Quotable Country – 08/03/14 Edition


The first Quotable Country was published August 3, 2008, so this edition marks six years of uninterrupted straight talk, bemusement, and sarcasm. Thanks for reading.

Click the bullet after each quote to visit the source.

There have always been people complaining that it isn’t like it used to be. Well, it’s never going to be like it used to be. Looking at the shares that Country radio is pulling in market after market, I’d say that Country is pretty healthy. If there were a ‘backlash,’ the format wouldn’t be so strong.
— WKKT’s Casey Carter to Country Aircheck on the enduring popularity of bro country.

“The old guys were regretfully drunk,” says songwriter Adam Wright, whose current Lee Ann Womack single, “The Way I’m Livin’,” embodies the same attitude. “The new guys are proud to be drunk. There’s a little bit of a different spin.”
— From Billboard’s Tom Roland: “Does Country Music Need An Alcohol Intervention?”

“A year ago it seemed like 75 percent of the songs that were pitched — and it didn’t matter the artist — had some kind of bro-country, drinking, party theme to it,” says [Broken Bow Records Music Group Executive VP Jon] Loba. “It just became white noise. I would say within the last six months, there’s been more balance, and it’s been driven by that awareness. It’s not special if everybody’s doing it.”
— A shift in the tides? Via aforementioned Billboard article.

I just have never actually used the term ‘bro country.’ I don’t get it, and I don’t like the term ‘hick hop’ either. The things that we sing about are the things that everybody in this crowd are doing every single night. So I don’t understand why it’s considered bro country… Whether it’s country, pop, rap, soul, R&B, it’s either a good song or it’s not for me. I mean, yeah, I’ve said ‘tailgate’ in a song before, but I actually sit on tailgates and so do those people out there.
— Then again, maybe not. Thomas Rhett to After Midnite’s Cody Alan.

I was a huge Aerosmith fan growing up. There definitely is that rock side to country right now. There’s not really a classic rock anymore. I think a lot of that gets taken over by some of the more aggressive country songs. Any time I’m trying to find that groove on a big tempo song, I go back and listen to some Aerosmith records. ‘Love in an Elevator,’ ‘Rag Doll,’ all that stuff was really great music.
— Chris Young, discussing his influences with Rolling Stone Country. He also acknowledges that Keith Whitley (another influence) probably wouldn’t be a big fan of “Aw Naw.”

Songwriters didn’t really start getting recognition until Kris Kristofferson came along. I’ve been playing in these little honky tonk places all my life, you know, making just enough to get to the next gig. Once of these days I imagine I’ll be playing big places and maybe even making good money. I don’t know (laughs). But I love it, that’s the most important thing. I love traveling and this lets me do it. I feel almost like I’m harvesting everything I’ve put out over the years, getting attention from critics and great songwriters, young and old. That’s what really saved me: the Internet and critics.
— Billy Joe Shaver to RiffRaf. Like everything else Shaver in this edition, a good read.

One time Kris told me with “Old Fiver and Dimers Like Me” I was saying stuff that Plato and Socrates and them were trying to say. I laughed at him and said, “I guess us East Texas boys are real smart” (laughs). He’s had all that education. He’s a Rhodes Scholar, but I ain’t got that much. Life just came at me and I guess I was just meant to be a songwriter.
— Billy Joe Shaver to RiffRaf again.

It’s truth and saying it in as few words as you possibly can to the point where an idiot like me can understand it. You’ve gotta start at the bottom. When I have trouble with a song, I’ll lay it out on the table and visualize it as a letter to someone I care about. Then I’ll realize what I want to say.
— Billy Joe Shaver to the Austin Chronicle on songwriting.

Years later, after she’d had cancer a couple years and was getting close to death, a doctor told me she wasn’t going to make it through the night. So I told her I’d had a dream that she had passed and that Townes was up there to greet her. She hated that guy so bad she said, ‘I ain’t going.’ She lived another year almost.
— Billy Joe Shaver to Texas Monthly on his late wife Brenda’s dislike of Townes Van Zandt.

I came here back in ’66, or something like that. Came here on a cantaloupe truck. I got a job writing songs for Bobby Bare, for $50 a week… First night I met Bare, he puked in my truck and I tried to get him out of the truck and he went sliding down a hill into a ditch. I was thinking, ‘I have got myself into a mess,’ but it was the best thing that could have happened, being around Bobby Bare.
— Billy Joe Shaver to Peter Cooper. His new album, out Tuesday, is Long in the Tooth.

I’ve never seen anyone who’s that good of a singer in my life. I’ve heard a lot of people who can lay down like 8, 9, 10 harmonies and make it sound like a choir, but it always sounds like one voice. He can change his voice, and he’s even named the characters, like Ruthie or Sammy.
— Shooter Jennings on Billy Ray Cyrus.

I gave it a shot, writing with three other people I didn’t know about things that I didn’t understand. I felt like a whore. I really couldn’t do it, and I was honestly so bad at it.
— Dale Watson on co-writing in Nashville.

Evolution is a constant part of music and life, but for me what’s always been at the heart of country music is simplicity and community. Music Row is where the past, present and future meet, and that’s a vital part of keeping balance. You can feel it as you drive along 16th and 17th avenues and see so many original buildings, including RCA’s Studios A and B; the house where Warner Brothers first opened their doors; Quad Studios, where Neil Young recorded “Harvest”; and Hillbilly Central, where Waylon Jennings and the boys transformed the status quo by revolutionizing the way artists could take creative control.
— Keith Urban weighs in on RCA Studio A and the “Save Music Row” movement.

You are reading this correctly: not a single solo female act who has introduced herself via any label to country radio since 2008 has followed a t20 hit with another, compared to an 84% successful follow-up rate for solo males at country radio.
— From Windmills Country’s data-based breakdown, “The Country Radio Climb: How Are Major Labels Serving New Acts, Male & Female?” Such good research that it’s worth braving all the terrible, intrusive advertisements on the site hosting it.

I am so excited again to sing with Sean and Sarah and do all of that stuff. What I’m less excited about is some of that (early) material. If you can imagine, when people look at junior high pictures of themselves and they are just cringing, as in ‘Oh my god!’ When we have to play some of those old songs, it’s not only like having to look at those pictures, but having to actually act them out, to get inside of that picture and relive every last ounce of awkwardness contained therein. So, it will be an interesting character-building experience. But I’m, really, really excited about it, and we will happily dive into some of that old material.
— Chris Thile, on playing with Nickel Creek again, to The Bluegrass Situation.

Basically, I do three things. I sing. I play guitar. And I write. The writing is the thing that I really obsess over the most. That’s where I put the lion’s share of my efforts. I try to say something. Of course, the longer you live, the more you find to say. If you keep your eyes open, everything continues to astonish you.
— Chris Smither to CMT Edge’s Stephen M. Deusner. His latest release is Still On The Levee.

Once you pick the song, it’s up to you to bring it to life. You hope the writer is happy with how you sing their song, because it is their song. But you also know what you hear in a song may have nothing to do with what they intended. I think people cut songs because they make them feel something. I know I do. Not necessarily my life, but certainly something I’ve seen or someone I’ve met. I want to give witness to their lives, especially the ones who are really struggling — and people think they can just “snap out of it.” To me, that’s the greatest thing a song can do.
— Lee Ann Womack to The Tory (Burch) Blog.

My best teaching is teaching people how to write like themselves, and convince them that that’s the best they’re going to do. Not to write like their heroes, but to speak in their own voice in their songs. That’s what we love about our favorite songwriters, is that they speak in their own voice. I try to get them out of the bullshit and into the truth. To become vulnerable. It’s not a matter of, “don’t do this and do that,” it’s a matter of “come out of hiding and let us see you.”
— Mary Gauthier on teaching songwriting.

They’re also getting very wealthy. Thanks in part to those live shows—the duo played 168 of them during our scoring period, more than any other country act we measured—Florida Georgia Line pulled in $24 million last year, earning the No. 10 spot on this year’s Country Cash Kings rankings.
That total puts them on par with other acts like list-mates Jason Aldean (No. 4, $37 million) and Luke Bryan (No. 5, $34 million) who are pushing the genre’s traditional boundaries, much to the chagrin of traditionalists who deride the new wave as “bro country” or “hick-hop.”
— From a Forbes feature on “The Big Business Of Florida Georgia Line’s Blurred Boundaries.”

I like libraries so much more than museums. I like to take things off the shelves, see? I don’t want my information behind glass or, more likely, behind a screen. I want to experience it, rough it up, beat on it, utilize it, see what I can do with it. Folk music requires this of its participants. Pete [Seeger] always asked the audience to sing along. We are the song, he said. I would argue that this continent has the richest musical expression of any place on earth. But music is only as alive as the people who make it. If you’re sitting in front of the computer instead of singing to your kiddos, if you’re stuck in traffic instead of stuck in a festival parking lot with twenty banjos blaring, if you think music is just something to download on your personal device and enjoy on the train home in your ear buds, then you got it all wrong. America has a song on the tip of its tongue that it’s afraid to sing.
— Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor on music as a living, breathing thing.

There’s a lot of loyalty built into the country music system. You see much less hesitation from country artists to show up at say, some station’s mechanical bull riding promotion. Eddie Vedder won’t do that. But mainstream country artists will. Plus, country is still built on story songs. Along the way rock has largely separated out story telling of the kind that [Bruce] Springsteen and [John] Mellencamp used to do. [...] But yeah, the irony that while so many of the songs have this populist quality — driving your pickup, drinking beer, breaking up with your girlfriend — the country industry is this enormous corporate machine is sort of right there in your face. Country, today’s country, is the last bastion where corporate power has an influence.
— Jim McGuinn, program director of “The Current” on Minnesota Public Radio.

I don’t feel 81. I feel about 20. I’m exaggerating a little, but I just got my fifth-degree black belt in [the Korean martial art] GongKwon Yusul. Every day I ride my bike or golf or ride my horses. I do calisthenics on the bus. So far it’s working. [...] When you think a negative thought, it releases poison in your system. Next thing you know, you wind up with cancer or other diseases. I try to live in the moment without regrets.
— Willie Nelson to AARP Magazine.

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  1. the pistolero says

    Thomas Rhett doesn’t understand a LOT of things, apparently.

    I like Aerosmith too (at least most of what they did up till about 1977), but if I wanted to “find that groove on a big tempo song,” I’d be going to listen to some Billy Joe Shaver.

    Keith Urban’s crusade to save the studios of Music Row is pretty nifty. It’d be nice if he had half as much respect for the music created in them.

  2. Jack says

    “If there were a ‘backlash,’ the format wouldn’t be so strong.”

    This is a perfect example of the myopia of country radio programmers. “Gee, the format we’ve contrived by pandering to this specific niche audience (roughly half of whom are carpetbaggers) at the expense of other vast demographics is popular at this exact moment, so what could be the problem?

    Trends in pop music are short-lived, and the bro-country bubble is already starting to deflate. There’s a good chance this kind of thinking is gonna come back to bite country radio in the butt.

  3. Jack says

    On a more positive note, I loved all the Billy Joe Shaver quotes, and I’m glad to hear that Willie Nelson is so healthy and full of vigor!

  4. the pistolero says

    This is a perfect example of the myopia of country radio programmers.

    Or their whistling past the graveyard. Other radio programmers have been saying for at least the last year and a half, and as recently as seven months ago that I know of, that bro-country isn’t long for this world. While I know that Music Row and country radio are a good year to 18 months behind the trends, I find it difficult to believe that it’s on the verge of a resurgence in popularity. It remains to be seen whether FGL’s “Dirt” is going to be the start of a period of substance for them, and how this whole thing’s going to play out period, but I think it’s noteworthy that Maddie and Tae’s “Girl In A Country Song” is getting so much more buzz than Maggie Rose’s “Girl In Your Truck Song.”


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