Marty Stuart - Master Of The Craft

This appeared in the book Country Music Stars

Born in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Marty Stuart was four years old when he received his first guitar. At age nine, he was playing Johnny Cash songs note for note; a few years later, he began his professional career on tour with Lester Flatt.

"It wouldn't have happened with The Rolling Stones," he states of leaving home at 13. "It took a guy like Lester Flatt, who gave me a home, allowed me to keep $30 a week and send the rest to my mother to put in the bank, and made sure my school work was completed by correspondence. It was a very businesslike deal, not 'Hey Mom, I'm leaving.' My mother was an ambitious person who felt confined in Philadelphia, Mississippi. She knew I had that same ambition, that I wanted to shake hands with the world, and I love her for that."

Stuart's debut, Busy Bee Care, was released in 1982 on Sugar Hill Records. In 1986, he was signed to CBS Records, where a self-titled album failed to make waves. It's follow-up, Let There Be Country, failed to surface until the label saw fit to cash in on his current success. By the time he signed with MCA--the beginning of a string of hits--he had recorded a collaborative gospel disc with Jerry and Tammy Sullivan, A Joyful Noise, became a reporter/photographer for Country Music Magazine and gained respect as an encyclopedia of country music history and one of its strongest supporters.

By the time he released This One's Gonna Hurt You in 1992, Stuart was spinning heads as a musician, performer, and songwriter--a skill he enjoys sharing and once described as "Almost like thinking 'I've got to write my mother a letter. Who can write it with me?' You need someone with the same musical vision, someone you enjoy playing music with, and someone who has a tape recorder better than yours! That's hard to find. It's like looking for friends--you wind up with one or two and a whole room of acquaintances.

"First of all, I think songs are a gift from God. They are heaven-sent or a hell-sent piece of business, and God is the best writer we ever had. He tends to put people together. I depend on my radar to tell me....It's like meeting a girl: You know instantly if you like her or not. How to find a co-writer--it's an impossible question to answer.

"I don't care where a hit comes from as long as it's a hit. I was forced into writing my own. I wasn't selling back then, and I couldn't expect great songwriters to give me their best so they could go to Number 50 and die. I knew I was a different kind of entertainer with a different point of view, and the songs would have to come from me and a writer or two who could see what I do. I thought 'Hillbilly Rock' and "Cry, Cry, Cry' would be bigger than they were. I completely missed the mark on those and, as a result, decided the best thing is to record ten songs I love and let the label release what it will."

One of country music's most vibrant live performers, Stuart is surprisingly low key when he's not behind a microphone. "I save my energy all day for that hour onstage," he once explained. "It's like coming home to a revival. Music lights me up."

Despite winning music awards and being championed across the pages of national publications, he maintains a down-to-earth grip, never forgetting his roots. He applies this philosophy to every aspect of his life.

He observes, "I take the viewpoint that musicians are all wired backwards and there are enough of us in this alternative society to make it fashionable. Every human being on earth has something to offer. It doesn't matter if I'm sitting in front of a country store whittling or in New York City talking to a guy who runs drugs for Libya. Music is my trade, everybody has one, and I have no problems with that. We all live on the same Earth and I don't feel that anyone is more special. It goes back to people's hearts. If they have good motives, I have no problem getting along with them. I don't like posers or jerks; I have no time for them. I like real people."

As far as stardom is concerned, he draws his own conclusion, noting that it is "nothing more than hard work. It's a hard job and a lot of sacrifices. What keeps me together is getting in my jeep with my bloodhound, driving off, and talking to God. I fish; I go to Wal-Mart. This is 33 years of love for country music, a combination of my influences and my talent. I just call myself a state-of-the-art struggling hillbilly singer."

Those years have earned Marty Stuart the respect of the music industry and taught him great discipline in his craft. "I take most of January to do nothing but write," he explains. "I become like a street guy and writer. I get away. You shouldn't beat writing out like a nine-to-five job. There are guys who do that every day in Nashville. But my favorite way is walking down the road and feeling it, then taking it to paper. I like to be myself and get truly inspired by good or hard times."

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