He Talks About Changes in the Music Industry and How Some Things Remain the Same
December 15, 2010; Written by Calvin Gilbert
Alan Jackson politely downplays his insight into the current state of the music business, yet it's always intriguing when superstar artists offer their observations about the industry.
In the second installment of a two-part interview with CMT.com, Jackson shares his thoughts about some of his musical decisions and the changes he's witnessed in the country music industry since scoring his first Top 10 singles in 1990. He also talks about a conversation with Zac Brown that leads him to believe that some things never change at all.
Jackson's 34 Number Ones, a two-CD compilation, is currently spending its third consecutive week in the Top 10 of Billboard's country albums chart.
CMT.com: Through the years, you've commented on the state of country music by releasing "Gone Country," "Three Minute Positive Not Too Country Up-Tempo Love Song" and your duet with George Strait, "Murder on Music Row." And there was that time in 1999 at the CMA Awards when you surprised everyone by singing a portion of George Jones' "Choices" after the TV producers refused to let him perform the entire song on the show. It seems like you've never been reluctant to jab the music industry when you think it needs it. Do you take pleasure in being able to do that occasionally?
I don't know that I take pleasure in it, but sometimes I just feel like something isn't being handled right ... such as the George Jones thing. Not just because I'm a big fan, but I just thought he's a legend and nearly died in that wreck, and then he had that song that just came back and was just such a part of his story. And it was a hit, and he deserved to sing the thing. It made me mad.
But Bob McDill wrote the "Gone Country" song. When I first heard it, I just loved the chorus. In the chorus, you can't pick up on that jabbing the industry, as you talk about, but the verses definitely do. I liked what it said at the time because it was true. That's kind of the way I felt because at the time, in the early '90s when country got so hot and we were selling a lot of albums, everybody started coming to country. And I guess that's just natural. It could happen if it had been any kind of music. A lot of times, country seems to get the cold shoulder, and when the money started coming in, it didn't. That's what Bob tells me he felt when he wrote that. The fans didn't care. They just liked the chorus, "Gone country." (laughs)
How has the industry changed since you started?
I don't know that I'm that schooled on it anymore. I don't really stay plugged into it as much as I used to or should. I think, like anybody, the Internet has affected all the record sales. As far as the basic music part of it, I don't know that it's changed that much. There's always different styles of songs you hear. There's always been people down on Music Row, young kids coming to town and writing hard country stuff like I do. Then there's a lot of them who come to write with a pop sound or a Southern rock sound. It's always been that way even before I came here. There was more pop-sounding stuff on the radio in the early '80s than there is now.
What's the future of record labels?
I don't know if I'm smart enough to really comment on the business part of it, but I think, just based on what little I've heard, record sales swing more toward the Internet and people are just picking off singles and not buying albums. I mean, I don't know how they're going to make enough money to stay in business. I've heard of some of them pretty much buying somebody's career when they sign with them where they get part of your T-shirt sales and touring. If you can do all of that, that's the only way I can see that they're really going to be able to stay in business at the level they have been where they have these buildings and all the staff. They have been scaling down, but I don't know.
Do younger artists try to talk to you about the business?
I don't talk to a lot of them. But just recently, when Zac Brown and I were talking, he's kind of the same way. I don't really understand, but he's on a label that's two different companies and they're trying to figure out how to do things on the Internet. I could hear things in his voice that I heard when I was a young artist, saying, "They're not doing this." Just the same frustrations that you have as an artist. I think a lot of labels are probably hurting for money. When I came along, they were a little more free with their money -- promoting you and marketing you and spending on videos.
It seems like Zac Brown is doing things the right way by building a grassroots fan base, which is what has always worked in country music.
I think he's definitely doing the right thing, and he'll probably last longer than most.
Superstar Reflects on His Career, Including His New 34 Number Ones Compilation
December 14, 2010; Written by Calvin Gilbert
Few artists in any musical genre ever achieve the level of sustained success Alan Jackson has enjoyed over the past two decades. That success continues with the release of a two-CD compilation, 34 Number Ones, and a Grammy nomination for "As She's Walking Away," his hit collaboration with the Zac Brown Band.
During a recent interview at CMT's offices in Nashville, the Georgia native reflected on his career, including his pre-stardom days spent working in the mailroom at CMT's former sister network, TNN: The Nashville Network. He also talked about how a leisurely afternoon with his wife, Denise, once prompted him to listen to all of his albums again.
CMT.com: There are still some people at CMT who remember when you worked at TNN.
Yeah, I know. I saw some of them out there -- the camera guys, the crew -- that I remember from way back.
What was it like for you to be working for TNN?
Hey, you know what? That was a good thing for me because I was so stupid when I came to Nashville. I didn't know anything about the business. I'd never been around any entertainment or stars or anything. I got to see a lot of the entertainers coming in and out and some of those live shows they recorded. And the Opry was part of the complex there, so it was really an educational time for me.
Was it frustrating to be so close to the music industry while your music career was still so far removed from it?
Yeah, sometimes. To be honest with you, I only worked there for about six months. It seems like a long time when I was there when I look back at it, but I learned a lot there. I still had recorded some demos and got close to a record deal even when I was there -- that quick. And so, yeah, it was a little bit disheartening to be all around it and not be a part of it. But, like I say, I think it gave me a chance to learn.
For anybody who comes to work in Nashville, it's a big deal the first time you see some of the stars. It's still a magical thing.
I'll never forget, when I worked there at TNN, they had that awards show or something. That was the CMAs, I guess, on that compound at the time out at the Opry House. And I got to go on Hank Jr.'s bus to deliver some contracts or papers or something to him. When he came walking out of the back of that bus, man, he looked like he was 30-feet tall! (laughs) I was just a huge fan, and I'll never forget that.
You mentioned that you had some offers from other labels before you signed to Arista? How close were you to signing any of those?
We had some kind of crazy deal. This guy ... came up with this plan where he was going to sign 10 new acts at the same time and put them all on one album. They'd all have one single, and whichever one hit ... .We actually had that offer, and I almost did it. I think I finally got some attorney that I didn't know to help me with it. He said, "I'd pass on it." He talked me into passing on it because he just felt like I wouldn't get a really true shot there.
Tim DuBois started Arista Nashville from scratch. Did you know him? What was it about him that made you trust him?
I didn't know him at all. After I learned about the label starting, they were coming to a showcase or something. I was doing a showcase for some labels. That was the first time I'd really known who he was. I guess initially what impressed me about Tim was that I liked him because he wasn't just a businessman. He was a songwriter. He wrote the Restless Heart song ["Bluest Eyes in Texas"], and Jerry Reed had a big hit with "She Got the Goldmine." I felt like he had a music ear as well as a business sense to him. And that's what he was, and I respected that, and he was just a nice fellow.
One song that didn't exactly qualify for 34 Number Ones was "Blue Blooded Woman." How much of a disappointment was it in 1989 when your first single only peaked in the 40s on the chart? Or were you happy just because it charted?
(laughs) Aw, I was heartbroken! I mean, I'd seen too many acts come along that had one or two singles that didn't make it, and then they're gone. So I knew you didn't have many shots. And even worse, after that thing died, my wife came home and said she was pregnant with our first child. We weren't really planning that, and I thought, "Oh, man. My song died and my wife's pregnant. I'm gonna have to get a job and end this career." And then "Here in the Real World" came along.
Other than compiling the greatest hits package or putting together a set list for your concerts, do you spend much time thinking about how successful these songs have been?
I don't spend hardly any time thinking about it, to be honest with you. (laughs) When we were putting this package together and I sat down and looked at it, even though I perform a lot of those songs, a lot of them I don't anymore. I just don't have time to do them all. I do the ones I feel like are more popular.
I tell you what got me was a few years ago, Denise and I ... I hardly ever listen to my own music ... but we were sitting around the house in the summertime. We were out by the pool, having a drink or something, and we put in all my CDs, I think in order, and listened to every cut out there, just sitting around. I'd never done that. It was just crazy to hear all of that. I mean, I love some of the album cuts better than the hits. It was just amazing to hear all that material. It's hard to imagine that I've lasted that long.
As you listened to those albums back to back, could you hear yourself progressing and moving into different directions?
Sometimes. I mean, my voice has gotten a little deeper sounding as I've gotten older, I think. I noticed that. On the early records, my voice sounds a little higher. I know I've dropped some keys on some of those that we still sing. Yeah, I mean, I could hear what was going on in my life, especially the songs I wrote. You know, where if it was a time when Denise and I weren't doing good or something and I wrote some stuff in there that other people might not hear, but I do. I know what it's about. Whatever happened to be going on at the time, all that brings back a lot of memories. Again, as I've gotten a little more mature, I hear some subtle changes in the songs that I've chosen.
When did you record your version of "Ring of Fire" that's on the new compilation?
We cut part of that thing years ago, and it's been sitting in the can. We went in and redid it. We used some of it, I think. I resang it and did some other stuff with it. I'd always loved that cut. We just never did anything with it. Gary Overton, who's running the label now, he's an old friend who used to manage me. He wanted to put it on there. I'd forgotten about the thing. I went back and listened to it, and got Keith [Stegall], my producer, and I agreed with him. I thought it was a pretty cool cut. I'd never gotten to do a Johnny Cash song, and I've covered a bunch of stuff. I always really felt like it was something I wanted to do.
“FASTEST SELLING COUNTRY MUSIC TOUR IN AUSTRALIAN MUSIC HISTORY”Tickets for Country music artist Alan Jackson’s first ever tour in Australia - scheduled for March of 2011 - sold out within hours of being put on sale Friday morning, Oct. 8 (AEST and AEDT). Ticket sales for the four announced dates - Melbourne (March 4), Sydney (March 7) and Brisbane (March 10 and 11) - sold so quickly that the tour was extended; an additional concert, a third show in Brisbane, has been added to the schedule. Tickets for the newly announced March 12th show in Brisbane go on sale October 14.
“We’re looking at what may be the fastest selling country show or tour in Australian country music history,” said Rob Potts, CEO of Rob Potts Entertainment Edge and co-promoter of the tour. “The excitement level for Alan Jackson’s first tour in our country just can’t be measured. The fans can't believe he's really coming - and ticket sales have proven just how excited they are.”When reached on his boat about adding another date to the Australian tour, Jackson laughed, “I‘m a Southern man, and that‘s about as far South as we can go – let’s go do it!”
"I've always heard that it's just beautiful down there, and everybody I know that's been there has loved it,” added Jackson. “I’ve heard that the Australian people are really warm and welcome people from the U.S. so generously. That's all I've ever heard - just great things. Great things."
Alan Jackson is one of the most successful and respected songwriter/performers in music, inspiring audiences across several generations with his modern approach to classic country. A 16-time CMA and 16-time ACM Award winner and a GRAMMY winning songwriter/performer, Jackson’s career to date has included sales of more than 50 million albums and 34 #1 hit singles, including ‘Drive’, ‘Chattahoochee’ and ‘Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)’. On November 22, Jackson will release 34 Number Ones, a career-spanning, double-disc collection featuring all 34 of Jackson’s #1 hits. With 37 songs in all, the project will also include two rare tracks as well as the Zac Brown Band-collaborated hit “As She’s Walking Away.”
Alan Jackson Answers 11 Questions
theboot.com / Posted Aug 6th 2010 by Deborah Evans-Price
After more than 20 years in the music business, Alan Jackson is still going like ... well, a 'Freight Train,' which just happens to be the title of his latest album, released in March. He's been on a tour of the same name for the past few months, alongside opening act Chris Young, entertaining crowds with a set list that spans his two illustrious decades worth of country hits. The Boot managed to catch the Georgia native on a rare day off for a fun chat about fishing, favorite vacation spots and his secrets to both personal and professional success.
What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?
What I enjoy doing more than anything is, I have my little antique car collection, and when the weather is pretty I like to get out one of my old cars. I have a little route I run down in the country, down Nachez Trace Parkway. The loop down through there is just really relaxing, not much traffic. I turn the cell phone and radio off and enjoy listening to the car and riding through the country. I've been doing that since I was a teenager, and I still enjoy it.
What do you think is the best car ever made?
I'd say, because it's an American car and because how it has held up for all these years, a Chevrolet Corvette. [It] was really America's first sports car. That and the Thunderbird came out about the same time -- in '53. They are still building them today, still selling them. It's as fine a high performance sports car as any Ferrari out there. They don't get the attention as those cars, but are just as well designed or better. Most drive better and perform better than most of the cars that cost $300,000. They aren't near that expensive and a lot of people can still buy them. I think that's an American icon and will always be there.
What song did somebody else write that you wish you'd written?
I love that 'In Color' that Jamey Johnson wrote with [James Otto and Lee Thomas Miller]. That's a good song, well written. Another song I like is that Taylor Swift song, 'Teardrops on My Guitar.' Some of the other songs are a little bit teenager for me, but [when I heard] 'Teardrops on My Guitar,' I didn't even know who she was and I thought that was a good song.
What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Depends on if [my wife] Denise gets out of bed before I do or not ... You have to take the dog out. When it's cold, I try to stay in bed so she'll get up first and take the dog out!
What would Denise say is your worst habit?
Probably just that I'm so obsessive compulsive. If I get something on my mind, I drive her crazy to get it done.
What is your favorite thing to do on a date night?
We probably have different ideas of that, but we do try to get out. We try to go to dinner or to the movies, or build a fire and have some wine. Other than that, I like going up to the lake and she likes going down to Florida.
What's the biggest fish you've ever caught?
The biggest thing I've actually got to the boat would be a 650 lb. blue marlin. We released it. You can still have a mount made if you want, but you don't kill them anymore. They pretty much all look the same, so when you bring them up, you calculate what size they are. You don't take them in to weigh them because you'd have to kill them, but your boat captain can make a good estimate and they make a mold of him so it looks just like the fish.
Wow! What's the secret to reeling in one of those big ones?
You have to have the right reel and technique. Get a big fighting chair and have a captain that knows how to move the boat around ... You have to learn to let them go when they want to go and then get some line on them when you can and just keep fighting them until they get tired. Eventually you can get it in. We try not to hurt the fish. We bring it back up to the boat and try to hold onto it and relax and get water going through their gills again before you release them so you make sure they live. You don't try to hurt them.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Pretty much anything chocolate.
What advice do you give people who want to get into the music business?
You have to be tough-skinned and willing to accept criticism, and at the same time, just try to do music that you like and you are proud of and not just whatever you think it's going to take to get you on the radio.
Congratulations on your 30th wedding anniversary! What's the secret to a successful marriage?
I don't know. Every day is different; it's a long road, I'll tell you that. There's been a lot of pot holes, curves. You've got to try to keep in touch with each other on an intimate level [like you did] when you were young and dating, when you really liked each other [laughs]. Have some romantic time. You can't just let every day life [cause you to] end up where you just live together. I don't like to go to bed at night without Denise. I go to bed and watch television. I don't go to sleep without her being in the bed.
Get up in the morning and drink coffee together before the kids so you can talk a few minutes, even if it's about nothing. Spend some time together on your own, take romantic trips overnight or go out to dinner, just stay connected as a couple, not just as a parent. That's going to help more than anything.