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There is no eye contact anymore. At my concerts when I’m performing, sometimes all I notice are people’s phones. It’s very distracting. I think about the people who paid all this money to be in the front row, and they’re holding up their phones. They could have sat at home and watched me on YouTube. ●
— Kellie Pickler on the state of live performance today.
It’s been a good run recently. But I hit dry spells all the time. I get so frustrated, and want to throw my guitar against the wall or move away, it’s so dramatic. Some writers can take a [long] break, and come back super-refreshed. For me, it’s a muscle that I like to keep working out. But in the same breath, it’s healthy. I couldn’t do all those songs by myself. Those songs are because of my co-writers as well. We lean on each other very heavily. ●
— Hillary Lindsey on her track record as a hit songwriter.
Look, I came here sleeping in a van. All I ever wanted to be was a songwriter. That’s my identity. That’s who I am. When I get this (award), and it goes home, the Grammy and the CMA Awards, all of those things go to the side. This (award) goes dead center, because this is it. ●
— Craig Wiseman, being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Sincerity of lyrics, sung with soul and putting the dressing on it with modern production. That’s the key to winning back over a lot of fans who are really on the fence about where country music is today. To ignore that and say, ‘Oh no, just keep feeding them what we’re feeding them. They’re gonna buy it,’ that is complete horseshit. They’re not buying it. The music was becoming stagnant, very generic-sounding. At least now there’s some character to it — even though it might not be that palatable. I think it’ll work out in the end, but we need to get there faster than we’re doing. ●
— Clay Walker, a little unclear on which era or style of music he’s criticizing.
The majority of people have become the minority. But I believe they’re probably the majority still in country music. ●
— “Freaks Like Me” songwriter Monty Criswell, evoking some uncomfortable racial and political currents he probably didn’t mean to.
“There was no passion for what I was doing, the music I was making. We didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of songs and a lot of single choices and it wasn’t a good working relationship at all. It was a bad marriage.”
“Sunny and 75″ was a trust fall. The 2013 single — his first on Red Bow Records, a division of Broken Bow — was slicker and more pop-friendly than anything he’d released previously, and when the label brought it to him, Nichols was skeptical. Red Bow representatives challenged him to try the song, thinking that his traditional voice would pull even the slickest production back to a realm he felt comfortable in. “They were right,” Nichols says of the chart-topping, gold-certified hit. “I wouldn’t have done that had they not encouraged me to do that.” ●
— Joe Nichols, not-all-that-convincingly contrasting his artistic freedom under past and current label deals. Sounds like he’s still making compromises he’d rather not make.
Everyone loses when music gets made solely out of a sense of obligation or the quest for a dollar, but that doesn’t mean that quality music and financial success are naturally opposed. To the contrary, substance and connection are what drive sales long into the future. The irony in hearing artists speak about their need to get paid is that it’s their own boldness and passion that will ultimately create an economically viable career in the long run… ●
— Grady Smith, writing for The Guardian.
I’ve even started disliking these songs that I have written about a girl and a truck and a perfect night. I don’t dislike the ones I have put out. I just dislike the amount of songs I put out about that sort of subject matter. […] It will be all about depth in this next record. If there is any way to find out who someone truly is, it’s through hearing about the deepest parts of their lives. That’s what these new songs will have in them. ●
— Chase Rice, half-apologizing for his past music.
Well, the music scene has changed. A lot of radio guys say to me, “We need you in the format,” but they want me to do the hip-hop [production] stuff. But I’m not that guy. There’s kids [doing that] and they’re rockin’, and they’re having fun and I don’t care. That’s not gonna change me. When I do talk to [younger artists], they say, “Well, you started this stuff with ‘[I Wanna] Talk About Me.’” I say “Yeah, but I didn’t keep going back and doing it!” I stepped out once and did a fun little rap kind of thing, and then I went back to my trade. But at the same time, they’re having fun. Everybody needs to back off and leave those guys alone. Even if it’s in a boutique way, country will always find its spot. And there’ll always be country music fans. ●
— Toby Keith.
My advice would be to just be true to yourself and be you. And they know what they want to do; they know what they want to do with their music. […] The most important voice to listen to is the one in your head because everybody is going to be telling you something else. As long as you go to sleep at night and go I made that decision, right or wrong, for me. That’s the most important thing. ●
— Trisha Yearwood to the young women of country.
Even calling this record 1989 was a risk. I had so many intense conversations where my label really tried to step in. I could tell they’d all gotten together and decided, ‘We gotta talk some sense into her. She’s had an established, astronomically successful career in country music. To shake that up would be the biggest mistake she ever makes.’ But to me, the safest thing I could do was take the biggest risk. […] But then I’d go into the label office, and they were like, ‘Can we talk about putting a fiddle and a steel-guitar solo on ‘Shake It Off’ to service country radio?’ I was trying to make the most honest record I could possibly make, and they were kind of asking me to be a little disingenuous about it: ‘Let’s capitalize on both markets.’ No, let’s not. Let’s choose a lane. ●
— Taylor Swift, speaking sense, to Chuck Klosterman.
I love strong women. I feel like in the characters in the stories, when they’re pushed to their breaking point and they end up winning, they fight back. I love that aspect. A lot of times, you don’t make them strong when you’re telling a story like that, until they’re pushed. Usually bad stuff has to happen before they reach that point. ●
— Carrie Underwood, seeming to suggest that country songs can be about growth and resilience and storytelling and things of that nature. What a kidder.
3. RaeLynn goes full-on philosophy major
The young singer ended her night with a full-on singalong to her 2014 track “God Made Girls,” but not before sharing the real meaning behind it. With a little twang in her voice, RaeLynn explained that girls make the world go round because there are “so many things boy can’t do without us. I had to write a song about it.” ●
— Country Weekly finds “God Made Girls” to be pretty deep, which is probably all you need to know about the state of affairs over at Nash Country Weekly these days.
I think that’s what makes Chris so great. The last 50 songs he’s written, you’d look at them, and be like, “There is no way Chris Stapleton wrote these songs.” And I think from the outside looking in, you probably think Chris hates what I do, and I hate what Chris does, but in reality, we’re ginormous fans of each other. I consider Chris Stapleton my idol. That voice is undeniable. He can do anything. He can write a jazz song, a pop song, a hip-hop song. There’s no genre limit to what that guy can do. ●
— Thomas Rhett on Chris Stapleton.
It’s about loving Mother Earth. Because we love her, we study her. And that study reveals her desperate state. It demands that we protect her from greedy and lethal exploitation. We need to be proactive about championing the causes that will preserve our natural resources and maintain a high quality of human and animal life. It’s a monumental task, but I have a deep belief in humanity. There are millions of good people committed to do the right thing. It’s just a matter of harnessing our energy, staying positive, remaining organized and fighting the good fight. Man, I’m ready to go! ●
— Willie Nelson, tribal elder and the coolest 82-year-old you’ll meet.
Honestly, I didn’t want to do it. I don’t try to think I’m something that I’m not. I am blessed to play music for a living, and I’m humbled by that. I thought, ‘How can a guy who has never had a song in the top 30 have a greatest-hits record?’ It didn’t make any sense to me. I fought the idea for a while, but I remember something that Eric Church said to me: ‘The numbers say you’ve had a bunch of hit songs based on the sales and the number of downloads. It just doesn’t show up on the singles chart.’ ●
— Colt Ford on releasing a greatest hits album despite a conspicuous lack of hits.
The thing that I’m worried about now with the ones that are coming up that are younger than me is that we have to find a way to convince them that country music didn’t start with Gram f**king Parsons. He’s not the end all be all of country. I love those Gram Parsons records, but Gram Parsons was Gram Parsons because he understood Merle Haggard, not because he understood Gram Parsons. I think that there’s something that has to be said for making sure that the history is part of the music. I do see that slipping further and further away every year. ●
— Justin Townes Earle to Offbeat.
It’s always the same bullshit. That’s the whole thing with the music business. I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to make records. I don’t feel like you can stand for what I believe and still feel good about what you’re doing in the music industry to make a living. It’s like we’re all sitting around–you’re not making any money unless you get syncs–so we’re all sitting around waiting for f**king dish soap companies to call us. And I don’t want to sell f**king dish soap. ●
— Justin Townes Earle again. Same interview.
I think the lesson learned is how can you ever be certain that you’re right at any given time if your opinions change from time to time. Politicians accused of flip-flopping may actually be going through honest change. Most people become more conservative as they grow older, but with me it’s been the opposite. I like to say, “Every time an old person dies and a baby is born, the world becomes a little less prejudiced.” But several years from now I might be appalled that I ever thought that. ●
— Bobby Braddock on evolving.
I think it’s kind of pompous for anyone to say they’re speaking for the “common man,” whatever or whoever that is. When people do that, I feel like they’re basically revealing that in their head they’ve divided the world up into some kind of “us and them” scenario. I have a lot of friends that work for a living, and to lump them all into one category would be kind of ignorant. On the other hand, I use a lot of vernacular in my songs, mostly because I grew up around it. I’m comfortable with working people. But music has a way of really cutting through social strata. One minute I’m talking to a meth-y biker at a show, the next minute I’m talking to an elected official. I’m not sure any one walk of life makes for more or less compelling songs. Everybody has a story. ●
— Corb Lund to NPR’s Ann Powers.