Marty Stuart: Watching All His Projects Spin

This appeared in the Mountain Xpress - July 25, 2007

Despite his laidback tone, Marty Stuart could never be accused of being a late bloomer.

The musician’s first job was in bluegrass outfit The Sullivans at age 12, followed by a professional gig with bluegrass legend Lester Flatt. Stuart had made his way to Johnny Cash’s backing band by the age most kids are coming out of college—not that the early start means he’s taking it easy now, four decades into his career.

“We’re doing a lot of performing-arts centers. We’re doing a lot of summer festivals and recording studios,” he tells Xpress. The songwriter recently released Compadres: An Anthology of Duets (Hip-O Records), which he describes as “an overview of a career of collaborations with people like [his wife] Connie Smith, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, B.B. King and Travis Tritt,” among others.

Stuart also points out that the album is a companion piece of sorts to an exhibit—Sparkle & Twang: Marty Stuart’s American Musical Odyssey, currently showing at the Tennessee State Museum—featuring his own country-music memorabilia.

“In the early ‘80s, I went to the Hard Rock Cafe in London for the first time and I saw a lot of rock ‘n roll treasures on the wall. But to me, country music [has] treasures just as much,” says Stuart. From that point he began collecting the sequined suits and guitars of his heroes and friends, claiming, “To me [those things] still had a lot of life.”

Stuart himself wore his fair share of highly decorative Nudie suits on stage. “It’s absolutely cool,” he says. “It’s like going into the phone booth like Superman and coming out. All of a sudden you’re super hillbilly or something.”

These days, the performer has little time for fancy suits (like his good friend, Cash, he prefers the simplicity of black apparel). On top of the museum show and his photography book, Country Music: The Masters and Compadres, Stuart points out, “the record I produced [Wagonmaster] on Porter Wagoner has actually really taken off and is doing a wonderful job out there in the world. So I’m watching all those projects spin.”

In his drawl, Stuart offers an analogy better suited to a surfer than a singer: “I’m just kinda trying to lay back and catch a wave. The next thing to me is songwriting.”

By Ali Marshall

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