20 Questions With Connie Smith

This article appeared in Country Music Magazine - March/April 1996

1. Tell us about the new deal. You're working with Marty Stuart, right?

Yes, When I started thinking about really getting serious a few years ago, I thought who, of all the people that I know in this business, is going to know who I am and appreciate who I am, who I have been and realize there's still more of me left and have a vision of where I can go? And honestly I ran over everybody in my head that I could think of, and Marty Stuart was the one. I believe he's a genius. He carries with him the past of country music, bluegrass music and gospel music, just about everything, and he intends to carry it all on into the future with him. Not only that, but he's creating a whole new thing because he's one of these people who can mix all of these kinds of music into a marriage and make them all love each other, and it comes out fresh and new and it comes out class. It comes out good.

2. He does have a lot of vision, doesn't he?

I've learned so much from Marty. I love watching him work. I've seen him create set designs, I've seen him write songs, I've seen him create television shows, I've watched him take photographs, I've seen him work in so many different areas. He's got a great Big Picture. It's amazing how big a picture he can have and then still focus right in to the very littlest detail. I'm just in awe. I can't say I'm his biggest fan 'cause his momma will whip me, but I'm pretty close to that.

3. Are you and Marty involved romantically?

Marty and I have been writing songs and spending time together for over two years now and, if anyone can do that without loving Marty Stuart, I have no idea who in this whole world that could be [delighted laughter].

4. That's a good answer. I like that.

[More laughter.] Me too.

5. Given that country radio won't play anyone older than George Strait, have you and Warner Brothers discussed alternative ways of marketing your music?

Right now we're focusing on making a good record. I believe if we get too caught up in how we're gong to market it--though we're not by any means ignorant of the fact--that'll filter into what we're doing and mess it up. We want to cut pure, good music and, once we've done that, we'll figure out what to do with it.

6. Maybe you'll be the one to smash the glass ceiling.

Well, somebody's got to do it. I'm here.

7. Aren't you scared? What's it like starting over?

I had someone tell me that nobody has ever had a career in country music as big as mine, then quit, and then come back and had another one. All I can say is, that doesn't scare me. I don't know that I'd really want to be a superstar, for one thing, and I don't want having a hit record to be my focus. I've been in that arena where the focus is so clearly on a hit record and, when that hit record doesn't come, boy, you're in the pits. And I've been in the pits enough in my life. I've been through three marriages and a few other things and, ugh, the pits are no fun. So I want to enjoy to the fullest making the record--looking for the songs, writing the songs, hunting the songs. Some of my fondest memories are of hitting the publishing companies, finding a song hidden somewhere that excited me. Some of my fondest memories are not of having a sold-out concert, but getting to visit backstage with the other entertainers. There's just so much more to it than the end result. I intend to enjoy all of it in between and let the result take care of itself.

8. When you quit back in the 70's, were you disillusioned with the music business to the extent that's been reported?

No. Basically, my root reason for quitting was that there just wasn't enough of me to go around. I did not want my family to fall apart. I did not want my kids to grow up and remember me as Connie Smith and not Momma. And I didn't want them to be treated as Connie Smith's kids. I wanted them to have as normal a life as they could have.

9. I'll never forget a conversation I had with Merle Haggard about that. He didn't stay with his kids, and his regret was very profound.

Well, I watched my friends that I loved with all my heart, and I watched their families, and I saw the results of being gone too much. And I never thought it was worth the price. I just thank God that I saw it as clearly as I did...I paid for it, though. I've been back in the business since Jody, my youngest daughter, was in kindergarten and now she's in college and, until recently, most people didn't even know I was back in.

10. Let's talk about some of your old allies, starting with Mr. Weldon Myrick.

He's fine. He just had his sixth bypass surgery and he's back playing at the Grand Ole Opry. As a matter of fact, he played with me last Friday night, when my own steel player had the night off. It was great; he was, after all, responsible for "the Connie Smith Sound." I just turned around and said, "The great Weldon Myrick!," and he grinned and did it again [delighted laugh].

11. And Bob Ferguson, who produced all those great records you made on RCA.

One of the first things Marty said when we agreed that he'd produce my new album was that before he did anything, he'd talk to Bob. I saw Bob last September. He's living in Philadelphia, Mississippi, married to a full-blooded Choctaw.

12. That's Marty's home town, isn't it?

Yes it is. Bob was with me the first time I met Marty, when Marty was about ten or 11 years at the Choctaw Indian Fair. Weldon Myrick was there too.

13. Dallas Frazier. I know he quit the business quite a while ago and he's preaching.

He certainly is. I talked to him yesterday. By the way, I believe I haven't sung my last song. I believe some of Dallas' great songs are still inside of his heart. I do believe they'll come out and I told him that, and I'll tell you that. I know that God gave Dallas Frazier one of the greatest songwriting gifts that was every given to any person on this earth and I know that firsthand. Dallas not only wrote 68 songs I recorded but, at the point when I was counting, George Jones had already recorded over 80. Dallas may not know he's not done yet, but I think he does. One of my prayers and my desires is that there will be a new Dallas Frazier song on the next album I cut.

14. What's the secular/sacred mix going to be in your new music?

B.J. Thomas once said something I loved: "I am not a Christian artist. I am an artist who happens to be a Christian." I am definitely in service for the Lord--I don't think I'm special in that, I think that's true for all of us--but I also know that God made me a hillbilly singer. That's what I really am, and I love being a hillbilly singer. So at this point, I have every peace in my heart that that's exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. We have talked about doing a religious album at some point, but right now the focus is on country.

15. Well, I'm glad that's a possibility. I really want to hear you sing gospel again.

It's a distinct possibility. I would like to interject something. I did not ever quit country music to go gospel. I hear that all the time. I actually quit country music, as I said, because there wasn't enough of me to go around. But when I played at the Opry, I thought "Well, if I keep singing country songs, everybody's going to think I'm still in the business and there'll be disc jockeys coming up wanting to do interviews, and it'll just be confusing." So for two or three years on the Opry, I only sang gospel music. Everybody misinterpreted that. The fact is that I never intended to go into gospel music as a career and I never did.

16. How about what Dolly said? ("There's really only three female singers in the world: Streisand, Ronstadt and Connie Smith. The rest of us are just pretending.")

Years ago, Fred Foster told me that Dolly had said that to him. I'm a friend of Fred Foster's, so I was sure it was true, but I thought "She was talking to Fred Foster. Sometimes we say things to people we don't necessarily want in print." And that statement has bothered me all these years. But when RCA was fixing to put out The Essential Connie Smith, they got a hold of Dolly and asked her about that comment and she said, "I meant it when I said it, and I mean it now. Please use it." So I feel a little better about that, although it's such a hard one to swallow. It almost hurts me in my gut because, though it's wonderful, it's so far from the truth.

17. You're right. I'm not sure about Streisand.

[Delighted laughter.] Thanks. Now I am embarrassed.

18. How about women singers you think are great?

I've got to say Trisha Yearwood is a world-class singer. Not only that, but I love to watch her sing. There are a lot of people who are good singers that you don't want to watch sing. She she's great. I love Alison Krauss with a fervor. I just love her in every way. One of the most fun things I did last year was, Stonewall Jackson was doing an album with a bunch of his friends and Alison and I went in and sang harmony on one of his songs, and that was great. I just want to take her and run, y'know, take her home with me [laughing]. And Martina McBride, I love her singing. There's so much soul in her singing. I'm so glad she's a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Patty Loveless is great, too, and so is Pam Tillis. And I've always said that Loretta Lynn is my favorite girl singer. George Jones is my favorite male singer.

19. Whatever happened to those tracks you cut with him for the Bradley Barn Sessions?

I don't know. There again, it's a good job I enjoyed it, isn't it? Actually, on one song there was George Jones, Ricky Skaggs, Travis Tritt, Marty Stuart, Jessi Colter, Connie Smith and Waylon Jennings. Now, if that stays buried forever, there's something wrong.

20. I think you've already answered the last question, which is: Are you happy?

I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. I'm happier with me. I've gotten to know me a little bit and to learn me and enjoy me. I love my kids. I've got the best kids in the world. As a momma, I fret over them now and then, but I think they're great. And I enjoy singing more than I ever did. I'm not so concerned with whether people like me. I remember when I first went back into singing and somebody interviewed me, they asked, "Is it harder to be in the business as a Christian?" and I immediately said, "No, it's easier, because before, I needed acceptance so bad and didn't feel like I had it. And now, knowing the Lord accepts me and He loves me and that everything's okay, I don't have to worry about going out there and wondering whether they love me." These days, you see, I just go out there and love them, and that always works.

Article written by Patrick Carr

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