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I was always on the fence. I was trying to maintain the integrity of country music and also fit into the commercial world. You want everything you do to be a big hit, but how bad do you want it? What are you willing to do? Where are you willing to bend? ●
— Lee Ann Womack to Peter Cooper, in an article that also sees Cooper pointing out the 4+ year gap since someone hit No. 1 on the country chart with a song that wasn’t co-written. Yikes.
It’s less important now because there are so many avenues to get music out there that you don’t have to be beholden to – “Well, the song has to be a certain length, we have to get to the hook at a certain time, you can’t sing about this, you can’t sing about that, we need to have this instrumentation” – you’re not beholden to that anymore. I don’t worry about that like I used to. ●
— Lee Ann Womack to Juli Thanki. Womack’s The Way I’m Livin’ arrives on Tuesday.
From the very beginning, I knew that I wasn’t going to go in and sing the phone book and make people think that I’m great. It’s not about that. It’s not about me being this great vocalist. It’s about communication, telling stories and doing things the way that I do them. […] The song, the song, the song is the most important thing. Artists come and go, whether they have a five-year career or a 10-year career or a 20-year career, artists still come and go. What stays is the music that they make. ●
— Tim McGraw. His unfortunately-titled new album is Sundown Heaven Town.
It stopped the room and it’s like ‘Oh my God. We’re gonna have to deal with this guy.’ ●
— Scott Borchetta on hearing McGraw sing “Don’t Take the Girl” at a New Faces show in 1994.
As a writer, I look at what Miranda has done and try to suggest things she hasn’t tried. The great thing is I don’t have to hold back. I dare to suck, basically, and she either gravitates towards it or doesn’t. I write rock songs and it’s country because she makes it country. Even her phrasing is different than mine. When I sing a song, it sounds rock and when she sings, it sounds country. I think that’s how you can find a great song, when it sounds good no matter who sings it. ●
— Natalie Hemby (“Automatic,” “White Liar,” “Only Prettier”) on working with Miranda Lambert.
Ironically, the song is actually a metaphor comparing the soothing yet completely addictive and damaging effects of hard narcotic opiates to the negative sociological impact of organized religion and blind faith when forced upon society and used as a political tool by self-righteous, thinly-veiled bigots to control and manipulate the masses and enhance the suffering of impoverished, lower class citizens. ●
— Sturgill Simpson, responding to those offended when he sang ‘goddamn’ during a performance of “Living the Dream” on Conan O’Brien’s show.
Music Row is in a very specific business. And it’s not necessarily in like helping one discover their own artistic path. And I was, you know, a good girl from the South trying to do what I was told and what I was being paid to do but there was just enough quirkiness and inability… it wasn’t unwillingness, it was an inability to cooperate and be compliant.
So I kept writing weird songs and never did quite fit in. So that had to play out and once that played out, I stole some demos from Warner/Chappell and made a little indie record and met (Thirty Tigers president) David Macias. He started developing me, giving me the platform to do whatever I wanted with resources. And that was the first time I had that, where I was in charge. ●
— Elizabeth Cook, recounting some personal history for The Huffington Post.
I glanced down for a moment, and when I looked back at the stage, Brooks had suddenly appeared, as if out of thin air. After a dramatic Michael Jackson pause that felt like an eternity, he exploded toward the audience, singing a weird, percussive, mostly indecipherable new song called “Man Against the Machine.” It was all too much; Brooks wasn’t merely aiming to blow our minds, he was attempting to annihilate all the flesh and muscle mass situated above our necks. The dinosaur had subsumed George Jones. The audience just stood there stunned, their camera phones blinking dumbly at the carnage. ●
— From a Grantland review of Garth Brooks’ first comeback show in Chicago.
“We’re all singing about the same thing,” says [Angaleena] Presley, alluding to the preponderance of sex and alcohol on contemporary country radio. “It’s just that some people are singing about the party, and some people are singing about the consequences of the party. Let’s face it: In real life, more people want to go to the party than want to think about waking up the next day in a pool of vomit regretting what they’ve done the night before.” ●
— From Tom Roland’s Billboard Country Update article, “Americana Embraces Hyper-Country Acts Mainstream Country Does Not.” Presley’s American Middle Class arrives next month.
Just walking into the mall, I’d be like, ‘Oh, I just saw Tim McGraw and Faith Hill going into the gym.’ Same neighborhood. On a different trip, I saw Keith Urban going into FedEx. It’s like that. It’s kind of a surreal place in that way. It makes me appreciate the Robert Altman movie Nashville just for how… it captured some of the surreal part of that, where it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re just normal folks, artists going over to FedEx, but we’re also huge stars known outside this world for great talent.’ ●
— Laura Cantrell on hanging around Nashville.
Every day we go to speech therapy and physical therapy and occupational therapy. We’re learning words and phrases, learning to sing, of course, the music and the songs come easy for him, just the enunciation of words. But he’s working on it! He’s got the heart of a warrior and he doesn’t stop. ●
— A rare Randy Travis update, via fiancee Mary Davis.
“I don’t jump for joy. If I get excited, nobody knows.” I think about that all the time when I’m onstage. That if an audience seems a little bit lacklustre it’s because it’s full of people more like me, rather than people going f**king bananas because I would never do that. If I could be transported to some of the greatest concerts of all time I would still sit there scratching my chin, even though inside I would be ecstatic. ●
— Jeff Tweedy on mellowness.
People are adults and are responsible for their own actions. You come to a show and plan on drinking, get a driver. Call a cab. That’s things that adults should just know. We can’t make people do that stuff. ●
— Jason Aldean, again disclaiming responsibility for fan misbehavior at concerts. But how many of the high-profile incidents have involved people driving home drunk? Some of the worst of it has been the stuff happening AT and DURING the parties these acts are throwing.
Luke [Bryan] has become a major star here in the last couple of years, and it seems like every damn artist who comes out now has got a damn baseball cap on or a hat turned around backward, trying to cop his vibe. Florida Georgia Line is killing it right now — and the next thing you’re going to see is a bunch of duos coming out, all tatted up. If the people that run the record business in Nashville find something that works, they will run it into the ground. ●
— Jason Aldean on copycats.
I think a lot of the stuff that people complain about that’s on the radio is not because of a phenomenon, like Florida Georgia Line. Those guys are doing what they’re doing. It’s the 20 people who try to copy it because they see that it worked — I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t want to know what’s happening right now: I want to get on there with what’s really in my heart to write. ●
— Charlie Worsham, echoing Aldean with less bitterness.
My whole thing about revisiting this stuff and replanting it in the minds of young bluegrass players coming up is that Alison Krauss and Chris Thile did not invent bluegrass. They weren’t the first high-level bluegrass artists who had their team together or anything like that.
Flatt & Scruggs had it all. They had great musicianship. They had a show that entertained, which is something that bluegrass music has kind of lost. I would like to inject a little bit of what they did back into the mainstream just to juice it up again. ●
— Jerry Douglas on his Earls Of Leicester project with Shawn Camp, Tim O’Brien, Barry Bales, Charlie Cushman, and Johnny Warren.
I don’t claim to know the possibilities of anything I write or record, realizing that much of it falls by the wayside, and conversely, sometimes dark horses win. I’ve also learned that it’s best not to put a piece of music in some sorta box, to define what it is too closely, or to rate it for quality. The listener has control of that and I’m often surprised at the reaction, and yet I view all reactions as valid on their own terms. Music is useful in so many varying ways – and each way puts it in a different context. ●
— Tim O’Brien on letting music go where it will.
The music that occurs naturally to me has always been a problem to categorize because it reflects so many influences. In my experience, what seems to happen is people who don’t listen to country music think of me as country, and those who do listen to country don’t think of me as country. ●
— Lyle Lovett.
Eric Church is just a great artist. He’s a really great performer and great songwriter. He’s got the total package. When we did our shows together during the tour he came out and, well, he said I’m not going to bring my band. I’m just going to do a set just me and my guitar.
And I’m going well all right. If that what he wants to do that’s fine. That’s going to be a little difficult I think to pull off because you’ve got 20,000 people there and you’re doing an hour or whatever it was he was going to do just him and his guitar. And not too many people could pull that off but he did. He pulled it off and the crowd loved it. ●
— George Strait on Eric Church.
If you look at all the people they’ve had on their docket, I was bringing something a little different. I will go on record and say that… if you look at someone like Tim McGraw, who has sold them millions of records, he and I still had the same problems with that label. LeAnn Rimes had the same problem with that label. Merle Haggard had the same problems with that label. It’s just one of those things: They don’t respect their artists very well. Even if you sell them a billion dollars of music, they’ll still give you a hard time. ●
— Hank III on Curb Records.
Nearly a decade after the major record companies settled charges that they violated federal payola laws—which forbid radio stations from playing songs in exchange for payment without disclosing the arrangement on the airwaves—another, legal method has largely replaced yesterday’s pay-for-airplay schemes. One veteran promoter calls it “showola.”
Artists have long played for peanuts at radio stations’ holiday shows and summer jams to promote their records. But these cut-rate appearances have now become the main currency that record labels and promoters use to convince radio programmers to play their songs. That is, in part, because they have little else of value to offer, as the music industry’s promotion budgets have shriveled. ●
— From Hannah Karp’s Wall Street Journal article on the changing face of big-time music promotion, “Why Taylor Swift and One Direction Play for Peanuts.”