Marty Stuart: Country's Renaissance Man

This appeared in Music City News - March 1993

If anyone in country music can cover all the bases, admit to hitting some foul balls along the way, but still shift into a home-run streak, it's this multi-talented artist who's used the old saying never say die as a road map for life.

It's taken Marty Stuart several years to reach the successful plateau he's at now--a reign which includes a string of radio hits, enormous concert crowds, his induction into the famed Grand Ole Opry, and a long-awaited gold album. With such credits already under his belt, his latest winning streak taps into the songwriting territory--a goal for which he's been shooting all along. He's already either written or co-written such cuts as his own Tempted and This One's Gonna Hurt You (For A Long, Long Time) and other artists have taken notice of his talents. He's penned You're Right, I'm Wrong for George Strait, A Little Bit Of Love for Wynonna and newcomer Joy White's True Confessions, the song that actually landed him a recording deal with MCA Records.

"A guy that I quote almost on a daily basis is Roger Miller," says Stuart. "Roger said that when he was writing songs, he never looked for what was going on in the charts but always looked for the holes in the charts. As a business person, I took that to heart, but I also knew I wanted to be an original artist."

Stuart's writing was also inspired by a trip made through the backwoods of Mississippi with one of his early bluegrass/gospel influences, Jerry Sullivan. The two penned a number of gospel songs and discovered their impact in several Pentecostal churches in the area.

"They sounded like hymnbook-quality songs," says Stuart, "and I couldn't believe it. I knew that I could apply that way of thinking to commercial songs. So I started writing stuff for myself to get on the radio, but also as a businessman. I remember what Roger said about writing what wasn't already on the charts. I see all these young artists come to town. I know a lot of them aren't writers, but I know God gave me the gift to write and I wanted to write songs for a lot of them. That's how it all started happening."

Although Stuart's songwriting ability has finally been recognized, he admits that he's yet to pen what he describes as "one of those old country chestnuts."

"I'm a sentimentalist at heart and tend to stick to loving the old song," he admits. "It's just hard to beat a Johnny Cash song or an I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. I don't hear songs of that caliber on the radio. I love all the new songs, but the thing that's kept me going all of these years is the chance that I might write that one more great song. The song that I'm looking for now is He Stopped Loving Her Today, Together Again or I Walk The Line. That's the size hit I'm looking for."

In recent years, Stuart himself has become a mega hit on both radio and stage. Since the debut of his landmark album "Hillbilly Rock," his "Tempted" and "This One's Gonna Hurt You" follow-up discs have made him one of country music's hottest artists/entertainers to ever surface. For Stuart, who admits to being an artist on the edge, such a feat has taken a lot of time, hard work and an even greater amount of high self-esteem.

"I truly feel like I came, defied and set out to do what I came here to do and I got my point of view across," he said. "For a long time a lot of people only saw tight jeans, big hair and flashy clothes. Now, though, they're doing a book on my country music clothing and guitars.

"I mean, I've been working on honing a direction, sound and image and the whole ball of wax," Stuart earlier said, "and I've been honing it down for about ten years now. Every album I made, I think I get a little better and the band gets a little better. But that's OK with me because I'm not interested in tearing it up for about two years and then being forgot about and pushed off to the side. I'm much more interested in doing it the way I've always done it, and I've been here twenty years."

Stuart's long tenure at making music has obviously been propelled by phenomenal talent, but our "boy in black's" most powerful fuel seems to be his persistence to remain true to himself and deliver the kind of music that's nothing less than honest, entertaining and--above all else--continues to carry on country music's priceless heritage and traditionalism.

"I'm proud of what we're doing," he concludes, "and I'm proud of what we're accomplishing, but there's a whole lot left to do. The bottom line is it all goes back to the good songs. Without the good songs, we are nothing."

By Kimmy Wix

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