Get To Know The Real Marty Stuart

By Travis Tritt

This appeared in Country Music A-Z - 1993

Travis: We're just gonna talk a little bit, basically, about different things that are going on out here, maybe get rid of some myths, and create a few more, possibly. Since we've been on this tour [The No Hats Tour], you've seen your name written up a lot of different ways. I've seen my name written up a lot of different ways. I've been called everything from an "outlaw" to a "renegade" to a "romantic rebel" to whatever. If somebody were to ask you to describe what you are, what is Marty Stuart all about?

Marty: I've always called myself a hillbilly singer, that's an affectionate term. It really is. It was a derogatory term for a lot of years around Nashville, but I like the word renegade and maverick. It fits you and me, too. We're always bucking to do something a little different. You can tell by the way we dress and the way we wear our hair, the way we play on stage and I don't really care what anybody else is doing and I know you feel the same way. I do care, but when it comes time to work, I'm out there to be myself. I think renegade and maverick fits us both pretty good, but for myself, I'm just a hillbilly singer.

Travis: What do the opinions of other people in this business mean to you?

Marty: They mean a great deal...well, it depends on who the opinion comes've got to remember, I was raised by a bunch of old-timers and, if Bill Monroe or Johnny Cash or Earl Scruggs or George Jones offers me an opinion, you can bet your boots I'm gonna sit and listen to it. And if anybody else has an opinion that I do or do not respect, musically, I'll pay attention to it--now, whether or not I do anything about it is another thing. We're all in this business to be liked and accepted and I want to please people and my peers. I try hard to do that. But there comes a time, what's that old song, "You've Got To Walk That Lonesome Valley"? You've got to make your decisions and stand by them.

Travis: I feel the same way. Naturally, you want the fans to enjoy what you do but just as well, you want your peers to enjoy it. But the ones who came out and made statements against you and I and what we're trying to do--some of them really didn't understand the "no hats concept" in the beginning so, in that respect, we don't take shots at anybody else.... As Grandpa Jones says, "We don't give any crap and we take very little."

Marty: I got a call about five minutes after a couple of people had made cracks about this tour, I mean, people couldn't wait to tell you and me what had gone down. My first comment was that apparently somebody didn't get the program because the "no hats" thing, I think we're poking fun at ourselves more than anybody else. Everybody ought to know by now that we want everybody to come to our shows, and we're there to entertain anybody that'll walk through those doors. The cool thing about country music is the diversity right now. There will never be another time when you can go see Garth Brooks or Travis or Marty or Dwight or whoever--country music will never be this full again and it got this way because of diversity. I'm proud that you and me stand in a different spot.

Travis: Rumors fly about personal life, about what goes on on tour, and you know this as well as I do, people like to create images of what goes on when you're out on the road, and when you're working. Is it really as crazy and wild as everybody tries to make it out to be?

Marty: Well, you know as well as I do, after the show, what we do. You and me usually stay at separate hotels but, when I get through, I usually go....I'm a member of a quilting class...and after that I have a glass of warm milk and I study the dictionary. People think we run around with wild women and we party and go that's what I do.

Travis: Usually, I like to go back, and one of the things that I find most relaxing, is just to go back and catch old Julia Child reruns and watch those and write recipes down.

Marty: I know you're into cooking and you had a stove put on your bus, and I think we ought to take this moment to really thank Julia Child for all the great entertainment she's given us.

Travis: Absolutely! 'Cause without her, God knows...I'd probably weigh less! (laughs) When you go out on stage and you perform, I've seen your show from the wings. I've watched you perform quite a few times. I see the energy that you put out--do you have something really special that happens to you when you go on stage? Is there something that happens--is it a complete, like, split personality, or is that a representation of what Marty Stuart is really like offstage?

Marty: Let me take you back to the song you wrote, "I'm Gonna Be Somebody." I have no idea where that song came from or what is the story behind it when you wrote it, but I've got a feeling. I have a feeling that was a time when you had a lot of rejection and a lot of pain in your life. The lady that drove me over to the show yesterday said, "That song can apply to anybody's life." Before I was doing what I was doing, I was walking around thinking, "I can do it. I know I was born and sent to this earth to entertain people and make people have fun and enjoy themselves." When I walk out there, that's what I feel like I was put here to do, and I'm fulfilling my job. I'm totally at peace and at total liberty and freedom when I'm on stage. That's what I get up out of bed for--to go out there and do that.

Travis: Let's talk about your personal life. I want to dig a little deeper into the well, here. You've been married and divorced as I have--how many times?

Marty: One

Travis: How long did it last?

Marty: Long enough! (laughs)

Travis: Still divorced?

Marty: Still divorced.

Travis: Would you ever get married again?

Marty: You know, that could change tonight, but as of right now, in the back of your bus, I think the answer is solid--hell no. I feel great being single and I love freedom, and I don't think I'd make a very good husband. I don't do very good as a boyfriend, either, so.....I have to have people that understand my way of life. I'm a road gypsy, I travel, I love traveling, and I love having no strings attached. My mama made a mess out of that when I was just a kid 'cause she let me leave home when I was 13. I'm a loyal dog, though. She put a long string on my butt and I always come back, but there has to be no limit to the string.

Travis: If you were gonna get married, what would you look for in the perfect woman?

Marty: One that has all my albums! {laughs} That's a start!

Travis: What qualities are there about you that are, you think, difficult?

Marty: Self-centered, career-driven maniac.

Travis: Self-centered? I don't see that at all!

Marty: I thought you knew me better than that! Self-centered as far as the career. I mean, I love to give of my heart, my life, my time, but when it boils down to it, I'm pretty selfish about that. I'm a career-driven maniac. I'd love to change that someday, but I really, realistically know that that ain't gonna happen.

Travis: Would you consider yourself to be a loner?

Marty: Yeah.

Travis: I'm that way, too. When I'm on the road, I love to meet people and talk to people and that sort of thing but, when I'm home--and I have to get home quite frequently--if I don't get home and get some time by myself and get away from all of it, I go crazy. I find myself not being as nice to people as I'd like to be.

Marty: That's the catch. When I find myself getting short with fans, I know it's time to take some time off. That's when I head to the country--I get in my Jeep with my dog and I disappear into the woods.

Travis: What are your plans for the future? I know you've got a lot of things that you still want to accomplish musically. Are you interested in other things, like acting?

Marty: You know who my hero is? Buck Owens. And I'll tell you why. Buck Owens was a great country star, great country songwriter, great businessman--beyond all of this, I'd love to produce records. I'd love to keep writing songs. Currently, I still have to prove a gold record, still need more Number One records. When it's over with, I'd love to have a production facility or buy into radio or TV somehow or another. I realize I can't wear tight pants and poke my hair up in the air for a lot of years. It just don't work that way anymore. But there's still other facets of the industry that I'd love to become a part of and I think along the way, I'd like to develop that.

Travis: You have the same feeling as I do about one very, very important issue, and that is making sure that the people who have influenced your career, my career, our music, are made very public. You make no bones about letting people know who your heroes are. Tell us who they are and why, and what kind of influence they've had on you.

Marty: Well, my heroes are the same ones I had when I was a little kid: Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, Buck Owens, people like that. So many people come to our concerts these days and think that country music began with Garth Brooks or you or Dwight or me, whoever. I was raised in the south and so were you and we were taught to love and respect our elders and the people that brought us here. They were the people that brought me to the music business and I knew I had some debts to pay verbally and musically to those people.

Travis: In all of the years that you've toured, you've been out with some fantastic people. It's no secret you've worked with Lester Flatt, Johnny Cash, all those people. It seems like you know everybody! It seems like you have a relationship with everybody that's been a legend in this business. It's so hard to believe that you've been out there for 20 years. If you had to name one lesson, of all the years and all the associations you've had--if you had to list one lesson or one piece of advice that you've been given by one single person, what would it be and who was it from?

Marty: Can I give you two?

Travis: Sure.

Marty: In the early '70s, I was just a young teenager and Lester Flatt and Ernest Tubb were doing package shows together. In some little backwoods town, somewhere....Ernest was always real great with country fans. He taught the importance of a relationship between a star and the fans. They played this National Guard armory one night and Lester was never one to turn away an autograph, but he just wouldn't hang out much. But Ernest, on the other hand, I remember after the show, he put on his overcoat, got a folding chair and sat on the edge of the stage and sat there and signed autographs--8x10 (photos), popcorn boxes, tapes and records, till the last person was gone and he never said a word. I just sat up in the bleachers and watched him. That's how I've learned most of my lessons. The other one was Johnny Cash. One day, I saw all kinds of stuff coming down around him. Johnny Cash's world is a big world, it's got a lot of chaos, a lot of everything. All kinds of stuff was coming down--somebody was gone sick, somebody had gone crazy and guitar strings were breaking and money was falling and all kinds of crazy things. He looked at me right in the middle of it and he said, "Son, don't sweat the small stuff. Keep your eye on the big picture." And I thought that was a pretty damn good piece of advice.

Travis: Since you left Johnny Cash and started developing your own career, you've had a lot of different associations with different record labels. You've had a lot of ups and downs. If you had to do it all over again, if you could go back and start from scratch--would you change anything, and what would you do different?

Marty: Oh, there's one of those managers that I'd probably forget about, and maybe a bad marriage. I don't think there's a hell of a lot I'd do different because....I must've thought it was right at the time or I wouldn't have done it in the first place and I'm convinced that if it's meant to be, if God's meant for something to happen, it ain't gonna get stopped. You may have to go through a little turbulence to get through it, but it builds character and it builds staying power, and it builds a little grit inside you. It challenges you to see what you're made out of. I hate that I had a three or four years' stall there 'cause I feel like I'd be further along, but a lot of the same people that were whippin' my butt back then aren't around anymore. I hung in there 'cause I knew it was my job to hang in there, so there were some hard, hard, valuable lessons learned, but there's not a whole lot I'd do different.

Travis: Here's a real interesting question. If you had three people in history that you could go back and sit down and have a conversation with right now, that are no longer with us, who would you choose?

Marty: Well, Jesus Christ, I think is still here very much in spirit. If I could, in person, I'd love to have a talk with Jesus, Hank Williams Sr. and Marilyn Monroe. If I had two days with her, I could straighten her out, I swear I could.

Travis: Would you take her over Michelle Pfeiffer?

Marty: Now wait a minute! You're steppin' on my toes! You're gonna cause home problems 'cause Michelle loves me, I know she does {laughs) I've never met her, but I know she loves me and I know she has a copy of Tempted at her house. But Michelle's still here. But Marilyn--I'd like to talk to Marilyn.

Travis: Enough said. This has been fun. I've enjoyed talking to you. On that note...over and out.

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