intention and love. If you give your heart to something, then it's bound to thrive I think. And it doesn't just happen overnight ... so long-term recovery is exactly what it is,” LaRue said.
“You know, you hear that math is the language of the universe. I think that music is the language of the universe. Because I know that it evokes more an emotion, that's for damn sure. So I hope it's helpful. It can heal. It healed me.”
LaRue got the chance to showcase his music on national television earlier this month when he was featured on CMT's “Concrete Country,” a fledgling series that showcases indie artists who write their own songs. Performing outside the famed Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth, LaRue and his band played the new song “Easy She Comes,” his ode “Travelin' Kind” from his 2011 album “Velvet” and Oklahoma music mainstay Mike Hosty's “Oklahoma Breakdown” on the show.
“First of all, being on CMT is pretty cool,” LaRue said, adding that he's heard the show made country superstar Luke Bryan a fan of “Oklahoma Breakdown.” “I was on there with a Lee Ann Womack video one time, but it was just us and it was raw.”
In addition to “Easy She Comes,” LaRue is working on more new music and plans to play some at Saturday's show. He continues to collaborate with fellow songsmith Mando Saenz, who co-wrote nine of the 10 tracks on “Velvet.”
“We're going in at the end of this month to start working on a new record, and it's gonna be great. It's gonna be kind of another step in the direction of ‘Velvet,' but another step forward hopefully. Hopefully, it's another leap forward.”