Smile Politely

My Politic’s music embodies and challenges their Ozark beginnings

Two musicians are seated on a wooden porch, each holding a guitar, their expressions contemplative and serene. The setting is informal and homely, with one musician dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans, while the other dons a casual tee and cap. The rustic charm of the weathered house behind them, complete with traditional shutters and a white façade, frames this scene of camaraderie and creative partnership. The image conveys a sense of storytelling, a prelude to music that speaks of shared histories and authentic experiences.
My Politic on Facebook

I recently sat down with Kaston Guffey and Nick Pankey of My Politic to talk about their musical journey ahead of their March 7th appearance at Rose Bowl Tavern. This journey has taken the duo from the hills of Ozark, Missouri, to the bustling music scene of Nashville, Tennessee, and is a testament to their unwavering dedication to authenticity and storytelling. The duo’s origins in Ozark significantly shaped their musical ethos. Lead singer Guffey recalls how growing up in a household where addiction was a central issue and residing in a region marked by its conservative, evangelical backdrop influenced his songwriting deeply. “You grow up listening to people talk a lot and tell stories; real characters like my dad,” he shares, highlighting the impact of his surroundings on his lyrical content. But the music of My Politic, crafted by Guffey and Pankey, offers a compelling narrative counterpoint to the predominant political ideologies of their rural Missouri upbringing. Through their artistry, they navigate a landscape of thought and sentiment often at odds with their roots, weaving a tapestry of songs that challenge, question, and reflect. Their work stands as a bold testament to the power of music as a medium for dialogue and dissent, bridging divides with melodies that resonate with empathy, introspection, and a deep-seated yearning for understanding.

Two musicians stand side by side against a warm, red curtain backdrop, their expressions absorbed in the act of performance. The one on the left, with shoulder-length hair and a plaid shirt, gently cradles his guitar and focuses intently on his instrument. To the right, his bandmate, sporting a relaxed shirt and a cap, smiles as he sings into the microphone, his hands strumming his guitar with ease. The setting suggests an intimate concert, with each artist immersed in their craft, harmoniously delivering their music to an unseen audience.
My Politic on Facebook

The influence of their early environment is evident not just in the thematic undercurrents of their music but also in their writing style, which marries poetic nuance with the straightforwardness of folk storytelling. Their songs are a testament to the landscapes, both physical and emotional, that shaped them; a reflection on life’s complexities viewed through the prism of their formative years amidst Missouri’s rolling hills and close-knit communities. This duality of simplicity and depth defines My Politic’s artistic voice, creating a bridge between the personal and the universal that invites listeners into a shared space of reflection and connection. The beauty of the music itself, including incredibly tight and intricate harmonies, adds to the visceral enjoyment of their art.

To delve deeper into the essence of My Politic’s relocation to Nashville, it’s crucial to understand the layered motivations behind the move. Pankey’s contemplation on the choice between Nashville and Asheville illuminates the duo’s priorities. Their decision was swayed by Nashville’s proximity to their Missouri roots and the allure of its vibrant music scene. This choice was strategic, aiming to immerse themselves in a community that not only fosters but also cherishes the authenticity and depth of folk and Americana genres. “The Nashville music scene is very heavily weighted towards a different career path,” Pankey observed, acknowledging the city’s commercial music industry while highlighting their quest for a deeper, more meaningful connection within the music community. This wasn’t a pursuit of fame but a pursuit of a like-minded artistic family. The significance of Nashville to My Politic lies not in its status as Music City but in the personal and creative growth it promised them, adjacent to the mainstream, yet surrounded by a rich tapestry of musical influence and potential collaborations.

My Politic’s music is deeply intertwined with their lived experiences and the societal dynamics they observe. Their albums Missouri Folklore: Songs & Stories From Home and Short-Sighted People In Power serve as reflections on personal and societal narratives, with the latter delving into political commentary. This approach underscores their dedication to authentically portraying the complexities of the times. Guffey’s perspective on the backlash to some of their political expressions from people rooted in conservative strongholds of the country highlights an embrace of dialogue, viewing such responses as an integral part of capturing and communicating the tumultuous reality of contemporary society in any and all geographical locations.

Guffey’s recounting of My Politic’s performance at Nashville’s renowned Bluebird Cafe brings to light a moment steeped in both challenge and triumph. It was during their first show after the pandemic’s onset that they chose to unveil their freshly penned, politically charged songs to a live audience. This performance, particularly during the song “Fantasies of a Fox News Viewer,” tested the waters of reception, leading to a stark, visual exit by two individuals from the front row — a moment Guffey found “amazing.” This episode not only showcased the divisive potential of their music but also highlighted its power to provoke thought and conversation. 

A close-up of a musician lost in the moment, his eyes behind round-framed glasses, almost closed as he pours his soul into the microphone. His long hair falls loosely around his shoulders, framing his face, and the plaid pattern of his shirt adds a touch of rustic authenticity to the scene. The warm stage lighting casts a passionate hue on the performance, with bokeh lights softly glowing in the background, emphasizing the intimate atmosphere of a live music setting.
Nick Pankey on Facebook

I asked the pair about the implications of technology on traditional music like theirs, and they delved into the complexities introduced by the digital era. Guffey articulates a deep-seated worry that the core authenticity of these genres could be undermined by an increasing trend towards musical uniformity and the pressures to align with prevailing industry norms. This concern for preserving the genuine spirit of their music underscores a broader discourse on how contemporary forces shape artistic expression. Pankey, on the other hand, acknowledges the ambivalent role of technology: it democratizes music production, making it accessible to a broader swath of artists, yet simultaneously, it fosters a disposable culture where music’s intrinsic value risks being eclipsed by commercial imperatives. Their insights reflect a nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing musicians today, revealing a steadfast commitment to maintaining the integrity and relevance of their work amidst evolving digital landscapes.

At the heart of My Politic’s narrative is the profound bond between Guffey and Pankey — a friendship that has been the bedrock of their musical journey. Their collaborative songwriting process, marked by a deep understanding and respect for each other’s artistic vision, has allowed them to forge a sound that is both unique and evocative. This connection extends beyond music to the community they’ve found in house shows and intimate venues, which Guffey describes as the lifeblood of their passion for music. These spaces have not only provided a platform for their storytelling but have also nurtured a sense of belonging and shared experience.

A musician is captured in a monochrome image, evoking a strong sense of focus and intensity. He stands alone, holding an acoustic guitar, fingers poised on the strings as if mid-strum. The musician is wearing a casual long-sleeved shirt, overlaid with a graphic tee, and a cap, suggesting a laid-back yet earnest persona. The microphone stands ready to catch the nuances of his performance, hinting at a scene filled with acoustic melodies. The absence of an audience in the frame turns all attention to the artist and his instrument, creating a private concert-like atmosphere.
Kaston Guffey on Facebook

Looking ahead, My Politic is poised to continue exploring and expanding their musical landscape. With plans to release new material still too early to mention, the duo is excited about the prospect of evolving their sound while staying true to their roots. Pankey’s anticipation for creating more “honest music” encapsulates the ethos of My Politic — a commitment to authenticity, exploration, and the unyielding pursuit of artistic integrity.

In a world where trends come and go with the wind, My Politic stands as a beacon of authenticity, weaving stories that resonate with the heart and soul. Their journey from Ozark to Nashville and beyond is not just a musical odyssey but a testament to the power of friendship, storytelling, and the relentless pursuit of truth through art. As they prepare to grace stages like the Rose Bowl Tavern and embark on an ambitious tour, My Politic is poised to become a vital voice in the Americana and Folk music scene, reminding us of the enduring power of song to connect, reflect, and inspire.

Check out My Politic on Bandcamp, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or their official website.

Americana Happy Hour featuring My Politic
Rose Bowl Tavern
Th March 7th, 5 p.m.
Tips in bucket

Music Editor

More Articles