|This is from Marty's Fan Club - 2001|
At the end of 1999, Marty Stuart decided to take a sabbatical. He figured he'd earned it, since he hit the road at the age of 13 and hadn't stopped touring since. And, although Marty fully intended to take a brief break from the music business, things didn't turn out quite that way.
"I had good intentions," Marty laughs as he thinks about his accomplishments of the past year-and-a-half. "There is just no way I could have just toured and kept on going. I had to go miles beyond what I had ever done before and then come back and think about making another record. Now I am at a point where I could make a record because I don't feel the pressure of following The Pilgrim. I've gone to a different planet and come back to it and I see it all from a different perspective.
The Pilgrim, Marty's 1999 release, was a paean to the enduring, important qualities of the soul of country music. The project was the culmination of years of meticulous work and heart-felt labor, winning rave reviews worldwide. Despite the acclaim, Marty realized he was musically spent.
"It all worked and it all paid off, but it was time to shift gears," he explains. "Go behind the curtain and reinvent. Get re-inspired, re-enthused. First thing I did was took a month off -- the first one in 29 years. Chased rainbows and butterflies. I found the kid in me again."
Instead of basking in the sun on a remote island during his self-imposed exile from the concert stage, Marty found himself maintaining a fairly hectic schedule well into the first half of 2001.
"Last year was just as diverse as I ever had. Promoting a book, being a photographer, being a bluegrass producer, a film score producer. It was all over the place. I blew out all the walls inside of me, so it reminded me that the sky is the limit. That ain't just a phrase -- it's a way of life."
During his 16-month respite from touring, he found himself in front of the television camera for a variety of music-theme specials, from A&E's Biography: Grand Ole Opry -- An American Tradition to a fun-filled Hit Trip for CMT. He also took the helm behind the console, producing a CD for his long-time friends Jerry and Tammy Sullivan (co-writing nine of the cuts on Tomorrow and adding his musical licks to the project as well).
He logged more time in the studio producing two albums for pal Billy Bob Thornton. Marty also collaborated with the award-winning writer/actor/director by scoring two of Thornton's films, All The Pretty Horses (for which Marty received a Golden Globe nomination) and Wakin' Up in Reno, which hits theaters in 2002. He also collaborated with actress Faye Dunaway, contributing his musical skills to The Yellow Bird, a short film she produced and directed.
"Films are relaxing to me, to play music from a standpoint where you have a few hours to tell a story instead of three-and-a-half minutes musically. I really love that. The challenge is incredible. It stretched me, but I was still a mandolin and guitar player, a singer and a songwriter."
Due to their frequent collaboration, you could say that Marty's made Billy Bob another of his "honorary" bothers, joining Travis Tritt in that rarefied circle.
"He absolute fits," Marty admits. "He would be my corniest brother, my most eccentric brother. He is definitely an ally and somebody that I really admire. Can you imagine the three of us at the dinner table together? Dysfunctional and crazy at its finest! There's a lot of talent at that dinner table, plus a lot of soul, a lot of heart. Lots of spirit. It's a setting of pure originality."
Speaking of originality, Marty unmasked another part of his creative artistry by writing feature articles for the prestigious Oxford American and In Review magazine. His photographic work found new outlets with an exhibit at the Gallery of Fine Photography in New Orleans and a photo essay in the Oxford American. He also shot country music icon (and one of Marty's songwriting partners) Dolly Parton for Classic Country, was the lensman for the cover art for 75 Years of the WSM Grand Ole Opry, Volumes 1 and 2, and shot all of the artwork for the aforementioned Jerry and Tammy Sullivan album, Tomorrow.
As a musician, he pulled out his guitar for contributions to albums by Johnny Cash (one of his earliest musical mentors), as well as projects by rising star Allison Moorer and Billy Bob Thornton. And, yes, there were a few concert performances as Marty took the stage with Earl Scruggs (another musical hero) at a benefit for the Watkins Institute of Art to launch an exhibit featuring the work of illustrator Thomas B. Allen. He also shared the stage with Scruggs, Billy Bob, and Dwight Yoakam for a private show at the House of Blues.
As if that weren't enough to fill up a calendar, Marty serves his sixth term as President of the Country Music Foundation, taking a strategic leadership role in the newly opened Country Music Hall of Fame.
"When I went in there, I thought it's a position that needed to be ignited, that needed to be taken seriously, and I wanted to roll up my sleeves and do something about because the Hall of Fame is close to my heart. That was easy to do. If I accomplish nothing else this year other than swinging open the doors to the new Country Music Hall of Fame, it's been worth it. That to me is the downbeat to country music marking its territory in the 21st century."
Renowned as one of the music world's foremost authorities on country music, Marty received the 2000 Heritage Award from one of his favorite festivals, Uncle Dave Macon Days. Long a visitor and supporter of the Lakota tribe, he received an Honorary Master's degree in Lakota Leadership from the Oglala Lakota College that same year. Marty also received one of his home state's highest honors as he was inducted into the Mississippi Musician's Hall of Fame in 2001.
In April 2001, Marty gathered up his band, the Rock & Roll Cowboys, and took his first steps back out on the concert trail with two shows in Switzerland. "We didn't even rehearse," he laughs. "We just went over there and did it. I felt like I'd been in a car wreck after the first night. It was a long way to go for a sound check, but I figured if I fell off the stage, no one back here would know about it!"
With over 100 dates booked, Marty's switching gears once again and getting back to his "other life." That includes beginning to work on a new album. "I've always done it backwards," he reflects. "I've always gone to a label and then wrote the songs. You should write the songs and then go to a label. I have about four songs written that I really love. The order of this is to write a record and see where it takes me."
And, though he's just begun to put his next recording project together, he promises one thing: "I know it's going to be rich and powerful. I feel richness inside of me that I have never felt before. I've put my self-respect back into my pocket musically, and I know there's something in my head and my heart. Music is a pure joy. I go home after twelve hours of it and pick up my guitar and just start doodling. Whatever God hands me....if you start following that, then the rest of it usually falls into place."
Marty realizes he was fortunate to find his calling at such an early age, yet he admits that's only half the journey. Finding his sense of self took a bit longer. "Finding that is the hardest part. It's easy to play guitar and say I play music. Finding a moment that sets you apart and makes something special happen is harder to come by, but I don't worry about it. I know where it comes from -- it's just a matter of getting myself in shape to receive it. It's that simple."
And for workaholics in every walk of life, Marty shares a few words of wisdom: "People like us who have worked all their lives and have never really taken any time for ourselves, they forget to tell us that it's okay to take a year to chase butterflies or not make as much money as you did last year. They forget to tell us that it's okay to be a human being, to stub your toe, and run around the tennis court if you want to. They forget to tell you it's okay to stop every now and then and enjoy the span of your life 'cause there is always work waiting for you. I go back to what my mother told me one time -- "When there is nothing to do on the outside; there's only stuff to do on the inside." That prepares you for whatever it is supposed to be. It prepares you for that next wave of destiny. If you do, you can look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'You're doing what you're supposed to be doing'. That is the reward."
|Return To Other Marty Links||Return To Home Page|