Marty Stuart

This article appeared in Discovery (BMG Music Service) - 1995

Ron Sacks: The new "Marty Party Hit Pack" is your first hits album. How would you describe the "Marty Party" philosophy?

Marty: When you're standing at the crossroads of country music, gospel and blues and rock and roll with a Mississippi pedigree, it all looks the same. And on Saturday night, it all sounds like a party.

RS: Do you have a particular favorite from this collection and why?

Marty: "Tempted" may be my favorite song. It's a song that me and Paul Kennerley wrote. I had just come off of working with Roy Orbison. Apparently Kennerley had been listening to his Buddy Holly records and I had this melody in mind. He had just a one-word title--Tempted. I thought it was a pretty enchanting word. It was a really big breakthrough song for me, personally.

RS: Tell me about the two new tracks on the record, "If I Ain't Got You" and "The Likes Of Me."

Marty: Don Cook, my producer, brought me about four songs. I think of all the things that I like about Don, it is his song sensibility for what is going on currently out there in country music. I really didn't have time to write new songs. He brought me a couple of songs that just sounded like radio hits. Obviously, that's what the record needs to propel it. It just sounded like the right thing to record. There isn't a big philosophy behind either song.

RS: The one track that really intrigued me was "Now That's Country." Even when there was a sad event in your life, like the passing of your grandmother, you managed to write an essentially positive upbeat remembrance of life with her instead of the expected lamenting ballad. Is there a soft, sentimental side to Marty Stuart?

Marty: Certainly. The one thing that came out over the last couple of years is that I wrote and sung a couple of ballads and I got around to getting comfortable showing off that side of my heart. That's a pretty vulnerable spot to just lay out on the table to give to everybody. I've learned to trust it in the past couple of years. So sure, there is a soft side.

RS: Sounds like you had a lot of fun with your grandmother.

Marty: Well, she lived a happy life. Anybody that lives out there in the kind of environment I wrote about is way ahead of the game anyway. I grew up where the Delta rivers run and I have nothing but good memories about it.

RS: You started playing bluegrass mandolin with Lester Flatt when you were 13. Since you started so young and it was in such a traditional form of the music, who put the "rock" into your "hillbilly" and when did you get the "bug" so to speak?

Marty: Well, I came with it. There is not really a nickel's worth of difference if you think about it. When I played "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," I was left with the fact that it has so much fire about it. There is really no difference between that and "Jumping Jack Flash." Bluegrass music is about being fired up. It's a fired up kind of music. To me, "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" helped start rock and roll and the Delta blues and rock and roll sound like the same thing. But, you know, I'm from Mississippi. When you come from Mississippi, you are coming from a different point of view because there are so many styles that are melted down that come out of the Delta--I heard it all. I heard Muddy Waters, Ike and Tina Turner, George Jones, Bill Monroe, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash--it all sounded like the same stuff to me. I think the common thread that ran through all that is that they were all passionate about what they did. All that stuff has fire about it in its own way. And just picking up the mandolin and joining up with any bluegrass band, you get all fired up and, to me, that is rock and roll!

RS: So to you, injecting country with a little bit of rock and roll was completely natural. Your goals in combining the two were never really aimed at trying to get rock fans into country music.

Marty: No. The thing about it is that when Lester Flatt was winding his career down, in the middle to late '70s, the movie "Deliverance" was out. We had recorded that song and we were instant stars on college campuses and rock and roll festivals. We played shows with Kool and the Gang, Chick Corea, Tony Bennett, Steppenwolf--all kinds of weird shows. It was kind of like FM radio out there. It was all over the map. People seemed to be into just good music. The thing about being in a hit bluegrass band is that bluegrass works in a college context. It's definitely an alternative kind of music. It works inside of country at the Grand Ole Opry as well as alongside Chick Corea. It's a cool form of music. I met Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, all these rock and roll people and they were just as much into bluegrass as I was into rock and roll. I've always had that rock and roll sensibility about it, and it always goes back to the mandolin, oddly enough.

RS: You're known for your dedication towards keeping the flame of traditional country music alive. Why?

Marty: Well those cats deserve all the respect they can get and sometimes they tend to be overlooked and forgotten just because they are not racking up enough sales at the cash register right now. I don't think country music is set up on that. Country music is more of a family. It would do us all good to remember that sometimes.

RS: Where is your next "party" going to be--what's up next for Marty Stuart?

Marty: The story is that my road travels are about to go to Europe for a month and try it out over there. We finally have label support, merchandise support and an entire tour that is sold out. It is going to be fun shaking hands and plowing up some new ground over there. We'll be back in the studio in June to make a real record and a couple of more Marty Party TV shows. We're working on one now called "Marty Party Goes Rockin'." Then we're going to Japan in the Fall. I'm looking forward to all that.

Interview conducted by Ron Sacks, Senior Country Editor

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