As regular readers know, Pam Tillis released the best album of her career earlier this year: Rhinestoned. I had the wonderful pleasure of talking to her about this project that is so close to her heart, and I think I’m more proud of this interview than anything I’ve done on this site to date. I don’t have the discipline of a professional journalist quite yet, so this doesn’t have the normal structure of an interview. I don’t want to alter it in any way, so I’ll just call it a conversation instead. Hopefully all of you will get a sense of the sincerity and depth of her talent while reading it. Look for more interviews in the future with other great artists!
I’m very excited to talk to you today about Rhinestoned.
Thank you so much.
What a fantastic album!
Well, I’m kind of partial to it myself.
I’m very interested in talking about the philosophy behind the project, and how some of the songs are connected to your earlier work, but I want to ask you first: Did you realize you had created something very special once it was completed?
I felt that way, but you never know until you release it into the world. There’s always that moment of apprehension. How will this be received? I played it for my brother and my sister the night we finished mixing it. We were all going on the road together, and I came on to the bus. Of course it was a little bit hard to hear it perfectly over the engine roar, but they listened to it. They seemed a little taken aback by it, but they loved the direction of it. And my family is tough. If they don’t like something, they’ll tell you. So I felt very encouraged that they liked it so much.
You co-wrote “The Hard Way” with your brother, Mel Jr. That song reminded me a lot of “Melancholy Child” and “Homeward Looking Angel.”
Hey, that’s good company.
When you write a song that’s so deeply personal, how does it feel to find your audience finding their own personal connection to it?
Well, that’s what it’s all about to me. I love that about it. People ask me a lot why I don’t write more, and I think it takes a lot for me to open up in some ways. So I only write those songs like that every now and then, when I’m feeling like it’s okay to be vulnerable.
We’re so thankful you did. “Melancholy Child” was one of those songs that came along – I was in sixth grade when I heard that, and it was like somebody wrote a little piece of my life story as it was developing.
I was just really blown away by it. My father passed away actually, earlier this year, and as the album came out, the first song I heard that really floored me was “Someone Somewhere Tonight.” For me it’s sort of like the centerpiece of the album, the way “The River & The Highway” was for All of This Love.
I know, that’s an unbelievable song. I think you’re right about that. It’s just a really special piece of work, and you don’t come across songs like that every day.
It’s one of those songs that can’t just play in the background. Everything just stops and comes to a standstill.
It demands your attention.
To go to a lighter note, one of the things that I found very entertaining on the album was “Band in the Window”, which I know is the first single. Other than “Long Time Gone”, I can’t remember another song that talks about singing down on Broadway, and you’d think it’s so much in the history of the town.
Well, I think that people in Nashville get afraid to record something that’s not right down the middle. They’re like, “Oh, everybody doesn’t know about Lower Broad.” And I’m like, “It’s a good story. People come there from all over the world. It’s okay.”
What do you think Music Row could learn today from downtown Broadway? Do you think there are lessons there for them?
I will tell you what a friend of mine said in a conversation a couple of days ago, and I thought it was very interesting. I think there’s a good amount of truth to it. He said that people in the music business – I’m talking about those people who go into an office every day, and they listen to a thousand demos and they see a thousand artists, and they’re all trying to think about how to come out with the next big thing. When you’re downtown on Music Row in an office, it is really easy to lose touch with what the friends and neighbors find entertaining. You can just over think it, and I just totally agree with him.
My friends, they’ve got a group called The LoCash Cowboys, and people just love them. Nobody’s signed them yet, and they’re fantastic, but some people are just thinking too hard. You see stuff like that every day, people overlooking fantastic artists.