Mr. Misunderstood has finally broken his silence.
It’s been months since Eric Church went full-on Beyonce and shock-released Mr. Misunderstood on the eve of the CMA broadcast, and it’s been just as long since the self-proclaimed outsider has done any interviews about the project, instead choosing to let the album stand fully on its own (considerable) merits. This week, Church gave an absolutely vital interview with Jewly Hight, in which he talked in great depth about his creative process and his status within the genre. In as much as we often say interviews are “must read,” this one really and truly is something country music fans should check out.
Elsewhere, there’s an awards show allegedly starting as we finalize this post. You can read and get righteously angry about our picks and predictions post– we’re already annoyed that Florida Georgia Line beat Joey + Rory and Maddie & Tae for Best Vocal Duo.
There are new videos from Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, and a former CTU secret agent, along with touring announcements from Merle Haggard, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Brandi Carlile. Sturgill Simpson gets cast as a genuine alternative while comparing himself to Ahab, and Reba celebrated her birthday week by announcing a new role in her already storied career.
It’s a light week on the new music front, though an underrated and spectacularly named band from the 90s alt-country scene have a Best-Of set.
New Releases & Reissues, 4/01/2016
The Allman Brothers Band, Live from A&R Studios: New York, August 26, 1971. (RED)
Robbie Fulks, Upland Stories. (Bloodshot)
Slobberbone, Bees and Seas: The Best of Slobberbone. (New West)
Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones, Little Windows. (Cooking Vinyl)
News and Notes
Actor Kiefer Sutherland– y’know, Jack Bauer from 24— debuted the music video for his foray into traditional country, “Not Enough Whiskey.” Sutherland has a very Tom Waits / Leonard Cohen thing going on with his voice, which people will either dig or really, really not dig. (JK)
“After about five or six days I started to see a record take shape. The first thing we recorded was ‘Mr. Misunderstood.’ I said, ‘I’m just gonna cut that one song, and if it goes well, maybe we’ll cut another one the next day.’ And we stayed in the studio for ten straight days. When we got to the end of the tenth day, we had a record.”
— Eric Church reflected on the recording process for Mr. Misunderstood in his first interview in the four months (!!) since the album’s surprise release. Jewly Hight is one of our favorite country music journalists– she’s featured in pretty well every Sunday Selections post based upon the quality of her diverse writings on the genre– but her interview with Church for Vulture is truly exceptional, insightful work. (JK)
“I understand that not all this stuff may work on radio. We’ve had 20-some singles now; we’ve had four number-ones out of that. So when people say, ‘You’re mainstream,’ I get it. But we’ve still not had a ton of radio number-one-song-type stuff. ‘Smoke a Little Smoke’ wasn’t even a top-15 hit. ‘Homeboy’ was not what you would call a radio hit. But these are the songs that are a must at the show. When we put a song out, it’s not just because we’re trying to see what radio will do. It’s because I think it’s an important song.”
— Church again, this time on his status as a mainstream country artist who sells big and is nominated for industry awards but who has a hit-or-miss track record at radio. Again, the interview is really a gold mine. It’s Church at his most measured, mature, and articulate. (JK)
“The music has always had that raw and natural sound, but I think now it’s getting its due commercially, which I’m really excited about. I feel like there are two lanes now: You have the really pop-country stuff, which does great and sells records, and then you have this natural, organic, real side that’s also selling records. It’s a fun time to be here.”
— Producer Dave Cobb spoke to the one-and-only Juli Thanki of The Tennesean for a wide-ranging interview that covers his work in the famed Studio A to the Southern Family compilation he spearheaded and some of his upcoming projects. (JK)
“I’m a woman who has been in the music industry for 40 years. I’m a tough woman. I work on the ranch, I’ve rodeod, I’m very much a tomboy. A feminine woman, but also a tough one who realizes that she’s working in a man’s world,. She’s living in a man’s world. You work 10 times harder. You don’t bellyache and you smile and grin and while they’re sleeping in bed you’re still up working.“
— Reba, who celebrated a birthday this week, reflected on the toughness in her background and how it has impacted her work ethic in a male-dominated industry as part of an excellent interview with Rachel Weingarten of Parade magazine. The music icon talks about the current slate of projects that are keeping her busy, her gorgeous and moving music video for “Just Like Them Horses,” and the importance of her faith in her day-to-day life. Reba also announced this week that, following her divorce from Narvel Blackstock, she will be acting as her own manager moving forward. Because she’s Reba, and she is the boss. (JK)
“I never would have sat in my car and listened to that (musical) style, but I was sitting there so in a trance watching these guys, and how amazing they were. It made me think of how music is just a universal thing. I don’t even have to know a lot about the genre, and I was feeling every note they were playing, and every lyric…I got to meet them after the show, and I was kind of geeking out, because I thought they were so good.”
— Tori Kelly, recently a Best New Artist nominee at the Grammy Awards, was most impressed when she attended a show by The Time Jumpers. Kelly was in Nashville to collaborate with Amy Grant on an unspecified project, and Grant invited Kelly to the band’s show. (JK)
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Duane Eddy revealed that he has been in the studio with Steve Wariner, evidently working on Wariner’s next album. Details are scarce, but for a hashtag of “#twang.” Still, we like the sound of that. (JK)
Cam performed her latest single, “Mayday,” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last week. (JK)
“I was that little girl wanting to play guitar. When I saw Emmylou Harris with a great big Gibson guitar, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, if Emmylou Harris plays that great big Gibson guitar, it must be OK for me.’”
— Brandy Clark, speaking about drawing early inspiration from Emmylou Harris, was included in the “Women of Country” night at the ACM Party for a Cause. The all-star concert was headlined by Carrie Underwood and also featured Cam, Maddie & Tae, Martina McBride, and others. (JK)
Over at Country Standard Time, our Sam Gazdiak gave a mixed review to wildly hyped newcomer Kane Brown’s Chapter 1. (JK)
Last week, we posted about Chris Stapleton’s visit to his high school in Paintsville, Kentucky, where he donated $57K worth of instruments to the school’s band. This week, People magazine shared some video and additional photos from the event. (JK)
“At a certain point, you can’t be open to other people’s ideas and input. It was a little Ahab-ish, I guess… I’m just gonna write a record for my kid, and if people hate it, it doesn’t matter.”
— Sturgill Simpson, on the insular approach he took to creating his new album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, in a fascinating and essential profile by Jon Caramanica of The New York Times. Caramanica characterizes Simpson as, “A Genuine Alternative to Alt Country,” which is a perfect descriptor for how Simpson’s style and approach differ from the majority of today’s Americana artists. (JK)
Keith Urban debuted his new single, “Wasted Time,” on this week’s episode of American Idol. The long-running series begins its three-night finale on Tuesday, April 5th. (JK)
John Berry, one of the finest and most underrated male vocalists in the genre, announced a June 3rd release date for his new album, What I Love The Most, which was funded via Kickstarter. (JK)
“There was a ton of compromise. We definitely had different ideas of songwriting and lyrical approaches and so forth. Egos were slain and conceptions were slain and there were really tense times, but I would say the music kept us together, kept us focused, and kept us feeling like we had a good, positive momentum.”
— k.d. lang went into slayer-mode, apparently, while working with Neko Case and Laura Veirs for their upcoming case/lang/veirs project, which has quickly turned into one of the year’s most anticipated releases. The trio gave a spirited interview at Lenny Letter this week as they began to ramp up the promotion for the album. (JK)
Two of our favorite alt-country acts– Old Crow Medicine Show and Brandi Carlile– announced a joint tour by releasing some spirited covers of each others’ songs. Carlile digs into “Sweet Home” from the band’s 2014 album, Remedy, while OCMS tackled “Alibi” from Carlile’s recent The Firewatcher’s Daughter. Both covers are terrific and suggest that they’ll put on a great show together. (JK)
“In many respects, I related to Hank’s generosity of spirit and Hank’s joy at performing, and his very genuine connection with his audience, which I find is true of myself as an actor. It was also about a young man strung in with his own demons. I found the character very compelling, even though I had never sung in my life in a professional capacity. It was just such a meaty challenge. There was so much to get my teeth into that it was irresistible.”
— Tom Hiddleston, in a lengthy interview with Jeff Slate for Esquire magazine, on how he was able to get into character as Hank Williams for the biopic I Saw The Light. In its first week of an expanded release, the film finished at #13 at the box office, taking in over $745K, and earning generally poor-to-mixed reviews. (JK)
Merle Haggard has, unfortunately, had to cancel another round of his tour stops due to illness. The legend hopes to be back on the road in May. In far happier Merle Haggard news, “Mama Tried” was one of 25 recordings added to the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress. Other additions for this year include everyone from Blind Willie McTell and John Coltrane to Buffy Sainte-Marie and Metallica. (JK)
“No one could really ever call David Bowie underrated. His passing has brought forth accolades and tributes and heartfelt remembrances from all over the world, spanning generations. He is remembered for his artistry and innovation and for giving voice to the alienated and marginalized. He was beloved for his style and fashion sense and for his almost chameleon-like ability to reinvent himself over and over. His musicianship and vocal prowess have been deservedly praise as has his longevity in an art form that is so often considered disposable.
With all of the well-deserved praise, there hasn’t been all that much said about his songwriting itself.”
— Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, who penned an essay on the late David Bowie’s songwriting prowess for American Songwriter. While it is hard to see Bowie’s influence in Hood’s or DBT’s work, the essay speaks to the breadth of Bowie’s impact as a cultural figure and recording artist. (JK)
Leading up to his album release, Dierks Bentley will be revealing a series of four videos of songs from Black that tell a story over at Rolling Stone Country. The first of the four songs, “I’ll Be Your Moon,” is a duet with Maren Morris, and it makes great strides in reviving hope for the album after the vapid “Somewhere on a Beach.” (LMW)
Blake Shelton premiered the music video for his single, “Came Here to Forget.” We posted the music video because the single’s cover art features Shelton giving an unnerving thousand-yard stare. (JK)
Agree with JK that John Berry is “one of the finest and most underrated male vocalists in the genre”. I’ll have to check out his new album in June.
I hadn’t seen the Eric Church interview. His thinking is so on point. He refuses to play by the rules because he’s about the only one who sees just how disingenuous they are in the first place. I’ll never understand how he’s been allowed to slip through in the current climate, but the mainstream genre is all the better for it.
That Eric Church interview is superb.