Marty Stuart and Carlene Carter: Hillbilly Hip

This appeared in That's Country Magazine - November 1993

Marty and Carlene both have a definite sense of fashion that translates well to their album covers and videos. With their sense of history and performing tradition, the two young stars have distinct styles which have been shaped by their knowledge of what works best for them on stage.

The following are observations from the pair on what they think of the current country style fashion picture.

Carlene: Marty and I have both self-styled ourselves by things that we like, and it ends up being a conglomeration of a lot of different styles. His thing is slightly different than mine but, if you look at it, we're both kind of funky. It's not your normal kind of thing.

Marty: Carlene Carter could show up in diapers and pull it off--Carlene just stars no matter what you wrap her in.

Carlene: I'm sure Marty'd look great if he was in a diaper too! I love wild stuff. I've been wearing short skirts since I was 14 years old. They've come and gone in style and I never really stopped wearing them when they weren't in style. I feel comfortable in them because I can dance in them. I couldn't work in that CMA dress I wore. I like to work in short dresses, but I always wear shorts underneath them so nobody can see anything. Usually, by the end of the night I have turned a cartwheel or two. I feel good in cowboy boots, like Beatle boots, because I can run. I'm pretty high energy on stage, so I have a hard time working a whole show in just regular high heel shoes. I like to wear cowboy boots and fancy dresses. It's kind of funky-looking and not necessarily the most glamorous thing for work, but it's functional.

Marty: Lady-wise, the one who's really made a statement is Michelle Wright. She's done her thing with a Manuel jacket and cat suit.

Carlene: I think she's really good. I've met her and I think she's a really good performer--she has a lot of guts in her voice and I enjoy that. I'm not familiar with her as a writer, but I spent time with her in dressing rooms around the country and we definitely bonded. Dwight Yoakam is definitely fashion, he always has been. His image has had to do with this clothing. With Dwight, his whole image is real thought out. When he does his photographs and when he does his packaging for any album covers, he has a real good marketing sense. He's marketed himself by an image with his jeans and his hat. Manuel and him and Marty are all real friends. I have one Manuel thing that he made me before "I Fell In Love," the red mini-dress. When I went there, I said, "Manuel, I want to look like Judy Garland did when she wore the black tuxedo as a dress, but I want it to be red." Well, he almost made it too short because when I lifted my arms it came clear up to my waist!

Marty: Mary Chapin has a wonderful thing about her. I can't see her in a Manuel suit or a cowboy gig. Mary Chapin, to me, is like the avant-garde writer. She could play on a street in Paris. She's timeless and boundaryless.

Carlene: Mary Chapin, she's really happening. I like her because I think she's very comfortable in her own skin and doesn't feel that she needs to make any compromises as far as trying to fit in image-wise to anything. She feels she doesn't have to put on a cowgirl outfit to be a country singer. She's comfortable within herself and comfortable with her talent.

Marty: Tanya Tucker's always had that sassy cowgirl thing about her. I love what Tanya's always stood for. Unfortunately, she's one of those people that can pull off just about anything, too. I think Tanya's whole thing is about danger. To see just how close to the edge she can get out there. I love her!

Carlene: Tanya has always been a fashion statement. She looks wonderful now. You'd never have a clue that she's had two kids in the last few years! She stays in good shape. I think Lorrie Morgan is cool, too. She's one of my favorite singers. You know who I really like now is Shelby Lynn. A voice and a half. We shared a dressing room at the CMA's--she's a little whippersnapper. I thought she looked great at the awards! As far as women go, Kelly Willis--she's a babe! Deborah Allen is great. Very talented. She tends to wear the ripped jeans, flowing blouse.

Marty: Deborah Allen, she's just a beautiful person. She can wear and look good in just about anything. Bobbie Cryner is real pretty and has a look about her, too. And Emmylou Harris is just an incredible work of dignity. God did good when he made Emmylou.

Carlene: Emmylou had a large influence on me in my early days. She had kind of a hippie thing going. I always loved it when she wore her jeans with the boots on the outside and those silky flowing blouses. Her and Linda Ronstadt were probably my biggest influences. Linda Ronstadt, when I first met her, I was like 14 years old, and I saw her at the Troubadour and she was playing with Kris Kristofferson. She had on a blue jean mini-skirt and played a tambourine and I said, "that's what I want to do!" I went through a uniform phase where I was a cheerleader on one album cover in 1980, but that was before people were wearing cowboy outfits. I like K.T. Oslin; she is one of my favorites. She's got a certain sense of feistiness about her that I really relate to. She is very responsible for me coming back and pursuing a country career. I saw her at the CMA awards in 1988 and we spent a lot of time talking about how country music has changed and there was a place for someone like me that hadn't been filled. And really there isn't anybody that does exactly what I do, but that night I heard her sing "Hold Me," and I thought, boy, that is such a great song. I think that I could come back to America and maybe fit in now. Because I hadn't changed my musical style in the last 15 years, it's just that country music has changed a lot. Doing what I do now, I did not fit in 10 years ago.

Marty: This guy Stacy Dean Campbell does indeed make a statement. He looks like a hillbilly. Chris Isaak or something.

Carlene: I always thought Rodney Crowell had style. I do think Billy Ray Cyrus brought something different; brought muscle, brought the health look to country music. Aaron Tippin, I might use him as an example. I like the clean-cut, muscley kind of thing, much more than the sunken-cheeked, dark-eyed grunge look. I think that Billy Ray did a real cool job of that apart from the fact that people have really flagged him off as being a Chippendale dancer or whatever. He was brave enough to get back to the Elvis Presley type, like shakin' his hiney! I don't know if that is something that I go for. I'm just talking about in general.

Marty: I saw a girl yesterday going into a concert in a George Strait-looking hat. Beautiful cowgirl with a blouse, pair of shorts, and cowboy boots and I thought "that's getting to look as traditional as khakis, a pair of loafers and an Izod shirt." It seems just as traditional anymore to see a cowgirl hair, blouse, and a pair of shorts. With the guys, a pair of Ropers, jeans and hat with a Garth Brooks-looking shirt. It's almost like a uniform, like to the Yuppie it's the khaki thing. I think it's really cool that the culture is speaking out.

Carlene: I'll tell you who I think is real cool right now and are doing a good job is Brooks and Dunn. They have a great live show. They are cowboy, but I don't feel like they are a hat act. I think George Strait was the first original hat, and I just like anyone with individuality in the way they dress, sing, or go about presenting themselves as an entertainer. Those are the people that I tend to like, to respect. I always liked Steve Earle a lot. I thought he had a certain kind of thing that was different--and I always like the outlaw type of thing when Waylon and Willie were doing that. I try not to pay too much attention to what everybody else is doing, and just try to concentrate on my own thing. I just want to keep my individuality. Not that it would make any difference, because I just do what I feel is right anyway.

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