Marty Stuart Shows What He Does Best

New MCA Nashville Set Makes Bid For Big Time

This article appeared in Billboard Magazine - June 8, 1996

Marty Stuart is, as usual, engaged in a number of projects but the most pressing for him is to finally reach music's upper echelon with his new album. "People are really rooting for him," says MCA Nashville chairman Bruce Hinton. "There's not a better-loved individual on Music Row and, when everybody's pulling for you, all things become possible."

The way Hinton and Stuart see it, the album Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best which streets June 18, has what it takes. "There's no question that the [title track] first single is a home run," says Hinton, reporting immediate phone response at radio to the song, which reunited Stuart with past duet and touring cohort Travis Tritt.

"It's probably one of the best records he's done--the reintroduction of him and Travis on the first single was phenomenal," says Dave Kelly, program/music director for country WSIX-FM Nashville. "It will definitely help re-establish Marty as a major player in country music."

Tritt appears in the track's video and in June will embark once again with Stuart on their 70-city Double Trouble Tour. "We didn't want to get back together until we had new music," says Stuart. "Then me and Travis and Paul Kennerley wrote 'Double Trouble' for Travis' new album and felt it was a pretty good tour title. We also missed each other and wanted to turn up the fun factor in country music!"

As for the duet single, Stuart wrote it last year during a 24-hour bus ride between Milan and Madrid. "I knew I needed Travis on it," he says. Stuart adds that he intentionally took his time writing materials for the album and agrees with Hinton that it's one of his better works--if not the best. He contrasts it with his last studio effort, 1994's "Love And Luck."

"The year and a half between albums allowed me to back up and see what I'd accomplished and see what needed to be done," says Stuart. "Obviously, I still need a top-of-the-ladder thing and this album's a straight run at that."

Produced by Tony Brown and Justin Niebank, the album has eight songs that Stuart wrote or co-wrote, including two apiece with Kostas and Kennerley. The latter's input, Stuart says, was sorely missed on Love And Luck, because Kennerley has collaborated on such Stuart staples as "Hillbilly Rock" and "Western Girls."

Other noteworthy cuts include his original "The Mississippi Mudcat And Sister Sheryl Crow" and "Sweet Love," an adaptation of a Del Shannon demo. "It was really called 'Cheap Love,' " he says, "but it was such a negative thing that I turned it around and renamed it."

Altogether, Hinton says, the album is several singles deep, with the first one--and the tour--setting up the first phase of the promotional campaign. "They're hitting about 70 cities through most of the rest of the year," he says, "and we'll bring intense marketing and advertising market by market to really get it out in front of the accounts."

Early retail reaction is promising. "This album is going to reignite Marty's career," says Lew Garrett, VP of buying and merchandising for the 385-store Camelot Music chain. "He's had a couple of his biggest hits when he's teamed with Travis Tritt, so it should get off to a real good start. He's one of those artists with a very fanatical core base of followers, so we'll want to make sure it's positioned correctly at release and easy to find. Beyond that, we'll wait and see where to go with each single--but we'll make sure they're plenty of goods in the marketplace, I can tell you that."

Several major tie-ins are in the works, Hinton says, including a cross-promotion with Martin guitars, which is issuing a limited-edition Marty Stuart guitar. He will join Gene Autry and Eric Clapton in the pantheon of Martin namesakes, and MCA plans contests and giveaways in conjunction with the release of the instrument. At radio, a national contest tied in with the syndicated show "Country's Most Wanted" will award winners a trip to Nashville to see a Stuart showcase.

The label will also capitalize on Stuart's heightened visibility with the June airing of TBS' "America's Music: The Roots of Country," a three-part documentary in which Stuart is featured. Hinton says MCA will take out spots in conjunction with three "Marty Party" TNN specials and that a tie-in with Delta Airlines' in-flight radio programming is set for June and July. Other print and radio avenues are being explored and Hinton expects major promotional involvement with a Fortune 500 company.

"He's such a a fabulous ambassador for country music," says Hinton. "I saw him speak at a [Country Music Association] thing in Dublin and at a First Amendment Freedom Foundation event here in front of heavy-duty journalists and did he make me proud. He's about three minutes away from major stardom."

Other projects Stuart is pursuing include presenting a "Treasure of Hank Williams" exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame in September. Most of the artifacts are from Stuart's private collection, Hinton notes, adding that the exhibit will anchor phase two of the new album's campaign.

"I bought a number of Hank items last year," says Stuart, "including the song manuscripts for 'Your Cheatin' Heart' and 'I Saw The Light.' So I hung around the Hank Williams vibe as a songwriter before I got into this record and spent a lot of time with those lyrics and their magic. It felt like Hank was along for this ride."

Stuart is also producing Connie Smith's album for Warner Bros. And in conjunction with Tony Brown, he is launching the first seminar for the Hard Rock Cafe Grammy Careers Program, an education outreach program to expose high school students to careers in the music industry.

Stuart is managed by Bonnie Garner Management and booked by the William Morris Agency; his songs are published by Marty Party Music, administered by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.

Article written by Jim Bessman

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