Note: The following was written by the great Sue Guynn. To follow all her coverage on the local country music happenings, head over to her blog, Three Chords and the Truth.
Multi-platinum selling country music icon Clint Black will be at the Event Center at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races for two shows: 9 p.m. Friday, March 31, and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 1. He has topped the charts with nearly 25 No. 1 hit singles including “A Better Man,” “Like the Rain,” “Killin’ Time,” “Nothin’ But the Tailights” and “When I Said I Do,” which featured his wife, actor Lisa Hartman Black. In September 2015, Black released his first new studio album in a decade, “On Purpose.” He wrote or co-wrote all 14 tracks, produced the album, played guitar on it and recorded it in his home studio in Nashville. The first single is “Time For That.” I caught up with the country music legend by email.
Sue Guynn: I watched some online clips of you from interviews and #clintQandA. It was fun! You have a good sense of humor. I have three brothers and they were always clowning around. Did your sense of humor come from growing up with four brothers?
Clint Black: Hey Sue, thanks! Three brothers, actually. But the whole family was good with the humor. We had fun with each other. We’re all very different from each other but we know how to make each other laugh.
I have always been a fan of myriad comedy styles and really enjoy making audiences laugh. I feel I have a lot of the pioneers to channel when I’m reaching for something funny.
SG: How about the musician/songwriter in you. Is there a family history of musicians?
CB: My mother’s side of the family was musical. Her father, and his father (my great-grandfather) came over from Sicily playing violin in an orchestra and stayed when the others went home. Two of my brothers and I inherited the genes.
SG: 25 years since “Killin’ Time” released. Wow! I remember it! And the speed of your life picked up radically, right? Looking back on that time, what are some of the special memories you have from the early days of your career?
CB: Things were moving quickly. I had so many great moments — one after another — it’s hard to think of just a few: “Tonight Show” with Carson, Bob Hope specials, Haggard special guesting on my tour, writing with him, Buffet, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, working with George Jones, with Buck Owens … So many things that were beyond what I would have imagined.
SG: I’ve read about quite a few male country artists who wanted to be professional athletes before they “discovered” music. What about you … did you have a career track in mind before music? What jobs did you have before your “big break” in music came along?
CB: I was in construction work before I made it. I worked in small bars for about 10 years before I got my record contract.
The only other thing I really wanted to do was join the Air Force and work my way into the space program. That would’ve been a longer shot than the moon shot! I didn’t have the grades for that, so I clearly made the right choice.
SG: Songwriter, singer, musician, actor, “Celebrity Apprentice” alumni … what other opportunities do you have a hankering to pursue? How about writing a novel?
CB: With my love of comedy, I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to do some of that. I have some things in the works, but nothing at a point worth mentioning yet.
SG: What kind of dad are you (tough or laidback)? Lily is about 16, right? Dating rules?
CB: Lily’s almost 16 and quite busy! She was telling me last night that her friends think I’m “fun” or “funny.” We do have a lot of laughs, but there are certain things that I’m very serious about; school work, hitting bedtimes, manners…
It’s tough to balance as any parent knows, but it’s my favorite task. She’s a great kid and I’d be a full time dad in a heartbeat. Lisa won that job interview though! She’s a great mom who leaves nothing to anyone but me. Absolutely hands-on.
SG: Back to the music. It’s good to hear new music from a familiar voice. I really like “Time for That” and “Summertime Song.” Always up for a roll down the windows and drive summer song. What’s the story behind those songs? Which song(s) on the album are you most excited about?
CB: Frank Rogers and I wrote “Time for That.” We wanted to capture the “busier than ever” times in which we’re living. We’re never out of reach of the text or email now, unless we turn off the smart phone.
“Summertime Song” is one of only a few I wrote without a cowriter. It was the middle of November and I just asked myself what I needed in a song at that moment and summer came to mind. Ahhh. I really felt the song gave that to me and made me feel the sun beating down on me.
SG: “Calling It News” When did you write that song? Are you a political kind of guy?
CB: I’m less a political guy and more a history buff. You can’t be one without the other, but I don’t share my politics. But I love to watch it all with an eye on history which is what tells me how to find the truth.
Hayden and I wrote “Calling It News” years ago during an election cycle. I forget which one, but it becomes fresh again to us every cycle.
SG: Self-produced, the songwriter, guitar man … What are you most proud of with “On Purpose”?
CB: I’m proud of my songwriting but most of all, the growth I’ve achieved in my guitar playing. I played almost every electric guitar part on the album and that was a huge task for me.
But I pushed through and found the parts to satisfy the producer/artist in me. And I’m very particular about instrumentation on my records. I’ve been practicing on guitar for hours, nearly every day. It has taken me years to get this far on the instrument and I’m very excited by it.
SG: I like that line from a Tim McGraw song about helping the next one in line, and I try to do that. What advice do you have for those coming along behind you, to be successful in the country music business?
CB: Take college courses on entertainment law, business administration, music theory and accounting. Also, listen to the classics in your genre. If it’s country, go back to the beginning as you would with classical symphonic music. You would have to study Beethoven, Mozart, etc
Know what’s been sung, and what melodies have been written. You have to know what has come before you to be original in any time period.
SG: You will be playing the theater at Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, W.Va, March 31 and April 1. What can fans expect to see and hear at this show? Are you a storyteller during your shows?
CB: I do share some short stories — the funny ones — but we are also trying to squeeze in as many songs as possible before our ears start to ring! We’ll be doing a lot of hits and a few songs from the new CD. We’re also doing one we recorded years ago but never released. It’s a cover song that was a huge hit decades ago.
Thanks again for your help with the show!