By: Thomas D. Mooney
William Clark Green and I had been playing phone tag for a little over a week before we were both able to find a good twenty minutes to sit down and discuss some songwriting. Green, who had just gotten back from the renowned MusicFest (more commonly called Steamboat), was on his way to a band practice when he called me last Saturday afternoon to talk a little more about Rose Queen, maturing as an artist, and what’s next for Green and company.
William Clark Green and Boxcar Bandits play Blue Light tonight (Thursday, Jan 16). Doors open at 9.
New Slang: This year has been a pretty big year. Rose Queen released, “She Likes The Beatles” going 1, lots of touring. Just a pretty good year. What’s been your favorite part of the year?
William Clark Green: The biggest part of the year has really been releasing the album. We’re really proud of it. It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to make it. Had some great songwriters on it–you know, some old friends from Lubbock. The beginning of the year was probably my favorite part. We’re really seeing some of the benefits now, but when it was first released, that was a really special deal.
NS: Obviously we’ve talked about the record before, but I think with this record–and records in general–it really does take a while to really take it all in. You’re not going to process the whole thing in just a few plays. It takes a few months for a record to really soak in. Rose Queen isn’t a concept record, but you’re able to feel this ambiance throughout the record that kind of connects things song to song. It’s not just a random collection of songs. But, have you ever really thought of trying to write something that was more conceptesque?
WCG: I actually asked about a week ago what a concept record was. I had no idea what it was. I had always heard the name. I guess what a concept record is where it all feeds off each other, right?
NS: Yeah. There’s varying degrees. Like The Who or Pink Floyd had some hardcore ones while Willie Nelson, Terry Allen, and The Beatles are more loose concept records.
WCG: I think with ours, each record is like a chapter in my life. For the most part, it’s all true story stuff. It might stretched here, embellished there, but at the end of the day, each record is like a chapter in my life. So if by chance that did make a concept record, I guess so, but I really don’t know.
NS: One of the things I’ve been thinking about with Rose Queen has been about maturity. It’s something that was thrown around by a lot of different reviewers and people in general when they’d describe the record. Your songwriting and sound has definitely become better. There’s definitely truth in that, but they were also meaning content wise. I find that interesting, mainly because you’re not exactly acting mature all the way through Rose Queen.
WCG: Right. 100 percent true. In many ways, it is selfish. I’ve never heard that before, but you’re right. It’s a hard thing to elaborate on though. Songwriting to me is an outlet on something I don’t really like to share. This record, what I kind of found out about it, is something that everybody is thinking but doesn’t have the guts to say. It’s the selfish moments in life. Everybody thinks them but they’re not going to tell anybody because it’ll turn them into a piece of shit. I think that’s why some people gravitated towards it. It’s something that was on their mind but never heard it before. It’s not an emotion you want to express. Like “It’s About Time.” I never wanted the girl who that’s about to know that, but hell, it was the truth. I was tired of it…But you’re right. I’ve never heard about that before.
NS: Yeah. The line I thought of that describes the record has been that you’ve found a mature way to write and sing about immature thoughts.
WCG: I would not be offended by something like that at all.
NS: It’s something that I sometimes feel is one of those elephants in the room when it comes to music. We want to always think of our greatest songwriters as these mature, well thought, stoic individuals. Wise beyond their years. But come on. You’re in your mid-twenties. Folks are who are around this age are going to have immature and selfish moments. It makes the songwriting real.
WCG: For sure.
NS: I think one of the real underrated songs on Rose Queen is “What It Takes To Be Me.” It’s a great example of these selfish moments, but there’s also this “try walking in my shoes for a while” reasoning too.
WCG: Yeah. That song is actually not about me, but more so about this business and what it can do to someone. I don’t think anyone in their right mind has the intentions to hurt someone. But they do it. I think egos have a lot to do with that. It was kind of my “welcome to the music business” song.
NS: This past week, you were over at Steamboat. How was it?
WCG: You gotta go. Holy shit. You gotta go. This was the first year we’d been invited on it. To be considered–the caliber of songwriter who are invited to that thing–it’s such an honor. You’re talking about Will Hoge, American Aquarium. Just these amazing artists, songwriters, and bands who play. It was just amazing to be a part of it. I hope we get invited back next year. It’s not this thing where you’re thinking it’s just going to be a lot of Reckless Kelly fans, or just Hayes Carll fans, or just Wade Bowen or Randy Rogers fans. It’s a bunch of Texas music and Americana music lovers. Just good music lovers. And I thought it’d be the case where some things would be packed and others wouldn’t, but that’s not the case at all. It’s all packed. There’s something for everybody there.
NS: Yeah. I’ve never been. How is it set up? Is it SXSWish where it’s all these bars on board or what?
WCG: You know these banquet rooms in these hotels? Hall rooms and stuff?
WCG: They’ll set up a stage in them and pack 400 people in and set up a stage outside in a tent for big acts like Randy. They have rooms in smaller conference halls. They have a couple of stages in bars. It’s really like them setting up bars in banquet halls though. It’s really cool.
NS: Oh yeah. That sounds really interesting. So what’s the last song you wrote?
WCG: Last one I wrote was at Steamboat with Kent Finlay. It’s called “Still Think About You” and it’s about when you break up with someone who you don’t love and they hate your guts for it. Know what I mean? But it’s not real intentional. The chorus goes “Call me a bastard, call me a liar. Sorry that you fell in love with somebody who will never inspire. I’m sorry that I broke your heart in two, but I still think about you.” I love it. I’m gonna play it for the first time tonight at Cheatham Street. Writing with Kent is always great. He’s such a fantastic songwriter.
NS: Yeah. So was this just a spontaneous write between the two of you? How long had you been working on it?
WCG: I had written the chorus and pitched it to Randy and Sean [McConnell] on that acoustic Three Guitarrristas tour and they didn’t really like it that much–well they didn’t say that, but they kind of passed over it and picked another song. So when me and Kent sat down, I showed him a few things I was working on and threw it out there. He loved it and we started working on it.
NS: Yeah. Well I really don’t know if I could hear Sean or Randy sing bastard in a song like that like I can you [laughs].
WCG: Right [Laughs]?
NS: You’re always writing obviously, but are you already thinking about what’s next as far as records go? What’s on the horizon?
WCG: Yeah. I’m in the writing zone right now. I’ve been out of it for about 10 months. So I’m starting to write now. We’re scheduled to go into the studio May to record the next record. Plan on having it out the next January.
NS: What’s kind of the number you’re comfortable having before going into the studio? What’s kind of your magic number where you go “I have X many songs. Let’s go cut a record.”
WCG: The last record I had eight songs that I knew were going to be on the record and had another three while we were doing the record. The record took about a year. This year we’re going to get a little more. I try to get four really great songs that I know will be on the record.