by: Thomas D. Mooney
“I have stumbled on the plains
Staggered in the wind
Stood at a crossroad or two
Cried to a river
Swept to the sea
All just to get to you”
That’s the first verse of Joe Ely’s “All Just to Get to You,” which also happens to be the first track from Pat Green’s upcoming album, “Songs We Wish We’d Written II,” which comes out May 8. Sounds exactly like something Green could have written from firsthand experience. In many ways, it just fits too perfectly for where Green is at this point in his career.
You can easily make the argument that Green wasn’t just one of Texas’ major music exports to the national scene, but the leader and most successful of the Texas singer-songwriters of the late ’90s and ’00s. By all means, he achieved what just about everyone would have wanted had they been in his position. Green of course, started out singing his songs across bars and dancehalls across the state of Texas before garnering enough attention from the large record executives to make his case for mainstream success.
Of course though, once you sign on to that major label–no matter what genre you are–there are people who throw out that “sellout” label, which for the most part, is extremely inaccurate and unjust. Texas Country fans will hate to hear this, but they’re much more like hipsters than they think they are. Talk to one long enough, and they’ll spit out the hipsterisms, “Oh, I like his old stuff better” and “Yeah, his first album is just so much better than anything he’s put out in the past 10 years. I have it on cassette.”
In Green’s case, people often call for Green to make another “Three Days,” (I’m sure many Texas Country elitists would scoff at this choice and would rather see another “Dancehall Dreamer” or “George’s Bar.”) which featured fan favorites such as “Carry On,” “Three Days,”Texas on My Mind,” and “Take Me Out To a Dancehall” to name a few.
After a handful of albums on major labels– 2003’s “Wave on Wave” to 2009’s “What I’m For”–Green is going back to a smaller, more hand’s off label, Sugar Hill Records, which leaves Green with more creative control. Something that is leaving both Green and fans alike excited about. Like I mentioned earlier, it seems like it’s all part of Green’s path to get back to you.
Before all that though, Green’s releasing the aforementioned “Songs We Wish We’d Written II,” a collection of 10 covers that include Tom Petty, Todd Snider, Lyle Lovett, and Shelby Lynne to name a few. “All Just to Get to You” is currently available on iTunes while “Even the Losers” can be heard on Green’s Facebook page. You better get there in the next two days though. This Friday, they’ll be changing it out with another track off the album to preview.
New Slang: So how’s life been as of late?
Pat Green: Oh, life is just going on swimmingly I would say. You know, there’s always something to do around the Green house. The kids are out of school today, so we’ve already been to the donut shop. We’re cleaning the pool, going to mow the yard. It’s going to be a great day.
NS: Now, you’ve got this new album coming out soon, “Songs We Wish We’d Written II.”
PG: That’s right, sure do.
NS: First off, how’d you go through and pick these 10 songs for the album?
PG: Oh, I think you just sit down over a couple of steaks with your buddies and maybe a few beverages, and the next thing you know, you have a record. It’s one of those type of things. You know, we done this before about 10 years ago and we basically did it the same way. We just sat down one evening, and had a nice dinner and discussed. This song is better than that song. And this song is better than this one. This one fits better. Next thing you know–it’s a pretty easy thing to put together.
NS: I want to talk about a few specific songs. You did “If I Had a Boat” by Lyle Lovett. That’s one of my favorite songs by him.
PG: It’s one of the first by him I remember hearing. I was on I-35 heading to Austin to meet up with my brother. He was going to UT and I was a junior in high school. I wanted to see how the city was like. When I got into town, KGSR was playing “If I Had a Boat.” That’s the first memory I have hearing Lyle Lovett. That’s why that song made it.
NS: Another song that is on the album is “Even the Losers” by Tom Petty.
PG: Oh yeah. It’s been a long-standing rule I do exactly one Tom Petty song every night, every show. So we just picked a song that I hadn’t covered before and did it.
NS: You also cover Joe Ely’s “All Just to Get to You.” A great song and obviously a huge figure here for Lubbock.
PG: Joe was one of the first live shows I went to see when I was in college at Texas Tech. That experience the first time around, it was just a great experience. And when I was at Tech, his album “Letter to Laredo” had just come out and it was just an instant classic for me. I was listening to it and I thought to myself, “Whose that guy’s voice singing behind Joe?” And sure enough, it was Bruce Springsteen. And I’m a huge Springsteen fan so, I just really fell in love with that record.
NS: Now obviously, this album, it’s 10 covers. How do you incorporate that into your live show? Or do you think it’s mostly for the record aspect?
PG: Well, it’s mostly for the record. Of course, anytime you put something out, you’ve got to support it. And it’s fun to play other people’s songs. It’s fun to tour on a record like this because people I think just love to hear different artists take on somebody else’s songs. Like our version of “Even the Losers,” is pretty different. It’s kind of like one of those unplugged moments at the beginning. So we kind of changed that one up. I didn’t really want to change “If I Had a Boat” too much. Felt that was kind of a hard thing to mess with. It’s one of those, you don’t put a mustache on the Mona Lisa [laughs]. But there’s some of them that we stayed right on track and some of them that we wanted to make sound like us.
NS: That’s something I was going to ask you about actually. How did you know when to stay true to the original and when to go more into it being your own interpretation?
PG: I think it’s just a feeling that you get. I don’t think there’s necessarily a magic formula. We just would go in and start playing the song. That’s basically the only way I know how to make a record really. You just go in and you press record. You play the songs over and over until you feel that you’ve hit on something.
NS: Now I’ve also read that you’re working on the next album as well already. An album of originals. What are some of the details with that?
PG: We’re going in [to record] in the summer. You know, there’s always a pile of songs that didn’t make it on the other records. And then I go write 10, 12, or 15 more. Pretty soon, you have a record.
NS: Now you’ve been a guy who over your career has co-written with a lot of other songwriters. One guy in particular, Walt Wilkins, you and him have written a number of great songs over the years.
PG: Walt’s kind of like my mentor. I started songwriting about the time I found out who he was. It was an instant match for me when I got the call [from him saying] “Hey do you want to write a song?” You know, I’ve been a fan of that man for more time than I can remember. Everything I’ve done with Walt, it sounds like a single to me. We did two new songs for this coming record. I feel like they’re both going to make the record.
NS: Now, this next question, it goes to that whole “Nashville vs Texas” thing. You know, starting out in Texas, then getting signed to a major label, doing work in Nashville. People unfairly still think that’s selling out.
PG: Yeah, that’s just insane. I think that’s really where people who say negative things talk louder than positive things. I don’t care who you are, you can’t be in this business without putting out stuff on the radio. And you typically can’t get on the radio without being on a major label. You can get on local radio and regional radio, but if you want to tour nationally and have a career last more than a couple of years and be able to make a living and provide for your family, you have to do it.
NS: Yeah, I understand fully. Now I’ve read that on this upcoming album, you’re going to have more creative control.
PG: Yeah, that is true.
NS: Do you think with that, people are going to like and appreciate it more?
PG: Well, I hope so. The reason I said that, this time around, I signed with Sugar Hill Records. I was with RCA and Universal for the last 11 years. Those guys are great. They did a wonderful job for me. But, when it comes to singles and things that are on the radio, they maybe picked some stuff I wouldn’t have. But, like I said, I can’t complain. If I’m doing business with somebody, and they’re going to be the guys putting up a couple of million dollars to see my career go forward, I’ve got to listen. That’s all there is to it. I can’t just not listen to what they’re saying. So, this time around, Sugar Hill really doesn’t want to get into the artist’s space too much. They’re much more hands off in how records are made. I certainly appreciate that more than anybody. You know, I kind of had my time at the table of the corporate giants, you know [laughs]?
NS: Now everyone knows, you went to school here in Lubbock and really started out here. What are a few of those things that you really appreciate about Lubbock?
PG: Well, what I love about Lubbock is kind of what everybody else loves about it. It’s got a great feel. The people are amazing. Texas Tech gives it a good vibe with young energy. I certainly appreciated that when I was there, but I also appreciate it now when I go back. And my family is from there. I met my wife there. Started my business there. Started my band there. You know, my whole life–the genesis point of my life–stems from Lubbock. It’s an important place for me.
NS: I think I’ll get you out on this last question. Now, you’re a huge golf fan. The Masters is coming up. And of course, Tiger won for the first time in ages last week. I think this Masters is building up to be a pretty exciting one. What are your thoughts?
PG: I think everyone is wanting to see the showdown of Tiger vs. Rory [McIlroy]. I think that’s the big hype right now and I can see why. It’s kind of funny to me with how everybody was dogging Tiger there for a while. He certainly made some mistakes–some big mistakes–but, those who go and cast the first stone is kind of my thing. Whatever is his, it’s his. But, as soon as he wins, everybody is “oh, here we go [laughs]!” But, I’m a big Tiger fan…I really wouldn’t be surprised to see him win it. And I sure would love to see him and Rory walking up 18 dogging it out.