Click the bullet after each quote to visit the source.
Shortly after the midterm elections, Willie Nelson confessed with characteristic humor that he was disappointed by the results.
“I’ve got a new song called ‘Y’all Got the Ball,’ ” he said, referring to the Republican takeover of the United States Senate. ●
— From a New York Times feature on the friendship between Willie Nelson and Dan Rather.
I’ve been listening to Sirius a lot. I’m into Willie’s Roadhouse—it’s the best station on Sirius XM. I purchased a truck this year, and I only listen to country music in the truck. It’s one of my rules. ●
— Jimmy Fallon.
American roots music is on a cyclical journey, so it’ll keep coming around. It’s in an orbit that has a natural tendency. There’s a hunger; there’s something that’s not satisfied in the daily dietary needs of humanity. Pop culture has dumbed country music down so much. We just can’t live off the latest blockbuster— that shit’s not nourishing, and we’re smarter than that. ●
— Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor.
Nineties country started going pop, but it still had a soul to it. It still had a heartbeat. Miranda Lambert is really the only one I can sink my teeth into … To me, what country music was founded on was heart and soul and great stories and I feel it’s missing [right now]. ●
— LeAnn Rimes.
“It’s not the tight pants and all that other shit, you know? It’s the song,” he says. […] “Not everyone can be dedicated to it. I’m a songwriter first and then whatever else I do second… I enjoy the heck out of entertaining and I enjoy all the aspects of what comes with it, but the song is like the cheapest psychiatrist there is. And I pretty much need one all the time,” he says with a raspy laugh. ●
— Billy Joe Shaver, quoted in a nice Rolling Stone feature.
It’s hard to put a finger on people like him. I remember reading someplace in an interview, and I don’t know if it was Willie or Kris or somebody like that, but they were talking about the Outlaw Movement, and they said, ‘It’s mostly just a bunch of guys trying to sell themselves as Billy Joe Shaver really is.’ ●
— Todd Snider on Billy Joe Shaver.
I come from The MuzikMafia and our entire motto the whole time was, it doesn’t matter what you play or how you play it as long as it’s good, as long as it’s meaningful, as long as it moves people. We were the first ones really stomping around in Nashville to say, it doesn’t have to sound just like everything else. ●
— Gretchen Wilson, correctly identifying The MuzikMafia as the beginning of country’s outlaw movement.
On songs like these and ones that dealt explicitly with drunk people, like John Anderson’s Straight Tequila Night, there were tonal complexities – shades of regret, longing, and self-loathing – that are all but missing from songwriting today, replaced by the simple act of getting wasted. ●
— Grady Smith for The Guardian: “Does country music have a drinking problem?”
Music used to be the be-all and end-all of entertainment and art, for the populace, back before TV and movies. Obviously there were books and stuff, but movies were much more inclusive. Now, in our popular culture, most people who have heavier subjects put it in a film or in a miniseries. Music is no longer the place to deal with things like, “My mother died,” which it used to be. ●
— Gillian Welch.
He had these weird, blue, almost racing shades. He walked out, and he just stood there. And the crowd went crazy. And he just stood there. I bet he stood there two, three minutes before he ever went back to sing a song. He just stood there and stared at everybody. I thought it was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen in my life. ●
— Eric Church on seeing Merle Haggard in concert.
Yeah, if you have a Mount Rushmore of country music, Merle’s on it without a doubt in my mind, no questions asked. Merle Haggard, for me, is one of the great artists of country music because his writing is brilliant and very real. And his singing is the best ever in country music, in my opinion. ●
— Joe Nichols on Merle Haggard, who came in at #1 on CMT’s All-Time Top 40: Artists Choice.
I’d just like to add something to what they’ve got here, which is that I wouldn’t only include Merle Haggard in the greatest songwriters of all time. But I would put him up there alongside people like Tennessee Williams and William Faulker, Erskine Caldwell and John Steinbeck because he is truly a storyteller. That’s something that has been lost over the years, and I’m glad to see that it is coming back a little bit. And Merle Haggard personifies the storyteller. ●
— Billy Bob Thornton, presenting Haggard as CMT’s Artist of a Lifetime. Hey, maybe CMT’s sudden Haggard enthusiasm will translate to, you know, actually playing and supporting his music instead of airing tripe like “Party Down South” and “Redneck Island” all the time. A guy can dream.
They haven’t grown up playing in the clubs, and singing in honky tonks and doing that for five, six years. You’re taking new vocal cords to the world. So they’re really just breaking them in. Without rest and everything else, you start singing wrong, and it’s like if you sprain an ankle, you start walking differently, and then you have hip problems and back problems. So it’s that kind of thing. ●
— Gary LeVox on why so many young artists have voice issues.
I think it’s been a great break for both [of] us. ●
— Kix Brooks on the Brooks & Dunn retirement, now being reframed as a ‘break.’ The duo will headline Vegas with Reba next year.
Sometimes life hands you a card that you might not have wanted, and you’ve got to learn how to play that card. I have a lot of fans who are mad about it taking this long. But we still need that big single to get up the charts in order for (the record company) to release the album. ●
— Kip Moore, heading back into the studio to redo his second album.
There’s a lot of stuff on the radio about, you know, put your tan legs on the dashboard and we’ll roll around in the truck and go party. This album was my idea of doing music that fits in this landscape but doesn’t pander to that because one of my frustrations with radio now is lyrics. It’s like, ‘Guys, come on!’ – and specifically, yes, guys, cause there are no girls! We can say something too. There are phrases that are totally cliché that we as songwriters owe it to ourselves to not use again.
I’m not saying the songs are bad, I’m just saying that we as writers can do better. And when we come around to a little more diversity lyrically on the radio, we can go back and say the word ‘tailgate’ again and not have people cringe. It’s everything in moderation. ●
— Brad Paisley to PEOPLE.
If I could [write a ‘bro country’ song], I would because this is what I do for a living. Wade Kirby, my stepbrother, writes a lot of those.… I said, ‘Could you just show me how it’s done?’ It was a futile exercise. He said, ‘You don’t do this kind of stuff, don’t even worry about it.’ I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got bills to pay.’ ●
— Matraca Berg.
I’ve always thought the biggest gift would be to be able to attend your own funeral. It’s amazing to me how much of an outpouring of love there is at funerals. For me, today’s is an example of that. This is like my own funeral. ●
— Brandy Clark says hearing from everyone about her Grammy nominations is like a funeral.
I’m very happy with my experience at Sony, they were very good to me, and I had a lot of people really concerned about my career and wanting me to succeed. [But] I think you get so caught up in so many different opinions of how to make that happen—so it was nice to make a record without any of that. Just let loose and do it. ●
— Wade Bowen, newly independent.
I’ve wanted to do and try so many things musically for years. But I was beholden to a major label and pursued their vision for my music. It’s been a little scary to be my own boss, but it’s also brought on this level of liberation that I’ve been longing for. The music feels more free and represents where I am in my life right now. ●
— Lee Ann Womack on being free of the majors.
Oh, I am afraid. You kidding? This is the record business, not the artist business. ●
— Shelby Lynne on signing with a label again after being indie for a while.
“Oh please,” she snaps. “Everyone wants to get into the dirt. I wouldn’t tell you if I had. How would I tell that? That would be all over the papers. That would be your headline, wouldn’t it? ‘Dolly admits to screwing everyone in town.’ I’m not admitting nothin’. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. And it’s none of your damn business!” ●
— Dolly Parton got a little testy with The Guardian’s Tom Lamont. See if you think it was justified.
Q: What’s your advice for women looking to get into singing or songwriting?
A: You’re going to have thousands of decisions to make that will shape the public’s perception of you. Let those decisions be your decisions. Don’t let them be some man in a suit’s decisions, or some A&R guy with a beanie’s decisions. ●
— Taylor Swift, Billboard’s Woman of the Year.