STORY WRITTEN BY CHRIS CAMERON
For Digital First Media
Multi platinum-selling country icon Clint Black, who recently released “On Purpose,” his first studio album in nearly a decade, has long been heralded as one of country music’s biggest stars. It all started with the release of his critically acclaimed, triple Platinum debut album “Killin’ Time.”
Black has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide and charted nearly two dozen #1 singles including “Nothing But The Taillights, “Like The Rain” and “When I Said I Do.”
Recently, he took some time out from his tour to speak to Ticket.
TICKET: “On Purpose” is your first studio album of original material in nearly a decade. How does the title of the album reflect your decision to release new material?
BLACK: I turned down three major label offers to get to a point where I went indie with the record. The reason for that is, the majors wanted to choose my songs from the local [Nashville] writers and have it produced to sound the way they wanted it to sound. I’ve always written my own songs and have been producing or coproducing my music since 1992. It’s what I’m supposed to do.
TICKET: You dedicated the album to your father. How did your father help shape your love of country music?
BLACK: At a very early age, my dad taught me how to read the [album] liner notes. I quickly developed an appreciation for the singer/songwriter. Haggard was the first one he showed me. Of course, he played all the country greats around the house, but I listened beyond them to other artists who wrote their own songs and wanted to be in that group of artists and an originator of my own music.
TICKET: Which song(s) on the album do you feel that fans identify with the most during concerts?
BLACK: “Better and Worse” has gotten the best reaction, universally. “Calling it News” has gone over well, and “The Last Day” has brought tears, in some cases.
TICKET: You’ve been reluctant to record other people’s songs. Why is it important to you to perform your own material?
BLACK: If I didn’t feel I could do the job, I wouldn’t do it. I felt after the first album, “Killin’ Time,” I had earned the right. RCA didn’t think so and it was years of pressure from them to let them find me songs. I didn’t give in and the result was success. It just further instilled belief in myself. The record executives come and go and don’t really care that much about us individually. They’re focused on a bottom line and I’m trying to create my life’s work. I can’t trust that to executives’ whims and industry trends.
TICKET: You produced “On Purpose” and recorded it in your home studio. How important to you is it to have control of the album?
BLACK: I’ve reached out to friends (producers) for input and help. Ultimately, I end up trusting my own instincts. I have found no one who will put in the hours I will put in and no one who brings more passion than I bring. They have their talents, techniques and skills, but with art, it’s all subjective and I tend to trust myself with decisions.
TICKET: You’ve referred to your breakthrough album, “Killin’ Time” as a “phenomenon.” Nearly 30 years later, are you still blown away by the success of that album?
BLACK: I might’ve called it that, but I’m sure someone did. It was overwhelming for sure. And it did solidify my career in one fell swoop. At the time, I thought country fans, like myself, would like the songs. I didn’t think it would do what it did as quickly as it did. Now, I look back with more objectivity and I realize how much it had going for it. The way people took to “Killin’ Time” –the song– alone, made for a career starter. But five number one singles really was a news item and gave the record company a lot of ammo for promotion.
TICKET: You live in Nashville and got your first break there almost 30 years ago. Does being a Nashville artist mean the same thing today as it did during the late 80s?
BLACK: I don’t know about that. I’m sure for the mainstream, it’s a must. For us independent artists, it probably doesn’t matter. I think it makes a big difference when you’re making an album, though. There’s so much talent there; if you need songs, you’ll have plenty to choose from. If you need musicians, there aren’t any better musicians anywhere in the world than what you’ll find in Nashville. From there, the business side will accommodate a multi-locational set up.
TICKET: You’re a family man and the importance of family comes through in many of your songs. How has the theme of love and marriage helped shape who you are as an artist?
BLACK: In the early days before my marriage, I could write about love in any way I was inspired. Once I was married, I wanted anything on the subject of true love to reflect the truth about my own situation. I couldn’t write a love song that was fictional. Heartbreak songs were different. Anything goes there as long as it could be true of someone else. But in love songs, it had to ring true with my situation.
TICKET: You have performances planned through October. Are you involved in any other projects that you’d like mention?
BLACK: Right now, the tour is the focus. Last night I caught myself thinking about songs that didn’t make this album and I thought, ‘Whoa! Don’t go there yet!’ I am working on some acting projects, but they’re nowhere near the point of open discussion. I do have high hopes that one of them is a sure thing.
TICKET: Is there anything else that you’d like readers to know?
BLACK: I’m still involved in Rettsyndrome.org. This is a very hopeful time for Rett families as a treatment on the neuro-pathways is proving successful. Human trials are the most expensive part of research so every penny helps and this research has implications in the treatments across the autism spectrum.