Clint Black: ‘I’m looking to put the wisdom I’ve gained into lyrics’

Clint Black is coming to Austin this Sunday for a night at One World Theatre, touring in support of his new album “On Purpose.” It’s his first album in a decade, but it sounds like the Clint Black that fans grew to love in the ’90s. There’s the strong songwriting (Black wrote or co-wrote every song on the new album) combined with the traditional country musicianship he’s known for, as well as another duet with his wife, Lisa Hartman Black.

Clint Black. (Photo credit: Kevin Mazur.)

Clint Black. (Photo credit: Kevin Mazur.)

But what has Black been up to in the interim? I got the chance to interview Black via email, and he answered questions about his new album and his career thus far. Answers that follow have been edited for length, clarity and style.

Austin Music Source: How has your life changed since returning to music after 10 years?

Clint Black: I’m doing a lot more interviews! HA. I really never left, I was just fielding offers from major labels and let them drag out for about seven years over three labels. [Black spent most of his career at RCA before founding his own label, Equity Music Group, in 2003. The company folded in 2008 due to financial difficulties. His new album is being released through Thirty Tigers.]

I was touring 80 or 90 cities a year, doing movies, writing and producing music for film and television and working for my charity, the International Rett Syndrome Foundation. [Black’s niece Cortney died from the rare genetic disorder at 16 years old in 2003.] Releasing new music is exciting, though, and it did make me a bit more busy.

AMS: What was the biggest difference with working with Thirty Tigers over RCA and Equity?

CB: The people running Thirty Tigers do a great job of running their company, and the people running my label…didn’t. Every time I came back from the road, something else was going wrong. Equity did do one thing right though— we broke Little Big Town’s career wide open. When they left the label after that, it was too much for the label to handle. [Other acts signed to the label included Kevin Fowler and Mark Wills.]

AMS: You co-wrote or wrote every song on “On Purpose” and you’ve had a strong hand in writing your own material since “Killin’ Time.” What is your songwriting process like, and what do you hope to accomplish with each song you write?

CB: Nowadays, it could be sitting with a guitar and a piece of paper, or in many cases, with a USB keyboard plugged into my laptop, putting drum grooves down that allow me to play ideas over and over until the parts all come together. As a lyricist, I’m just trying to not write the same song again. That goes for songs I didn’t write, too. At this stage in my life, I’m looking to put the wisdom I’ve gained into the lyrics and possibly find more wisdom in the process. It has always been an exploration of the human condition and the feelings that come from the myriad conditions we all experience.

AMS: “On Purpose” features “You Still Get to Me,” your third duet with your wife. How has your creative collaboration with her evolved over the years?

CB: We just get better at it! We get better at everything we do together. That comes from growing together. We’re closer now than ever before and that makes every challenge easier.

AMS: What drove you to write, record and produce a new album now?

CB: I’d been working up new music for quite a while. I was convinced that three successive labels were interested in me. Each time, it turned out, they wanted my voice and my name but wanted to make the records themselves. They “find songs,” they “get it produced”…they “make the record,” essentially. I’ve written or co-written all of my hits from the beginning and I felt I’d earned the job by now. So, I finally walked away from the majors and found Thirty Tigers. Suddenly, I had a deadline! I had written a ton of songs, so I had the difficult task of deciding what I would include.

AMS: You recently became the 48th inductee into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. What was your reaction to the news, and to what do you owe your success?

CB: I was very pleased to be included. I’m proud of my roots and thrilled to be in that hall in my home state. To my success, I owe so many people along the way who encouraged and enabled me to make it. Along with that, the determination to make music regardless of the level of success. What ultimately led to my breakthrough was a book on time management. That book helped me organize and focus my efforts, which led to the demo that led me to RCA Records.

AMS: As a part of country music’s famed “Class of ’89,” you helped to revitalize and define the sound of country music for a new generation. What group from today’s country artists do you see making similar waves?

CB: It’s hard for me to tell. I’m focused less on the mainstream and more on the edges of country music.

AMS: You’re also known for dabbling in film outside of your music career. One of my favorite memories as a kid is of watching “Maverick” with my dad whenever it came on TV. Do you have any fond memories of filming that movie or recording its soundtrack?

CB: I have some great memories. Walking into “camp” and seeing Mel [Gibson] and [director] Dick Donner working in a trailer and being invited in to watch them work up the day’s shot list. Walking onto the boat and seeing James Garner, one of my favorite actors. Just standing around with Jodie [Foster], Mel, James and so many great western movie actors was priceless.

Afterward, I was given the unfinished film to pull clips from to use in the music video. It was the first video of mine I directed and I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to satisfy Warner Bros. and Richard Donner. They used my song, “A Good Run of Bad Luck” in the Maverick pinball machine, which –being a pinball junkie as a kid– was something I would never have thought to throw into my bucket list.

AMS: What can fans expect at your show at One World Theatre?

CB: We’re going to be doing a lot of hits, a couple of deep cuts, and two or three new songs from “On Purpose.” Also, we have new addition to the band, Jason Mowery, who sings and plays fiddle, dobro, banjo, guitar and the mandolin. This has energized the band, and it’s breathing new life into the show.

Of course, in the intimate setting of One World, I’ll be able to share some of the funny tidbits behind the songs and look for the laughs that often come from such a close interaction with an audience.

AMS: Finally, 25 years after bursting onto the country music scene, what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned?

CB: To not let anything I can control deprive me of enjoying the work I do and the audiences that come to see me.

Clint Black will perform at One World Theatre Sunday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. Tickets can be found here.


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