Marty Stuart Has His Country Music Roots Firmly Planted

This appeared in The Post-Crescent - June 29, 2003

Marty Stuart was still in his teens when he joined bluegrass legend Lester Flatt’s band in 1972 and was 20 years old when Flatt disbanded the group in 1978 due to his own poor health.

In 1980 the Mississippi-born singer/ mandolinist/guitarist joined Johnny Cash’s backing band, and a couple years later married the boss’ daughter, Cindy. He remained in Cash’s band until 1985 and was his son-in-law until 1988.

Stuart’s solo career flourished in the ’90s and he established himself as one of the new traditionalists of country.

His latest album, Country Music, is due out Tuesday and builds on the firm foundation of his country roots. Stuart performs at 5 p.m. today at Country USA in Oshkosh (Wisconsin).

He is also known as a major collector of country memorabilia, and much of his collection can be seen at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

Q: How did your famous collection start?

A: Simply as a fan, as a hobby. It was a hobby gone wrong, preserving a piece of America that I was passionate about. Now it’s out of control. I don’t actively look as much as I used to. Junk tends to find me now.

Q: What is your best recent find?

A: Connie Smith. She was the ultimate treasure. (Stuart and fellow country singer Smith were married in 1997.)

Q: Where is country in the 21st century?

A: I think it’s at a crossroad, as it gets to about every 10 years. I think Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and Kenny Chesney are out there representing one division of country music. I think the O Brother Where Art Thou phenomenon kicked up an incredible amount of dust for the roots element, the traditional element of country music. But, actually, business is down all around right now, so I think the next thing you can look for is a surge of creativity. That’s what I’m countin’ on.

Q: Do you have to appeal to a crossover market?

A: The equation to me is not to get confused about it. At the end of the day if you have to draw a line and step over one side of it, I tend to go to roots. There’s nothing trendy about that. It’s the bedrock of country. I think the job is to keep real country music alive. Our new album is called Country Music, so, there. It was time for me and my band to make country music.

Q: What’s next for Marty Stuart?

A: On July 6 we’re starting a 30-city tour. It’s called the Electric Barnyard Tour. It’s us, Merle Haggard, Rhonda Vincent, BR5-49, Connie Smith and the Old Crow Medicine Show. That makes a pretty strong statement in itself. It’s a caravan-style show. Six tractor-trailers, several buses and assorted vehicles. It will definitely be a hillbilly circus coming to town. There won’t be anything else in town that looks like us, I’ll tell you.

By Jim Lundstrom

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