A Trip Home Inspires Stuart's Country Music
|This appeared on CMT.com - July 11, 2003|
After a string of hits during the 90s, Marty Stuart found new creative energy as a record producer, working on projects such as Billy Bob Thorntons Private Radio (released in 2001) and the all-star Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash (2002). Stuart also expanded his involvement in films by scoring All the Pretty Horses, a project directed by Thornton and starring Matt Damon, Penelope Cruz and Bruce Dern.
Stuart and his band, the Fabulous Superlatives, recently released Country Music, an aptly-named album containing several of his original songs and additional covers of songs popularized by Johnny Cash and Porter Wagoner.
Inspired by small-town America, Stuart launched the Electric Barnyard Festival earlier this month. Merle Haggard joins him on the road, as well as a variety of others: Old Crow Medicine Show, Connie Smith, BR549 and Rhonda Vincent.
The Mississippi native and Grand Ole Opry star recently visited with CMT Radios Shannon Wayne Turner about the lessons he learned during his intermission, the state of contemporary country music and whats on the other side of the rainbow.
CMT: After your success in the 90s, why did you leave the Nashville mainstream for a while?
CMT: When did you decide it was time to come home?
The night before I left California, I had a talk with Faye Dunaway, one of my favorite people and one of my favorite actresses. I said Fay-bob, I gotta go home and do something thats gonna be hard. And she said, What, dah-ling? I said, I am going to go home and pick up where I left off and go back to work. She said, Oh, dont even think about it. You have so much to draw from, so much power and inspiration to draw from. Just go home and let God do His thing and you do yours. I thought, Well, thats easy to say, but thats kind of what happened.
CMT: When did you decide to take on a tour?
I went home and called my booking agent and said that I wanted to stay on the back roads, but I want to make something out of it. And I thought of the name -- the Electric Barnyard Festival. Well, who would I use? We needed an American icon, and I immediately thought of Merle Haggard. I also thought of Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. Shes the queen of bluegrass. Old Crow Medicine Show is a string band I found in a parking lot a couple of years back. BR549 is on some shows. Connie Smith [Stuarts wife] is on some shows. Its been a go-to-the-office-every-day kind of job for the last year to put this together and get this record off the ground, but were there.
CMT: How does the Electric Barnyard Festival fit in the realm of the big stadium tours out there?
I mean, come on. I have my health. My mom and my dad and my sister are still with me. Connie and I have an incredible marriage. Home feels peaceful. Theres a recording contract on the table. Theres a tour on the table. Theres work. The songs and the creativity are flowing now. It would be wonderful to take a snapshot of it like it is right now and leave it that way, but it cant be that way. Its a very blessed time and I recognize it.
CMT: Since youre taking such a roots-oriented approach with the Electric Barnyard Festival and your new album, what does that say about your opinion of other contemporary country music?
When you do that, a lot of times the roots and the original point of view get left behind. Then, somebody has to speak up in church and ring the bell and go, Oh, but remember. And I think theres been a lot of that going on in the last couple of years. Its healthy to see O Brother, Where Art Thou? be successful, and its healthy to see what music the Chicks have played. People like Ricky Skaggs and Alison Krauss are always there. I just thought it was my turn to get back in there and do my part. I just simply wanted to stand up for the cause. People always ask what kind of record my new album is going to be, and I just thought, Well, lets just take care of that and call it Country Music. (Laughs) Thats what I love, and I think what I am trying to simply say is, Here, share my lifes experience with me, share this point in the journey. These songs come from my heart and they come from my experience. If you need em and they help your life out, great. Take the advice and run with it. If not, just dance to it and forget it. Thats the beauty of it.
CMT: Do you think that the rivalries or controversies that sometimes happen with artists, like Toby Keith and Natalie Maines, hurt the music?
As an industry and for the dignity of the industry, I dont think it helps us. At the same time, it isnt any of my business. Im not a part of it, so it really doesnt concern me. But from an industry standpoint, lets take a breath and get back to playing. Like the bumper sticker I saw when I went to Memphis, Tennessee. We booked Sun Studios, and there was a bumper sticker above the control room that said Its about the music, stupid. (Laughs) So, there it is.
CMT: Youve said that youve been in extraordinary circumstances, known extraordinary people. Have you found your place among them, your own purpose?
CMT: Whats on the other side of the rainbow?
By Shannon Wayne Turner
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