PAINTSVILLE A mild-mannered Lawrence County High School teacher, known for running for the U.S. House of Representatives as a class project, has also been playing music professionally for four decades.
In that stage persona, he’s the Laid Back Country Picker.
“I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old, not very good mind you, and my first paid gig was when I was 12 or 13,” said David Prince. “My dad was a musician and I always wanted to play something growing up.”
Prince laid a foundation for the sound he’d embrace with Laid Back in the cover band The Southern Express, but at the time said he hated it. Four hours of hard country cover gigs at a time when he just wanted to rock. But, now that he’s grown to appreciate all kinds of music, he’s thankful for that experience.
“Laid Back came to me when we saw an image I’d taken years ago after getting a little wild one night,” said Prince. “This image was so striking that we thought it’d be funny to sell shirts with the face on it. The name and character formed around that shirt.”
Prince ran in the 2010 Democratic primary for Hal Rogers’ 5th District seat. His AP Government class handled the campaign duties.
Teresa Prince, his spouse of nearly 40 years, and also a teacher in Lawrence County, always had the idea for Honey; an emotionless character who doesn’t speak and the perfect moment for her to emerge was on stage with Laid Back as a drummer or guitar player. The idea for the nightgown, hair curlers and sunglasses came later.
The couple are graduates of Morehead State University with teaching degrees.
Both have played on stages big and small as “Luna and the Mountain Jets,” “Laid Back and Honey,” “the Beatnik Cowboys,” “the Georgia Satellites” and the “Kentucky Headhunters.”
The peak was when they joined Tyler Childers onstage at the fabled Ryman Auditorium in Nashville during his residency in February 2020. They’ve known Childers since he was a child and encouraged his musical journey.
Members of from the bands of Childers and Chris Stapleton performed on Laid Back’s “Kingsport” album, but the rollout for that project was cancelled by COVID-19.
“Go West” is the follow-up project and “has had a surprising amount of support from the punk rock scene,” said Prince. “We just make country with a rock sound but I think it’s because we just do and play whatever we want and that spirit resonates with people all over.”
That rebellious spirit was shown at his show on Alley on Main, in Paintsville, where Laid Back regularly put solos from other songs in the middle of his set. He used a wireless guitar to walk amongst the crowd while playing and even gave his guitar to a listener in the crowd and let them play a solo of their own.
Later, he had Sean Whiting, fellow musician and long-time friend, come up on the stage and sing. When Whiting jokingly suggested Stairway to Heaven, Laid Back agreed and they performed the song completely unplanned.
“Teaching and performing absolutely correlate, teaching is a performance in its own right, “said Teresa Prince. “When people ask me to choose between teaching and music it’s like making me choose between two halves of myself.”
“I was absolutely terrified on my first gig, you could hear the shakiness in my voice,” said Teresa Prince. “At the Ryman, though, I was purely excited. All the experience I had gained between those two points in my life, I knew I’d made it to that stage and was ready.”
Laid Back’s albums and tour information can be found at https://www.laidbackcountrypicker.org/.