Quotable Country – 08/10/14 Edition


Click the bullet after each quote to visit the source.

We’re writing what people want to hear. So what’s the backlash? More ticket sales? More money coming into Nashville? What’s wrong with that?
— Dallas Davidson to Country Aircheck on bro country.

“I love bro country,” [Craig] Wiseman says. “It’s been years since I’ve been a fan of everything as much as I have been lately, where I can just leave Country radio on and dig every song that goes by for an hour or two.”
Wiseman is puzzled by those who say they’re tiring of the music. He recalls a pre-show dinner with programmers during FGL’s tour. “They were saying, ‘We don’t want anymore country rock, or this hip hop, rapping stuff,’” says Wiseman. “And I was sitting across the table thinking, ‘You know your job better than I do, but the fact that we’re going to this show that sold out in seven minutes seems to be a pretty good indication of the pulse of your people.’”
— Craig Wiseman, quoted in that same Country Aircheck piece by Wendy Newcomer.

We didn’t put a ton of thought into it. We wrote it basically kind of as a pop song with kind of a little bit of a vague, sexual, druggy lyric. And we wrote it like, ‘Well, this is an FGL song, and they’re either gonna cut it or they’re not.’
— Songwriter Rodney Clawson on Jason Aldean’s current single, “Burnin’ It Down.” Surprise! Clawson writes for Craig Wiseman’s publishing company.

I’m just so tired of hearing songs about partying in a truck with a Dixie cup, can I get a whut whut. I could write those songs all day, but I’d rather get my landscaping business back up rather than sing those songs every night.
— Aaron Watson.

It actually put Nashville on the map real good, because sequin suits and things wasn’t working out. The cheatin’ songs and stuff. These songs were fresh, and they were different from what was going on.
— Billy Joe Shaver (to NPR) on the songs Waylon used for Honky Tonk Heroes.

That kind of stuff seeps into my songs all the time. I don’t mean for it to, but it does. I guess it helps people. I hope it does. It can’t hurt ‘em. But it seems like it seeps in just enough to not be shovin’ it down somebody’s throat.
— Billy Joe Shaver (to CMT Edge’s Jewly Hight) on spiritual elements in his songs.

It’s a lot about the music industry. They do these funny things. I can’t tell you what all they do because I’ll sound all paranoid, but I’m not. I can tell when someone kills you with kindness and it happens up there a lot. There’s a lot of back stabbin’ going on. Of course, down in Texas you don’t have that because true Texans all have the big egos that they think their shit’s the best in the world and they wouldn’t dare steal anything because they think it ain’t worth a crap. All the people who helped me in Nashville were Texans.
— Billy Joe Shaver explains “Checkers and Chess” from Long in the Tooth to the Austin Chronicle.

He got mad at me over “Old Five and Dimers.” He said, “I should have wrote that.” And I said, “Well I did” [laughs]. And he stayed mad at me for about a month. When he seen me coming he would go the other way. And then I guess he felt bad about it cause then he went and recorded it. He couldn’t stay away from it. It’s a really great song. It still is, but I seldom do it. The crowds are never quiet enough for me to do it. It’s so close to me and I don’t want to do it unless somebody’s listening real good. “Willie the Wandering Gypsy,” the same thing. He should’ve wrote both of them but I beat him to it.
— Billy Joe Shaver (to the Baltimore City Paper) on Tom T. Hall.

Songs are a soul expressing itself. Songs are like white blood cells, coagulants for the heart/soul. They come rushing in when there is a wound. Songs often come to a songwriter to help heal emotional blows so low that their frequencies reverberate in a body and soul for a lifetime.
At their best, Songs are not products for a market place. They are spiritual medicine for a world gone wrong. Humans can get out of sync with each other, out of rhythm. Trauma does this to us in an instant, removes us from our life, and it removes us from each other. Songs can help us return.
— Mary Gauthier, in a blog post on songwriting with combat veterans. Great read.

The whole Nashville scene is extremely competitive. You’re as good as your last record. People are always showing you spreadsheets on how much money you owe for videos and tour support and everything else. I think there’s a certain level of resentment that comes with that.
— Hal Ketchum, who’s fighting back multiple sclerosis to return with a new album on October 7.

If you sing real country music, you aren’t going to get played and you aren’t going to get shows. You have to play their game and make that bastardized stuff that is out there now. Then, maybe if you have a pretty enough face, you can be a star. Of course, that only lasts for about a year till everyone figures out you can’t make it on stage.
— Speaking of resentment: Chris Cagle.

Oh, yeah. I’ve noticed a big difference over the past two years, from not just the size of the crowds but also the energy of the crowds. The age diversity is also pretty big. I love being a kind of traditional guy, and we still have the older crowd that comes out and sees us play. But having songs like “Sunny and 75″ and “Yeah,” I think it’s good to see the new crowd get excited.
— Joe Nichols on the impact of his more progressive direction with Crickets.

Look, I’ve always said country music is the only genre that hates itself. It wants to be everything else, but country music. I’ve been in it for a long, long time and I’ve seen the changes, but it always comes back. But now, I don’t see it coming back. It finally found a route to go.
— Sammy Kershaw to Country Weekly.

They’re going to kill my country music in 10 years or so. Country’s not country any more. When George Strait and Alan Jackson quit, it’s all over. […] They’ve gone and killed country music. I’m not saying it’s bad music, but it’s on the wrong station. It’s not country music. There’s no fiddle, no steel guitar. And nobody who’s country can get on country radio any more. They tell me we’re too country.
— ’90s country star Doug Stone.

I haven’t got any of that pick-up or tractor money.
— Gary Allan on the lack of lucrative truck/tractor songs in his oeuvre.

There will eventually be too many festivals for any given market to sustain, because there aren’t that many people with that much disposable income. There are only so many $300 festivals that people can go to, if any at all. That might be the thing that eventually breaks the camel’s back — not too many festivals, but too many festivals that are too expensive for a demographic. As soon as it starts happening, it sours ticket buyers, and it sours artists. That’s it.
— Booking agent Andrew Morgan, quoted in a detailed Wondering Sound article (by Grayson Haver Currin) on “Why the Summer Music Festival Bubble is About to Burst.”

Reba could not be nicer. The first show with her, she went onstage after the show to sign autographs. She told me, ‘Come up and sign with me.’ People would hand Reba a photo or a poster, and she’d sign it and hand it to me. Finally, a really nice lady, as I was about to sign a poster, said, ‘Excuse me, would you mind signing that on the back?’ ‘No, ma’am, I sure wouldn’t mind.’
— Lyle Lovett on opening for Reba early in his career.

First of all, that voice, I don’t think anyone can argue with it. I hope that Vince Gill is singing in heaven. It is the greatest voice that I have ever heard. […] Vince Gill is probably my favorite thing in country music, period, besides my father. He’s someone who, if you know him personally, is just hilarious. Such a great sense of humor, is so supportive of artists in the industry and put out some of the greatest albums and songs that we’ve ever had.
— Holly Williams on Vince Gill.

I think it’s not [our] responsibility, but I think if you want to say it you sure should, if it’s on your heart. But at the end of the day, you’ve got 20,000 people there that are corralled, that are going to do what they want to do and all we can hope for is that you take responsibility for yourself and your actions and try to have fun. You can let loose a little bit and have fun, just don’t go too far with it you know, be careful.
— Rascal Flatts’ Joe Don Rooney, quoted disavowing all responsibility for fan behavior in a FOX News piece on alcohol-related incidents at country shows. Doesn’t “corralling” 20,000 people into a confined space and selling them beer with the attitude that they “are going to do what they want to do and all we can hope for is that you take responsibility for yourself” seem a little laissez faire when people are dying and getting raped? Obviously, there are basic structural things about the way these big shows are being set up that need to be changed.

While Brad Paisley says he hasn’t witnessed any increase in troublemaking at his concerts and calls it “ridiculous” to blame any antics on drinking songs, he admits that “we are cultivating the party aspect a lot [more] than we ever did. We were always talking about alcohol, but most of the time it had to do with how that plays into your life. This has to do with, ‘It’s almost the weekend, let’s go do this thing.’ ”
— So it’s ridiculous and also true? Brad Paisley talks out both sides of his mouth. From a Billboard piece on alcohol-related incidents at country shows. I’m seeing a trend here…

She was the greatest. She loved to gamble. When I was 14, we were in Las Vegas and it was in the middle of the night and she’d say, “come down and play slots with me.” I’d say, “grandma, I can’t go down there, I’m only 14!” And she’d say, “put on some false eyelashes and let’s go!” [laughs]
— Carlene Carter on Grandma Maybelle.

Tony is a hell of a character. We talk about these great characters there used to be in the 60s and 70s like Jerry Reed, Buck Owens, and all of these guys. Can you imagine hanging with them and how wild and crazy they were? Tony Martinez is going to be one of those guys. He’s going to have those stories told about him because he’s a great guitar player, he’s a hell of a singer, but he’s always on. When you’re hanging out with him while we’re in the studio, he had me almost in tears laughing just from his crazy stuff that comes out of his mouth. He’s so witty and creative. He’s always on. We’re always serious and he’s over there doing what he does. He’s a rare find these days. He’s young and doesn’t have an album out yet. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do. I will fully support anything he does because he is a great picker, singer, and just a hell of a good person. That’s a rarity these days in country music. It really is.
— Whitey Morgan on Tony Martinez.

[“Outlaw”] really doesn’t mean anything, because outlaw back in the old days meant you were going against the system. The system was giving you money, but then said screw it I will do it my own way. Well the system isn’t given me any money. So I’m not much of an outlaw as I’m doing it my own way and no one is there to telling me I can’t. That’s just me being me. I hate the outlaw label. I think it’s bullshit and anyone that tries to claim it these days is full of shit. You’re not an outlaw. There’s these guys that go out there and say “we’re playing outlaw country music” and they get up there and they’re loud. They go and disrespect the bar; they disrespect their own fans and the sound guy. They piss everybody off in the whole building and then go “we brought the outlaw show.” No, you’re not an outlaw, you’re an asshole. There’s a big difference. You’re a disrespectful asshole.
— Whitey Morgan again. This and the preceding are from an especially good interview with Country Music Examiner’s Jessica Blankenship.

[Chase] Rice doesn’t like to bring it up, but he placed second on 2010’s Survivor: Nicaragua. “Survivor wasn’t my thing,” he says. “I like being honest with people. I like telling them what’s going to happen.” He played down his musical aspirations on the show. “I wanted to be about the music instead of being some d-bag that goes on TV to promote his music.” When his season was done, “I tried to make Survivor disappear. Now, three or four years later, people don’t even know I did the show. I am so proud of that.”
— Chase Rice to USA Today. Maybe he didn’t think this through very well.

It’s such a strange marriage, a song and someone that sings it. When that works, it really works and when it doesn’t, it doesn’t. So I’m not a good judge of that sometimes. I write the songs and hand it over to the world and see what happens. But the things that I’ve written for people that have been hits, I don’t know that I would have directed them in the right path, but they definitely wound up on the right path. I always just try to write the best songs that I can at any given time and sometimes those songs are for me, and sometimes they’re for other people. And that’s to be evaluated after the fact.
— Chris Stapleton on songs finding their way.

If you look back through the history of country music, it’s become redundant many, many times and then all of the sudden something new would break out and then it would all start moving that direction. It’s a cycle. I think when Gretchen Wilson came out with “Redneck Woman” she broke the redundancy of what was going on with some of the female music that was coming out at that time.
— John Rich, responding to a question about bro country, on the cyclical nature of the music business.

Big thanks to the couple of heroes who helped us mark six years of quote roundups by donating.

Tony Martinez, ladies and gentlemen.


  1. Chris says


    Re: Dallas Davidson and Craig Wiseman…what you’re writing isn’t what people want to hear, it’s what radio consultants say they want to hear; you wanna know what people want to hear, YouTube any hit country song from the 80s-90s and look at the comments. The answer is clear

    Rodney Clawson is clearly part of the problem, not the solution; we need more minds like Aaron Watson.

    Chris Cagle and Sammy Kershaw hit the nail right on the head

    I’m so disappointed in Brad Paisley and Joe Nichols, especially Brad…every time he opens his mouth, I lose a little more respect for him.

    Knowing Vince Gill as I did in college, I can attest fully to Holly Williams’ quote

    Lyle Lovett and Reba are awesome

    • CountryMusicSucks says

      Unlike Chris, I think that radio consultants are a far better source of information on “what people want to hear” on the radio than comments on youtube videos featuring 1980s and 1990s country songs. At least the programmers can claim some semblance of a scientific approach.

      Anyway, the “bro-country” trend may well have peaked. There certainly is a simmering backlash against it at least in the press. Its understandable that bro-country songwriters wish to deny that there is a backlash and that they wish to emphasize that bro-country is still making money. But at some point bro-country will lose mass appeal, just like past trends. However, I do suspect there is still more money to be made from bro-country. Its not dead yet and its probably not even on life support yet.

      • the pistolero says

        I think that radio consultants are a far better source of information on “what people want to hear” on the radio than comments on youtube videos featuring 1980s and 1990s country songs. At least the programmers can claim some semblance of a scientific approach.

        This may be true, but in that light it deserves to be pointed out that radio programmers have been sounding the alarm about current trends burning out for a while now, at least as recently as the beginning of this year. Money graf from WCTK’s Program Director Bob Walker:

        “As long as artists and labels make a big portion of their money from touring, we are going to continue to get a lot of disposable songs that pound out beats per minute, and burn just as quickly. If we do not have a solid library of gold from this era, we will pay the price in a few years.”

        And then we have this. Money graf, from Edison Research’s Larry Rosin:

        “I believe that we as an industry have really made a mistake in our conception of our own stations. While many people don’t want to listen to classic country music, some still do, and we’ve let them float away…We run the risk that we just are more and more pleasing to fewer and fewer people until all we are is ecstatically pleasing a tiny, unsustainable number of people.”

        Both of those takes are quite the stark contrast to what the likes of Wiseman and Davidson are saying.

        • CountryMusicSucks says

          I think the quotes offered by the pistolero are surely reasonable. If country programers cater exclusively to “bro-country” fans, their stations may be in trouble when bro-country runs its course.

          I’d add the obvious: that Davidson and Wiseman are hardly unbiased: when the bro-country bandwagon breaks down, they will have to hitch onto a new bandwagon or face serious financial consequences. They have good reason to deny that there is a backlash to bro-country and they have good reason to emphasize what continuing success bro-country has.

          One day bro-country will be gone. Hopefully sooner than later: the songs, taken together, are sexist and shallow.

          • Chris says

            I just feel like country music fans and listeners are better judges of what they themselves want to hear than consultants who usually have little to no connection to the music in question

  2. says

    Great and/or interesting quotes this week!

    Interesting that programmers have expressed that they’re tired of this kind of music!

    Also interesting that Clawson would describe the sex and drug references as vague. It all seemed very overt to me.

    Great quote from Billy Joe Shaver on Tom T. Hall.:)

    I don’t necessarily agree that Paisley was talking out of both sides of his mouth. I don’t subscribe to the Tipper Gore way of thinking that music make people do bad things. However, I do think that it’s likely that the constant barrage of that kind of music seems to be most appealing to people who are less thoughtful and prone to do crazy/dangerous things in the name of a good time.

    I love the Holly Williams quote, of course!

    And that’s a very cool story from Lyle Lovett about Reba’s kindness/generosity toward him!

  3. the pistolero says

    Somehow I’m not surprised that it’s all about the Benjamins to Dallas Davidson and Craig Wiseman. Neither one of those jagoffs has ever penned anything anyone’s going to call classic in 20 years. And Wiseman can say what he wants, but the lion’s share of the people who bought up the tickets to that FGL show probably weren’t even listening to country music three years ago.

    Say what you will about Chris Cagle, and I’ll say the same thing about him that I did Messrs. Davidson and Wiseman, but he’s got a point. Mainstream “country” anymore is more or less just a bunch of pretty boys with no respect for the genre.

    Whitey Morgan nailed it right on with the whole “outlaw vs. asshole” thing.

  4. CraigR. says

    I love that Tom T. Hall was jealous of another songwriter’s song. I think he was the best and I love how another song humbled him. That’s a great story. As is the Reba and Lyle story. That is really what country music is really missing: country artists respecting the music of other country artists and supporting them. Once that happens the fans are exposed to a diversity of country music.

    As for Brad, and Joe Don- I would keep quiet unless I had a good idea on how to change the environment of concert going. They are protesting too much.

    And Chris Cagle once was the pretty boy. Maybe if he had paid more attention to his music then he could be like Billy Joe now.


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