Quotable Country – 08/17/14 Edition


Click the bullet after each quote to visit the source.

I just kind of side in with whoever I’m with on things. Call it two-faced, or whatever, but if you show your true face every time, you’re in trouble, you know? People cause me to project a different personality, and the effect of their personality on me causes me to halter somewhat. I’ve tried to have a personality that goes along with the saying ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ You go down there to Rome and act like a gung-ho Texan, and some Italian might walk up and whip your ass.
— Shape-shifting country legend Merle Haggard, in a lengthy profile of him published by The New Yorker in 1990. (h/t Both Kinds of Music)

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t written ‘Okie.’ Not that I’m ashamed of it. I’m not sure but what bothers me most is the people that identify with it. There is the extremity out there. I don’t know. It made people forget that I might be a much more musical artist than they give me credit for. I was indelibly stamped with this political image—this political, musical spokesman, or whatever. I had to play that song every night for eighteen years. And sometimes, out of a little bit of rebellious meanness, you know, I say I’m not going to do it. But very seldom. Your own songs become like living creatures. They are like children. They are individuals. You forgive them. God dang, you fall back in love with ’em, you know?
— Same Haggard profile. Great read. I hadn’t seen it before.

He was one of them. He was all of them. He was every man who worked hard, played by the rules, and still couldn’t get ahead. He was every man who ever felt misunderstood, left behind, or just plain invisible. He gave them all a voice by telling their story, and for two or three minutes at a time, restored some of the dignity that the world had slowly chipped away, one grinding day at a time.
— Speaking of which, Haggard just topped Country Universe’s years-long countdown of country’s 100 Greatest Men. The whole series has been great fun to read. Thanks, Kevin!

I’m just hoping I don’t break down and cry when somebody comes in. I want (guests) to see the humility of what our parents were. My sisters and myself waxed the floors every Saturday so you could see yourself in them. Mama was extremely clean. That’s one of the precious things she taught me. I want them to see the simplicity and the value of that life.
— Joanne Cash Yates, Johnny’s little sister, on the grand opening of the newly restored Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess, Arkansas.

I met him in Phoenix. He was playing a club down there, before he ever went to Nashville. We were both from Texas, so we had a lot to talk about—sit there and lie to each other. But then I saw his show and said, ‘You know, you ought to go to Nashville.’ And he told me, ‘Aw, I’m doing alright here.’ And I said, ‘How much you making here?’ And he said, ‘400 dollars a night.’ And I said, ‘Well s–t, stay here!’ But he didn’t listen to me.
— Willie Nelson on meeting Waylon.

“I know the critics say that it’s dead, but to me, the rock format now lives in country,” says CMT senior vp music strategy Leslie Fram, a former rock programmer at WRXP New York and WNNX Atlanta. “That’s where the guitars are now, and those are the fans that want to go and pump their fists in the air. They’re not getting that at a rock concert anymore.”
— From Billboard Country Update: “Hard Rock Finds A Home Sweet Home In Country.”

You can almost see the testosterone in the air when that guitar riff starts and the kick drum punches you in the chest. That really kind of embraces the way I feel in those moments when there’s about to be a physical confrontation. Those guitars kind of mirror that feeling. There’s adrenaline, just being an alpha male.
— Brantley Gilbert, for whom music is about being an alpha male. Oh dear.

[That’s] the place where I smoked more cigarettes than in my entire life. There’s just something about being around Jay Joyce that you want to smoke a cigarette. He’d be over that sound board with his hood up and a cigarette hangin’ out of his mouth, and you’re like, ‘Man, I wanna be cool like that.’
— Thomas Rhett on working with Eric Church’s longtime producer in the studio.

There’s no point in going halfway to the truth. It only matters if you go all the way there and we were all committed to mining as deep as possible to get there, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable the writing process was. I wrote these songs with Mary Gauthier, Gretchen Peters, Neilson Hubbard, and Rod Picott; they are all amazing writers who bring a huge amount of integrity and courage to the writing process. They are also some of my closest friends, so it was easy to get deeply personal and dismantle any pretense. It also comes down to what you and your co-writer are writing the song for — if it’s for the charts and for commercial sales, then honesty doesn’t necessarily have to drive the process; but if you’re writing because you want to express your truth, then digging deep in an honest way is the only way to go.
— Irish singer-songwriter Ben Glover, whose new album Atlantic arrives in a couple weeks.

You know, the crazy thing is it took us seven years to get it right. We wrote it, demoed it, turned it in and got absolutely no response. We were so convinced we had a classic, we’d get together for years and think, “What is wrong with it? Why isn’t it resonating?” And finally, what we figured out was, “It’s too complicated. There’s too much story.” We made it simpler and simpler and simpler. We took out a lot of information and kind of drilled it down to the essence. As soon as we demoed that (version), we turned it in, and it was a palpable reaction.
— Tom Douglas on co-writing “The House That Built Me” with Allen Shamblin.

This is an album where I basically spent all the time with the focus of, “What will my fans like?” This is an album with them in mind. And that’s what I like as well. I listen to the same things that a lot of my fans do and I grew up in much the same way they’re growing up.
— Brad Paisley’s next album was made especially for those of his fans who – telling detail alert! – are still in the process of growing up. So all you old people can look elsewhere.

There are women making really great music that is not getting played on the radio. My answer to that was making this record… I can’t do bro country. [Laughs] I can’t make a record that they will play on the radio right now, but I still want to make music. Am I supposed to just sit here and wait it out? No! You have to go out and create something. This is my creative outlet.
— Martina McBride, explaining why the time was right for an album of soul and R&B covers.

So you quit B&D cause you were ready to do your own thing, what you wanted. Now you’re saying you put songs on the album that you thought radio wanted? So you still didn’t do what you wanted? That’s confusing. You put out a brand new album, played 2 awesome Strait shows and then vanished off the face of the earth. Don’t see how that helps your album at all.
— A fan wrote a very frank letter to Ronnie Dunn, which Dunn then posted and responded to on his Facebook page a couple weeks back. An interesting read with good points being raised.

When they called me and asked me about it, I said, ‘I don’t know,’ and then they told me the story, and I said, ‘I have to do that.’ It was fun to do it, and they seemed to love how it turned out.
— Kenny Rogers on his recent Geico commercial.

The old joke is to say one likes both types of music: country and Western. That’s not easy anymore. There still are two types, only now it’s run-of-the-mill, generic pop country, or cliché-free, from-the-heart-because-the-song-matters country.
— Someone wrote this and thought it made enough sense to publish. Will wonders never cease?

Once upon a time, country was better than any other genre at doing ‘issue’ songs. Now, they’ve all but abandoned that, with the rare exceptions that have something to do with cancer or patriotism, and even then, I’m thinking more of a few years ago than right now. I’d say there are at least a couple of reasons for that. ‘Bro-country’ is so dominant right now that it’s hard to put out a song that isn’t about tailgating or beer or partying or booty-chasing. [...] There used to be a lot of whiplash on country radio, as you’d go right from a drinking song into a somebody-died song. I think eventually the programmers noticed the whiplash and decided not to jolt their listeners around like that. Guess which type of song lost out? Not the party songs.
— Chris Willman, quoted in the Washington Post.

There’s a lot of songs these days about partying and drinking, and about getting carried away – ‘I can drink to that all night’ – and a lot of people don’t talk about what can happen after the party, and the repercussions of these decisions that you make. But I really think that country is ready to take a turn. I think that people are ready to hear story-songs again. There’s a lot of really incredible writers down in Nashville right now. I’ll use [Brandy] Clark as an example, [Kacey] Musgraves, Ashley Monroe: they’re really not afraid. They’re really taking country back to where it came from, what it truly is, where it’s not afraid to talk about these things that other people are afraid to touch on… I think country is ready to take a turn back to [that], where you’re singing about real problems.
— Canadian country artist Kira Isabella, whose latest single is about date rape.

I don’t think you can underestimate Dylan’s influence. With songwriters, everyone after him who wrote songs that were even remotely connected to the folk tradition, we owe a debt to Bob Dylan. His poetry, his unique approach to writing, his musicologist instincts — he knows everything that came before him and the debt he owes to them, which I think is really the sign of a great artist.
— Rosanne Cash, who hopefully meant (or said) “overestimate.”

It’ll help distinguish us from that crowd, which is always a good thing. I never listened to hip-hop, and it never meant anything to me whatsoever.
— Frankie Ballard, a Bob Seger acolyte, citing his lack of hip-hop influences as something that makes him distinctive among country artists. Sad but true.

People order something, we pack it up in our living room, and we put in a little thank you note. There’s no rock star façade to any of this. We treat it like we own a diner out on the corner. People come in, they know our names, and we all know their names. People have responded really well to that.
— Otis Gibbs on making a living in music, indie style. Gibbs recently devoted an entire episode of his awesome podcast to his new album Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth, out Tuesday.

I usually don’t. Sometimes my publicist or manager will send me some that are really good, but I feel like it can become a bad habit to take all that to heart. The good is great but then there can also be bad ones, and I think if you’re too hard on yourself about it you’ll over-think everything.
— Miranda Lambert on reading her own reviews.

The reason it worked is that I didn’t get in her way. With Taylor, it really was editing. That’s never anything that she said — that’s just how it was! At some point I wondered if I was selling myself short by saying that, because songwriting is songwriting. But with her, that’s really what I do, and it’s unlike the way I’ve written with anybody else before or since. A lot of it with Taylor was editing and moving this there and saying, ‘Well, what if we said it like this?’ I can remember times when I would try and throw out an idea for a new song: ‘How about we write this?’ And she would just go, ‘Yeah, I don’t think so. Go and write that with somebody else.’ Because Taylor always wanted to write her songs. And there was always so much going on in her brain, you just had to help her get it out and get it down. She always has a reason behind why she’s writing something. She’s lived it or felt it. She’s not making it up.
— Liz Rose on her co-writing relationship with Taylor Swift.


  1. the pistolero says

    the rock format now lives in country

    And nobody sees a damn thing wrong with this. Jesus wept. Yes, everybody knows Metallica and Motley Crue songs, but if that’s the only or even the biggest reason you play those songs, as it seems to be with Luke Bryan, then you’re a freaking tool.

    • Jack Williams says

      I think it’s a frivolous, cliche ridden brand of hard rock that’s getting played on the pop country stations. I could be wrong, but I find it hard to believe that Metallica fans are getting their rock fix on these country stations. Motley Crue fans? Sure.

  2. says

    I have to give Martina McBride credit for standing up and saying she can’t do Bro-Country, but still wants to make music. So what if she made an album of Soul and R&B covers? At least she’s still out there.

    Too many great artists, Patty Loveless chief among them, just give up when the kind of music they made isn’t popular anymore. The answer isn’t to give up, but to go and start making passion projects once radio stops playing you. Legacy albums if you will. The fans will be there for great music from great artists.

  3. CraigR. says

    To Brad Paisley: Hey Brad. While you were thinking so hard I grew up, and passed your music by.

    To Thomas Rhett and your low IQ friend Gilbert: Shut up.

    To Martina: You still have one of the greatest voices of all time. I would listen to you sing the alphabet.

    To Merle: Who ever you are I am right there with you- thank you.


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