Quotable Country – 07/25/11 Edition

Click the bullet after each quote to visit the source.

What I think country music is may not be what everyone else thinks it is.
– – You can say that again, Jason Aldean.

Today I was at the airport and I’ve got my iPad out and I’m doing one thing and I’ve got my iPhone in the other hand and I’m doing all this other stuff. People walk by and I’m not acknowledging them, and if I have to wait for something for 20 seconds I’m pulling out my phone and checking stuff. I’m like, “I’m becoming an [expletive]. I’m turning into that guy.” All the time with my [eight year old], he’s looking at the TV while he talks to you and I’m constantly telling him, be respectful when you talk to somebody. Pay attention and make eye contact. But I catch myself doing the same thing. And it makes me want to throw everything away.
– – Hayes Carll on living in a constant state of technological distraction.

It’s about getting back to the basics of life. We live in a space world now with machines doing everything. It doesn’t make people feel whole, or feel human. This music, folk music, or music of the people, makes you feel human. I think a lot of music of today distracts you from being human. That’s not all bad, but I prefer down-home soul, country music. You need an anchor to know where you actually come from.
– – Pokey LaFarge on his love of old-time music.

It’s pretty common to meet people who say, “Oh, country music. I hate country music.” And then you say, “Well, do you like Johnny Cash?” And they say, “I love Johnny Cash.” And you say, “Do you like Hank Williams Sr.?” And they say, “I love Hank Williams.” And they don’t associate those names with country music. But there’s so many other artists who are deserving of that recognition, whose music these people would enjoy if they only heard it.
– – Nick 13 thinks country music is quite a bit cooler than most people realize.

“I remember going to a Tim McGraw concert. And you know, there’s a big difference in your local guy playing in a bar onstage and then going to see Kenny Chesney or Keith Urban or Tim McGraw, and they’ve got these cool-looking clothes on,” Owen said in a recent radio interview. “And I remember Googling back in the day, ‘Where does Tim McGraw get his jeans?’ ‘Cause I wanted some cool-lookin’ jeans!”
– – Jake Owen thinks the difference between some guy singing in a bar and a country superstar is cool clothes, which probably explains why Owen’s music doesn’t tend to do much for me.

I’m not sure whether the jeans Owen wears now are the ones he found Googling McGraw a few years ago or if they are the ones he is singing about in his “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” but I do know that those are some damn lucky jeans.
– – Alison Bonaguro’s insightful commentary on the Jake Owen quote.

It was about this guy who told me he was gonna commit suicide and listened to Prodigal Son, put the gun down, got in his truck and went to his mama’s house. And like total 360 [he’s] doing great now.
– – Brantley Gilbert is better at saving lives than he is at figuring angles.

Most of the stuff that gets cut today is the product of co-writing, which is another factor in dumbing stuff down to the Rascal Flatts level. There hasn’t been a single country hit this year that was written by just one writer. And that’s all driven by the big publishing houses and major labels.
– – Peter Cooper to the Houston Press.

The Singapore Airlines-backed carrier this morning confirmed it had repaid Dale Watson the $2000 wholesale cost of the 120 CDs and the $500 excess baggage charge for the lost cargo.
– – Hmm. Do Dale Watson CDs really wholesale for $16.67 each? I’m guessing not.

I get sick of it. That is actually an industry question and not a fan question. The industry asks it because by compartmentalizing something, it’s how they make money. I am knowledgeable enough and love the legacy of country music enough to know we play in the margin. At the same time, when you think about Loretta Lynn’s ‘The Pill’ or ‘Fist City’ … When you think about Johnny Cash from a musical perspective, people were sold to what he was doing at the time. At the end of the day, slow and steady wins the race. He stuck to it and we stuck to it.
– – Jennifer Nettles on accusations that Sugarland isn’t country… or isn’t the living embodiment of Johnny Cash. Yeah, not quite sure where she was going with that one.

Why doesn’t anyone in the country world cover that song for me and help me get paid? What is up? Everybody I talk to says that. I met this guy at Music Fest, Casey James, he said the same thing. If y’all love this song song much, it would kill if you played it at Music Fest! Kenny Chesney does that song or someone like that. I would love that.
– – Amos Lee on The Band Perry and others telling him they love his song “Southern Girl.”

… because my [now] publisher, Ben Vaughn [who knew me from my dad], walked up to me after the show and said, “Hey man, I really think you’ve got something.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He was like, “I seriously think you have potential to be a country music singer.” He asked me if I had ever written a song before, and I was like, “I’ve written dumb songs in high school, but nothing that was ever any good.” He said, “Do you think you could write a song? Would you want to sign a publishing deal?” I didn’t even know what a publishing deal was. I was like, “Well does it pay?” […] A little bit down the road, Ben started taking me to labels, just to get my name out there by playing an acoustic set for the A&R people at the labels. I played at Sony, Warner Bros., Universal, Big Machine, Capitol … after I played every one of those places, everyone offered me a record deal. I was just like, “Who am I? Why do I even deserve this?” There are people busting their butts on Broadway doing this hardcore, playing three hours a night for tips, and I didn’t even ask for it. It was completely a God-given thing that I’m doing this.
– – Thomas Rhett Akins, son of a Peach Picker, credits God for what would actually seem to be a fairly open and shut case of nepotism.

Did you know that to select songs that will be played on the radio, consultants conduct interviews by phone and ask people to rate 7-second clips of various songs from 1 to 5 (worst to best)? Not a bad approach in principle, I’m sure you’ll agree. But did you know that when it’s all done they throw out all the 1’s and the 5’s and only recommend the 2s, 3s and 4s?
But why, you ask, do they throw out the 5’s? Because it’s been proven statistically that songs that people think are great are songs that tend to be polarizing. It seems just as many people will hate those same songs. Can’t have any hate on when we’re selling deodorant, now, can we?
– – Music publisher Bill Renfrew on why radio is so terribly boring. By design.

A woman named Tammy Saviano, who has been my publicist for the last two or three albums, it was her idea, and she completed it herself. I purposely stayed out of it. I didn’t try to control it or make suggestions or show up at the studio. I just let her do it and that’s how it came out. I’ve heard that some of it is really good. I mean it’s really flattering. It’s good work.
– – Guy Clark knows as much about the upcoming Guy Clark tribute album as you do.

It would have been done anyway, but it was done in a deluxe way. It was done by the Nashville branch of PolyGram. (Mercury Nashville president) Luke Lewis was the executive producer. He okayed the budgets, and the budgets were slightly more flush than they might have been because of Shania (and her success).
– – Colin Escott believes Shania was responsible, in a roundabout way, for the deluxe treatment of the Complete Hank Williams boxed set. I didn’t see that one coming.

Even before I was able to consciously choose, it was sort of the backdrop of my childhood. My first musical memories are hearing ‘Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain’ on the radio or seeing Johnny Cash at a show. My first tape was Kenny Rogers. I would just sit there and listen to those story songs, and it would get me pumped up. There was an aesthetic and a vibe and a poetry to those songs that you don’t really find in country music anymore.
– – Hayes Carll on classic country.

It’s always delightful to jump into Rodney-world.
– – Emmylou Harris on collaborating with Rodney Crowell.

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  1. says

    I understand the intention of the point, but I’ve never met anyone who loves Hank or Johnny who hasn’t known that they are considered country music singers. That’s the kind of anecdotal rhetoric that’s been driving me crazy these days.

    • Rick says

      Leeann, you have to understand that as the leader of the psycho-billy band “Tiger Army” Nick 13 typically wasn’t in the presence of people who would identify themselves as fans of “country music” because it would seem so uncool. Also, if a person’s idea of “country music” these days is the commercial pop-rock crap on the radio and TV awards shows for the last 10 years or so, you could understand why Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Sr. would not jibe with that mindset. Also, Nick lives here in Los Angeles and the only kind of “country music” that gets played on our single mainstream FM country station is Top 40 modern country, so that provides some context to his comments. If he had spent his whole life in Nashville instead, his statements would indeed seem downright silly.

  2. ChurchsChicken says

    About country radio being boring, by design (Bill Renfew). Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or a neutral thing: just what is? I know many businesses in my area play country radio on their sound systems and I doubt they would want a great (but polarizing) song being played.

    A polarizing song can be a real problem. One of the stations I get played “This Ain’t Mexico” by Buddy Jewel at least a handful of times. I would be mortified if I got in my car with a friend or colleague , turned the radio on, and that song started playing. I would not want to be tagged as a racist at work or as anti-illegal immigration at work — that could alienate me from coworkers and maybe even limit my career opportunities. Most of my friends and co-workers would probably find Eric Church’s “Homeboy” to be racist, and again I wouldn’t want anyone I know to think my radio plays that. Same for “Shutting Detroit Down.”

    So long as music is communal and radio reaches a mass audience, and many people – myself included – would prefer to lose out on the chance to hear great music on an FM station if It meant that I was a lot less likely to have to defend my listening choices to a friend – I can see the point. Great music can be heard elsewhere, so no big loss, but a big gain.

    There is a place for boring, safe, predictable music: I think it serves a need when driving around town, when walking through a convince store, at certain kinds of parties and workplaces.

    Of course there should be a place for good, innovative and challenging – even controversial – music as well.

  3. says

    I won’t try and defend the country credibility of Sugarland, but it sure does seem like they answer that credibility and “countryness” question a lot more than other artists. Why aren’t Aldean, Lady A, and other similarly grilled?

    The Renfrew is very, very interesting. It explains more in a few sentences than some have done in entire books.

    • says

      Definitely agree on the countryness question. At least when Sugarland blurs the line between country and pop/rock, they aren’t singing about how much more country they are than everyone else.

    • idlewildsouth says

      For me, the reason I don’t ask that of, in particular Lady A, is I feel like, while they aren’t exactly country, there is an obvious thread of country influence in there. It’s no Alan Jackson, but I feel like I can buy that they listened to a little bit of country music growing up.

      Jason Aldean on the other hand, I think, would refer to himself as a southern rocker over a country artist anyway, and he’s come out and said he didn’t listen to Johnny Cash growing up, but Guns and Roses.

      My issue with Sugarland isn’t so much that they aren’t country but they seem to be proudly not country. Every chance they get to do a cover, its never been a country song that I’ve seen. There’s nothing about their music after Stay that suggests they have any desire to be country artists, she just sings too southern to be successful anywhere else.

      And wasn’t Johnny Cash wildly successful for the better part of the 50’s and 60’s? Slow and steady?

  4. says

    “Do you think you could write a song? Would you want to sign a publishing deal?”

    This quote should send chills up the spines of all aspiring songwriters who’ve worked their asses off and written and pitched dozens or hundreds of songs to little or no avail because they didn’t have connections. Excuse my language, but that’s absolute bullshit. Nashville is now a closed society to “outsiders.”

  5. BurningChrome says

    it’s funny how people now associate johnny cash with country music. at the time he started & during much of his career, he was an outsider. so, it’s pretty easy to see where jennifer nettles was going with her statement. i’m not saying that sugarland will end up being as iconic as cash, but it’s still a fair statement. other “country” artists have also been “outsiders” and still been considered county after a while.
    i also have to agree with j.r. there are plenty of other artists who push the limits of what is “country” yet don’t get besieged with questions about whether they are country or not. i suggest we do the following: stop labeling the music and just listen…good music is good music. and that’s why i like sugarland. they get that…they live that…they perform that.

  6. says

    I couldn’t understand last year when so many people-listeners, DJs, and decent critics-were lavishing love on Gary Allan’s new album, my local station KYGO answered my requests to hear some of his new stuff with “His songs aren’t polling well.” I think Bill Renfrew’s comment just gave me the missing piece of the puzzle–he must have been getting the 5s that they threw out as too polarizing. How sad people are cheated of the opportunity to hear good music and decide for themselves just because some programmers are too chicken to risk a blip in their ratings, and so we are left with the mind numbing noise of repetitive mediocrity.


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