Click the bullet after each quote to visit the source.
If he were here, he’d be deeply grateful, then probably say, ‘Let’s go home and eat some beans and ‘taters.’ ●
— Tommy Cash, at the unveiling of brother Johnny’s star on the Music City Walk of Fame.
We went in there and we were like, ‘We need a steel guitar player. We need fiddle. We need banjo. We need mandolin. We want this. Don’t do the slammin’ electric guitars — only on these two songs.’ ●
— Maddie & Tae’s Maddie Marlow on the recording of Start Here.
You want to find the balance between art and commerce. […] If I could just make the record I wanted to make, I’d hire the countriest guys in Nashville. Kenny Sears, Opry members, the Time Jumpers. Maybe Vince Gill to come sing. And we’d make a country record that probably wouldn’t get sold at all. Lots of twin fiddles, steel guitars, country shuffles and western swing. […] And I would love to. But I’m not that rich. ●
— Joe Nichols, underestimating (I think) the probable reception of a very strong traditional country record by a guy with his voice.
Q: Do you feel you’re at the point where you only want to record music that reflects who you are now?
A: It’s never strictly about music, because it can’t be that way. There are too many people invested in my career to just go, “I am strictly based upon what you hear on my album, and that’s what it is, take it or leave it, this is what I am.” I’ve got management and labels, radio guys, promoters looking to do a tour. You can’t start a tour if you don’t have the right songs to support it. There’s money that’s being spent. I got guys in a crew and I feel responsible for their lifestyles, their families and their livelihood. I can’t afford to be selfish, nor do I want to be. ●
— Jake Owen. Now that you’ve worked through his answer, go back to the beginning and look at the question that prompted it again. How does any of this keep him from making music that reflects who he is?
But I think that the country music culture is being shaped by a new generation of label heads on Music Row. I was in a studio when someone got a call from one of the other labels. The head of the label would call the producer and say, ‘This sound isn’t working. We want it to be more like this. We want it to be more like that.’ He wouldn’t even talk to the artist! That kind of schooled me on how it normally goes now. ●
— Clint Black.
We were a bunch of guys who didn’t have any idea what we were doing, but we had Kris’ songs. As long as you have those brilliant songs, it didn’t matter how bad you played, or how bad he sang on ’em sometimes. It was one of those magical things that really worked, and I don’t think could ever happen again. ●
— Donnie Fritts on the early days of playing in Kris Kristofferson’s band.
If a song’s message resonates with me, that’s really all that matters. I find that if you always keep things really honest and conversational, we’re all humans going through the same things and there are going to be people out there who are definitely going to relate. That’s why I love country music. It integrates into all parts of life, even the weird ones. ●
— Kacey Musgraves.
The most difficult thing to do is have a good idea. If you have a decent idea, the songs are the easy part. Actually having something to say is the hard part. If you get an idea for a song, then it pulls you along. […] Songs that I’ve written in the past that I feel are more crafted, they end up being the songs that I don’t necessarily play. They’re not songs I stay involved with for a long time. ●
— Lyle Lovett on songwriting.
I spend a lot of time on them. Usually I’ll go through four or five versions of a song. Sometimes I’ll write verses and feel like they’re there and solid, and I’ll write two or three different choruses, either slightly or completely different. I haven’t always done that but it serves me well, I think. If you’re writing something [and] you want it to be concise, and you’re writing from a narrative tradition, it’s important to spend the time editing. ●
— Jason Isbell with a different take.
The rule in Nashville is if you got the song, you’re allowed in. Really good songs are really hard to come by. There are 34,000 songwriters working on that every single day. I showed up with ‘Mercy Now’ and ‘I Drink’ and they let me in and I’ve been allowed in for the last while. ●
— Mary Gauthier.
I think [modern country is] an unlistenable waste of time. Look at Toby Keith. I have nothing against Toby Keith one way or the other, but his songs are written by four- and five-people committees. They want it to sound a little like Toby’s last record and a little like Alan Jackson and a little like this guy. It’s very derivative, so you won’t find anything new, and you sure won’t find anything good. Honestly, it’s arguable that good song has been written in Nashville since the 1970s. Maybe we’ve exhausted the gene pool. Maybe it can’t be done anymore. ●
— When you’re Kinky Friedman, why bother with coherent arguments?
All that being said, I think that there are some absolute and time-honored standards that apply — or ought to apply to all types of music — standards having to do with lyric, melody, arrangement, musicianship, production, etc. — and I feel we have a duty, especially in a more traditional form like country to honor those standards, at least to some degree. I’m not saying the envelope can’t be pushed, here and there, but there’s a certain standard of authenticity, quality and integrity that was set a long time ago by some of the greats like Hank Williams, Kitty Wells, Bill Monroe, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Dottie West, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard and others. I know that life and culture in this country is changing. It’s becoming less and less rural and more suburban and urban, but that doesn’t mean that the pillars, the foundations of real country music have to be watered down and turned into formulaic pop music that spouts faux country clichés about pickup trucks, dirt roads and beer. I spent my entire adolescence driving trucks (and tractors) on dirt roads and drinking beer. That ain’t new; that was everyday life. There’s a deeper well to draw from than that and some of these young songwriters ought to be dipping that bucket a lot further down into that well than they are today. ●
— Don Henley lays it down. He goes on to name Jason Isbell, Jeffrey Foucault, Ashley Monroe, Jamey Johnson, J.P. Harris & the Tough Choices, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Sturgill Simpson, Andrew Combs, Cale Tyson, Kelsey Waldon, Striking Matches, The Milk Carton Kids, and Shovels & Rope as artists who are digging deeper. Funny how he actually seems to know what he’s talking about, huh?
A programmer who asked not to be named says, “The big elephant in the room is labels telling us it’s ‘push week.’ I’ll tell [promotion execs], ‘I’m just waiting for you to tell me what my rotations are going to be.’ Radio’s problem is when you open the door and play along once, they’re on you like piranhas.”
McKay adds, “I’ll have conversations with my record friends asking, ‘Who is supposed to be landing at No. 1 this week?’ It’s so coordinated, at what point does the audience have anything to do with it?” ●
— From a Country Aircheck report on the near disappearance of multi-week No. 1s in country as the churn of aspirants to the top gets ever more carefully orchestrated.
“We said, ‘We’re not getting hits anyway. Let’s not even care remotely about whether our songs sound country or whatever. Let’s just do what we do,’ ” recalls Rosen.
That’s when things began to click. ●
— Of course it is. From a Billboard piece on Old Dominion.
It doesn’t thrill me, but I don’t lose sleep over it. It’s kind of the same way I feel about McDonald’s burgers, right? They’re kind of there, they’re kind of salty and tasty every once in awhile, but for the most part, they’re just empty. It’s just a function of how corporate structures work. That type of music has a different goal. ●
— Corb Lund on getting less recognition than mainstream country acts. His new album is Things That Can’t Be Undone.
Guys in particular, we’re not much on lyrics. Guys just like a good groove, and a lot of the kids are that way. I know this because I have kids. It’s about the groove, and this song has a great groove. ●
— Craig Morgan on “When I’m Gone” and the alleged tastes of male listeners.
I was like a lightning rod for supporting the troops. It was like, ‘What did I do wrong?’ Like, ‘When did you become the Anti-Christ for supporting the troops?’ When did that become political? ●
— Toby Keith on “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue,” which was subtitled “The Angry American.” Okay, so maybe some guys aren’t much on lyrics…
I choked up a lot seeing people’s responses. Basically, it’s almost like seeing what people say about you after you might have been dead and still being around to read it. It’s been absolutely overwhelming. Everything from past friends to people at all levels of the industry just reaching out and showing the love, it’s overshadowed any of the pain I went through. It’s made the pain seem like such a small thing. ●
— Dave Brainard on the outpouring of support he’s received since being assaulted.
All my life I’ve had music flowing through my head. You either have to pitch yourself as a musician or a mental patient. ●
— Mac McAnally to Juli Thanki.