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When I first started writing songs, one of the first pieces of advice you always hear is, “Write what you know.” When I was young, I would think, “I’m not really worldly, and I haven’t been to all these places that my traveling musician friends have been.” I’ve never written a song about Paris because I’ve never been there. I just kept writing about my friends, and I’d pull something from their stories and pull something from mine.
Surprisingly enough, it’s been something that’s really fed my inspiration. I’m really inspired by the house next door and the house down the street. We may have an unchampioned life, but we all have an amazing story. At some point years ago, something in my brain went off about that and how to write songs around it. ●
- – Lori McKenna on learning to find the songs in everyday life.
We’ve both had jobs where a dollar goes a long way. We might have been making eight or nine bucks an hour doing some really bad job we hated. It’s cool to have fans spend money on a ticket or spend money on a CD or buy a t-shirt when you know fifteen bucks could be two meals. ●
- – Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard has lived the hard-knock life of making well above minimum wage and having as little as $7.50 to spend per meal (translating to a generous monthly food budget of $675), so he pretty much fully grasps the plight of the working poor.
But, Hamlin said, “I’m a firm believer that music has no boundaries, and increasingly so in the world we now live in.” And so, show producers continue to push the envelope to expand the demographic that watches the show.
Unlike the ’70s and ’80s, when people were more territorial about their music (“You were very, very loyal to your genre,” Hamlin said), radio has helped make country music “pop music” because it’s popular, he said. ●
- – John Hamlin, senior vice president of music events and talent for CMT, on the heavily crossover nature of the CMT Music Awards.
It must’ve been twelve years ago, one of my first times ever really hanging out in Nashville, before I bought a place there. Kenny Chesney’s gonna take me to dinner. I’m like, “Cool, I want to go eat some sh*t-kickin’ stuff, back-porch home cooking”—you know, barbecue, something like that. He goes, “Meet me at P.F. Chang’s.” And I’d never heard of P.F. Chang’s. And I’m thinking, “This is the spot!” I didn’t know it was a chain or anything. I walk in there—I’m like, “Are you f**king kidding me?” And of course Kenny’s, like, getting—“Mr. Chesney, would you like the usual?” and he’s got, like, a little umbrella drink. I’m like, “Come on. Come on, Kenny.” I couldn’t believe it. I’m like, “What is this f**king place?” He’s like, “Oh, it’s my favorite restaurant.” This is the exact opposite of what I had in mind. ●
- – Kid Rock on getting the Kenny Chesney tour of Nashville.
And lately, the contrast between the men and women of country has been not just quantitative but qualitative. A rising crop of female performers are giving voice to deep-seated desires and wrestling with constricting conventions and relational let-downs — real, hefty, on-the-ground stuff — while a good many male performers continue to mine the fine-in-moderation theme of weekend tailgating out in the sticks. ●
- – Jewly Hight, in a Nashville Scene cover story on Kacey Musgraves.
Oh, and did I mention that the young singer-songwriter who might be the best of them all — Brandy Clark, who co-wrote Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow,” hasn’t even released her debut album yet? For women creating country music, and for all of us who love to hear their stories, this is truly Lucky 2013. ●
- – NPR Music’s Ann Powers on “Country Music’s Year of the Woman.”
I’m drawn to real flawed characters. In anything I like to watch on TV or read, in friends and in my own self, I’m drawn to flaws. … I mean, I think that a lot of people are just trying to survive their lives. And those stories, to me, are the ones that I want to tell. I don’t think many people are telling that story. ●
- – Brandy Clark to Jewly Hight for CMT Edge.
I ask for that authenticity in a singer-songwriter, no matter what style of music it is. I can appreciate that. You and I both know there’s very little of that on mainstream radio. I hear songs like Jason Aldean’s “1994,” then I think about all the sh*t that a guy like Casey Donahew or myself take from the people in our scene. We’re a hundred times better than that stuff! We’ve got such a great scene that we’ve become cynical about some of our own bands, and we forget about how it’s so much better than much of the stuff that’s out there. ●
- – Josh Abbott says even the glossiest Texas frat boy music is pretty good by comparison.
Literally if you listen to half of country radio, there’ll be three or four different electric guitar parts on a thing. And why? It isn’t like you can hear them all. And then the vocal is squished in with a compressor to make it fit in with all the guitars. ●
- – LeAnn Rimes, whose Darrell Brown-produced Spitfire offers an appealing alternative.
I love the stories. I love the passion. I love the feeling in it. Other than R&B, I think, for me, it’s the next [most] soulful music there is. ●
- – Nelly on country music.
I got out of the car and just as I was walking up the sidewalk, this guy comes down and I looked up and it was Jack. He walked down the stairs and stopped on the stoop, and I said, ‘Jack?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘I’m Richie Albright.’ I put my hand out and started shaking hands, and he turned around and threw up. He hung on to my hand. So that was my introduction to Jack Clement. ●
- – Richie Albright, Waylon’s drummer, on meeting Cowboy Jack Clement. From an excerpt from Michael Streissguth’s new book “Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris and the Renegades of Nashville” on Salon.com.
You’ve got to let a flower be a flower. You’re going to make a flower bloom differently than it would normally bloom? I don’t think so. Just nourish it, give it enough fertilizer, water and let it bloom. It will bloom. Business, hell, I can’t stand it. Business has ruined many a good man and woman. ●
- – Fred Foster on supporting the natural development of songwriters.
Founding member of The Steeldrivers and hit songwriter extraordinaire Chris Stapleton looks to be launching a solo career on Universal Music, also label home to Jamey Johnson and Kacey Musgraves. It’s rare enough that one of the best pure singers in town actually gets a shot at doing something big, so this should be one to watch. Here’s the video package for debut single “What Are You Listening To.”