William Clark Green just released a new record. It’s called “Rose Queen.” I’m sure you’ve heard of it if you’re reading this blog or a Blue Light regular.
And you know what? It’s about time he made this record.
With “Rose Queen,” potential, talent, experience and all the other things that make up a solid record came together like nothing Green and company have done before. Sure there’s good–even great–moments on “Dangerous Man” and “Misunderstood,” but I think Green would agree that they fall in comparison to “Rose Queen. It’s his most focused project to date and finds Green able to sing a number of different kinds of songs without sounding all over the place or lacking a general direction.
A couple of months back when compiling our Top 40 Lubbock Songs of 2012, I said Green “out Randy Rogered Ranger Rogers” with his barn-burning lead off single “It’s About Time.” It’s Green in that prototypical country break-up song that’s more about retribution than heartbreak. Green’s breaking through to the other side of this whiskey-fueled bender.
Green’s continued his “buzz before the record” by releasing “She Likes the Beatles” prior to the album’s official release. It has this anthem-esque quality to it similar to Rodney Parker’s “I’m Never Getting Married.” The thing about a song like “She Likes the Beatles” is that just by the nature of writing around a line like “She likes the Beatles and I like the Stones” is that you’re constantly teetering on being clever and corny. It’s something that Green and co-writer Brian Keane were all to aware of (Which, some folks just aren’t sadly).
I don’t want to make light of that fact either. The line “She likes the Beatles and I like the Stones” is just so transcending. It doesn’t matter who you are, everyone who knows anything (and I do mean anything) about Western music knows what you’re saying about relationship when you describe it as “She likes the Beatles and I like the Stones.”
And the thing is, these two radio singles are probably in my bottom half of “Rose Queen” song rankings (And don’t give me that “You’re being a country music hipster elitist). RQ’s strength is in Green and company’s ability to change pace throughout the album. The co-penned “Remedy” (With Brandon Adams) has this moment at about 3:00 minute mark where everyone comes in behind Green singing the chorus over and over that just illuminates Green’s desperation.
“Take Me Away” may be Green’s best written song on “Rose Queen.” He trades in his cigarette-soaked and whiskey-stained growl for more of a gentle, but powerful smooth vocal. It’s Green without any barriers or shields. And really, if you took it out of the context of the record, it doesn’t even sound like a country song; it could be on a Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack–which I don’t care how you feel about the show, their soundtracks have always been great representations for indie rock music.
And even though Green and I talk about this in the first few questions below, I’m still going to address it. Mainly, because I think it’s that important. “Rose Queen” isn’t just a William Clark Green record; it’s just as much a Lubbock record. In the same way that Brandon Adams’ “Reckless Heart” will be a Lubbock record and so on. These songs may not be about Lubbock, but they certainly were shaped by the experience.
For some, “Rose Queen” will be their first time listening to Green. It’s a launching record. Some will feel this is the starting point. It’ll be the moment in which William Clark Green started existing in their conscious and their world. They won’t go back and listen to any of his back catalog. This going forward will be their William Clark Green.
Which, that’s fine.
But, I think why this is a Lubbock record is that everyone knows that getting to this point wasn’t overnight. It was years of patience, failures, small gains, treading water, and molding a craft. This is just the product of a Green and company’s hard work–and a music scene that while small, is tight-knit as they come. I think it’s a sign that something’s special once you a handful of co-writes or covers spread across a half-dozen records. What it means is that they’re comfortable enough to include them in their craft.
It doesn’t mean two guys met one day and then wrote a song (except under the circumstances Green talks about below, which does happen). That one co-write is years in the making. And that atmosphere doesn’t just come overnight–which, you know, none of this would be relavent if “Rose Queen” wasn’t a great record.
Lucky it is.
William Clark Green plays The Blue Light this Friday (May 10). You can find “Rose Queen” in the usual fashions.
New Slang: So Tuesday (last Tuesday), “Rose Queen” came out. And on Tuesday, I was over at Blue Light and talking to Kenneth [O’Meara] and Brandon [Adams], two guys who have co-writes on the album. Course those two were excited about the record being out. And my thoughts on the record are this. First off, it’s a great record. Second, I feel as though it’s not just a William Clark Green record. I think it represents more than just you. It’s a moment in time in Lubbock music. Like the last five, ten, fifteen years has all been building to the records that have come out last, this, and so on you could say. Guys here have had an impact on your career and songwriting, just like you have had on theirs. You get what I’m saying? Talk a little about “Rose Queen” and how it does represent Lubbock music.
William Clark Green: Yeah. Well the last record, “Misunderstood,” was about Lubbock. The whole damn record was. There’s a few songs on this record that are about Lubbock. The title of “Rose Queen” is about Tyler, Texas, where I’m originally from. The best part of this record–well, you know when artists start getting co-writes on an album, it’s usually where they’re writing with these big, big guys. They’ll get trapped in a room with a guy who has written four number one hits that he’s never met before. And that’s what I like about this record. I got an immediate co-write with Kenneth O’Meara right after “Misunderstood” got recorded. We wrote “Rose Queen” together. And Brandon, we wrote “Remedy” together. Then there’s “Hanging Around” with Kent Finley and another with Brian Keane (“She Likes the Beatles”). So as personal as this record was, the co-writes were too. I’ve known Brandon and Kenneth for eight years. And it’s crazy to even say I’ve known them for eight years–hell, maybe even longer. I’ve looked forward to writing with each one of them again and hope we can write one for the next album. I’d love to have the same co-writes on the next album. I thoroughly enjoyed writing all these songs. It was something I was a little unfamiliar with as far as co-writing and putting a song that wasn’t 100 percent mine on the album, but it worked out perfectly.
NS: Yeah. I think it’s something that’s really interesting. Let’s say that this era in Lubbock music gets nationally known, like let’s say it was during for The Flatlanders and Terry Allen, etc. Let’s say this ’10s gets well-known, everyone will be pointing to the records and music made, but in reality, those records represent a culture, a scene, years and years of work that they’ll really never see. It’s as though you guys really planted the seeds years ago and now it’s starting to bear fruit.
WCG: Yeah. For sure. I think it’s going to happen whether I’m here, Brandon’s here, or whoever. I just think Lubbock’s a hotbed. And I don’t think it really matters who’s there, it’s going to happen. Had I never gone to Tech, there’d been somebody else who is doing what I’m doing. It’s a hidden gem and really underrated. My personal opinion, it’s the best music town in Texas and for the mere fact that it’s not exploited. You can go to Austin and it’s so overran. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of great music there, but it’s surrounded by shit. Lubbock’s so much smaller and more tight-knit and not exploited. That’s actually the best way to preserve it too, to not exploit it. It sucks, but it’s true. There’s just some tremendous songwriters from there. Andy Wilkinson is one of them. I couldn’t imagine. Had I not gone to Tech, I’d probably have a real job.
NS: Speaking of one of your co-writes, “Remedy” with Brandon. I was speaking with him about it a little and–
WCG: We got too drunk to finish the damn thing [laughs]!
NS: I can believe that for sure [laughs].
WCG: That’s the damn truth!
NS: [Laughs]. What he said was that he thought it sounded too much like a Brandon Adams song and that you said that was the reason you were wanting to write with him.
WCG: [Laughs]. It’s a Brandon Adams song. If I had heard that song without any prior knowledge of it, I’d have said I was willing to bet that Brandon Adams had a hand in writing it. I’m a huge fan of Brandon. I had talked with the band and told them that on the record, I wanted to record a Brandon Adams song. We listened to some stuff and had a handful of songs. Then I said to them, “Before we do this, let me see if I can write one with him.” I’d rather have a hand in writing it than just picking one. And when I played “Remedy” for the guys, they just loved it.
NS: This record, you had it produced by Rachel Loy (Musician, producer, songwriter, as well as being Brian Keane’s wife). How was working with her?
WCG: It was wonderful. You know, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried about having a girl producer in general because I’m a very blunt and a guy in the studio and can come off as being rude. But she was great. She guided perfectly. Handled everything great. We’re going to do our next record with her if she let’s us do it. I see no reason to even try and find another producer until something drastically changes in our relationship and hope it never does. She did everything we asked her to do. She made each song better. The best part about what she did was that I wanted the music to enhance the lyrics. I didn’t want it to be the opposite–which a lot of people do. And she did that.
NS: What was one of your favorite moments recording?
WCG: One of my favorite moments where I was like “Holy shit,” was when she was doing background harmonies on “Drowning.” It was just me and her in the studio. We were on Music Row in Nashville and she started singing and it was just magic. Holy shit, that’s beautiful. That was one of the most magical moments for me at least.
NS: I was watching this little promo video you guys did a little while back where you’re talking about making the record and everything. One of the things you said was that you were really proud of how well the band sounded and played in studio. You were eluding to the fact that they didn’t just sound like a good bar band, but they sounded like a really great recording band as well.
WCG: Yeah. There’s a difference, man. There is a difference between studio musicians and live musicians. Some studio musicians can’t play live and live musicians can’t play in the studio. Very rarely do you find both. The guys killed it. And Rachel was nervous too. She came to me and said that we should get Nashville guys to do this record. I said I wasn’t going to do that. The whole reason for us doing this project was to do it together. So we went out there and she had never seen us play. She hadn’t listened to records or anything. She kind of took Brian’s advice. When we went into the studio, her jaw just dropped. Mine did too. And they got to play with some powerhouse Nashville musicians too. Everybody learned a lot and it made everybody better. Just a fantastic experience. The only bad part was having to drive to Nashville [laughs]. That’s a pretty long fucking drive. Jay and Cameron played drums and bass on everything. Cameron didn’t play bass on “Let’s Go” because it’s not the right bass. Rachel played bass there. We hired another guitar player to play with Steve. Steve had only been in our band three months. And I wasn’t expecting Steve to get many tracks, but they were 50/50 on lead solos on the album. The guy was really impressed with Steve and Steve learned a lot from him. It was just an awesome experience. It could have lasted a little less time. We had worked on it for an entire year so it was a little drawn out. But it’s going to be a hard record to beat.
NS: What are some of the differences between this record and “Misunderstood?”
WCG: With “Misunderstood” we were self-produced. Alan Crossland in Acuff is a great engineer and great producer. I don’t think we gave him producer credit, but he was kind of our go to guy. We wanted a producer on this record. The reason we went and self-produced “Misunderstood” is because we had wanted to make a statement about the band, that we could make it on our own. This one, with the budget we had, we had to protect our investment a little bit and make sure we didn’t mess up [laughs]. You know what I mean? I’d love to self-produce another album again, but having Rachel there, she was just great. I can’t tell you enough about how great she was. She just gets it.
NS: One song on the record that I really love on the record is “Dead or In Jail.” It has this line in it that just pops out: I’ve got a pocket full of chitlins and collard greens. Where’d that come from?
WCG: You’re just going to have to figure that one out by yourself, man [laughs].
WCG: That line is really funny and I’ll tell you one day in private. It’s a long drawn out story that I’ll tell you over a beer at The Blue Light sometime.
NS: [Laughs]. Fair enough. Can’t blame me for asking.