by: Thomas D. Mooney
Doug Stone is playing The Blue Light tonight. It’s kind of this surreal thing. I don’t want to make this a nostalgia induced introduction, but I’m afraid it’s heading that way.
As I told him before getting into the meat of our conversation, his music was an integral piece of the neo-traditional movement in country music in the ’90s. And you’d have to have been living under a rock to at least not be semi-familiar with country music during the ’90s. It was still a time in which you listened to the radio–typically controlled by your parents. And if you grew up in a small Texas town, you typically only had a handful of stations to choose from to begin with.
You weren’t necessarily a fan of any of these country musicians at the time, but the songs they sang soaked in. You know them word for word even when you’ve not heard them in ages. That’s how Doug Stone’s songs are. You may not recognize the names until you hear a couple of seconds, but soon the words will come back. Just don’t try and sing over him when he’s at Blue Light tonight.
We caught up with Stone last week to catch up with the country singer-songwriter to talk about his first albums, songwriting, and what’s next for him. He’s playing at The Blue Light acoustic tonight (Tuesday, May 6). Lubbock neo-traditional country revivalist Danny Cadra will be opening. Tickets will be sold at the door, but you can still purchase them at Outhouse Tickets online here as well.
Watch/Listen to “Too Busy Being in Love” below.
New Slang: Back when you first started, when your first album came out, it was the early to mid nineties. There was this boom. This neo-traditional boom in country music. You were part of this movement. When it was happening, did you realize it was happening or was it not until years later looking back that you realized how great it was?
Doug Stone: It’s like what Randy Travis said, “Hindsight’s twenty-twenty. [laughs].” You really don’t know what you’re doing when it’s happening. Everything was happening so fast, that I didn’t realize what was going on. Then looking back at it, it really was a good time in country music. So many artists came out. Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Lawrence, the list goes on and on. To be part of that, that is something that’s really special to me in retrospect. It was a cool time.
NS: Looking back at those earlier records, do you have a personal preference or feel one of them specifically was when you were on top of your game? Just a perfect record?
DS: You know, we’d go into the studio and search for the best songs we could find. I threw mine in the pile along with everybody else’s. I’ve got 11 or 12 of my songs on the different albums. But the songs that I was being handed were just excellent songs. All the writers were great. Just really well written songs. Today, it seems all they can sing about is a girl, a truck, and a drink. You know? It was just a different era I guess you could say. But I think if I hear another song with a girl, a truck, and a drink in it, I’m going to puke.
NS: [Laughs]. I’m with you on that. It seems most of the folks are singing songs about things they’d have wanted to do in high school–except they aren’t teenagers. They’re in their 30s. It’s all catered to high school kids though.
DS: Right [laughs].
NS: I just don’t understand it. Back in the ’90s though, you guys knew how to sing about various topics. You were singing a lot of great songs and a lot of songs written by other folks. Do you have to have a certain mindset to find songs that weren’t your own? What drew you to the songs that you did cut? I’m assuming you had to find an emotional connection to them.
DS: Yeah. It’s one of my sayings: Songs find their owner. The person who can sing them. Speaking of Tracy Lawrence a while ago, the song “Alibis,” it was picked by me first. But I said, “It’s a great song, but I just don’t feel it. It’s not something I can see myself singing the rest of my life.” My producer one time said “I want you to do this song called “If You Wanna Find Love.”” Kenny Rogers ended up singing it and made a big hit out of it. But I just didn’t want to do it. It’s strange though. “Pine Box,” I believe Randy Travis had it before me and he didn’t want to cut it. I think it’s kind of a fate thing for me. All the songs that we cut, they became hits.
NS: Yeah. As your career went along, you got more involved co-producing your albums. Was that something you always wanted to do?
DS: To be honest, I co-produced every album I did except for two that I did. I didn’t get a whole lot of crediting in the beginning. You know how that is. That’s Nashville for you. But I did learn a lot of stuff. Course, I’ve been recording since I was eleven-years-old in my own little studios. I progressed having bigger and bigger studios. It’s a lot of fun being there creating the music.
NS: How do you think you evolved as a songwriter over your career?
DS: It’s amazing, when I first went to Nashville, I thought I was a songwriter. Then when I got to Nashville, I met some [laughs]. I’ll never forget, one guy told me, his name was Tim Williams. I wrote with him a lot. He asked me how many songs I had. I said I didn’t know and he replied that when I got to 300, throw in the trash and start over. I’d probably know how to write by then [laughs]. He taught me a lot. Him, Randy Boudreaux, Skip Ewing, Garrett Burr, and Victoria Shaw, that all taught me a lot about writing. Now, I still don’t consider myself a writer, but I’m still doing it. To me, whenever I throw mine in the pile, they don’t stand out. Then when someone else picks it out, only then do I think that maybe it’s a good song. I’m too close to them. I must have other people critique them to see where they are.
NS: Yeah. I can see that being the case as a songwriter. You haven’t had a studio album released since 2007. Do you have anything in the works? Is there anything coming out in the immediate future?
DS: Yeah. Probably this year. I’ve got this demo album that I’ve been thinking about releasing. It’s all songs that I didn’t in my own studio. It’s a really neat demo. It’s all songs that I’ve written about my life over the past 20 years. Things that I’ve been through and what not.
NS: You think sometime in the fall?
DS: Yeah. It’ll probably hit in late August.
NS: You said they’re about your life over the past 20 years. Are they songs from throughout that time or are a lot of them from a specific time?
DS: Really throughout my career. I wrote a song called “Little Hearts” when I got my last divorce when I had to leave. It was getting so bad, I just had to leave. I’ve got a song about that. Having to leave my little eight-year-old, it was really hard. And some songs, it’s like they come true. Like the song “More Love,” it didn’t happen then, but later.
NS: Yeah. Some of these songs in your career, they’re from 20 years ago. Do you look at some songs differently now then you did when you first sang them? Have some of those meanings in songs changed?
DS: Yeah. “Made for Lovin’ You” is one of them. It was a good song and I liked what it said, but now I really understand what it really meant. As I get older, the better understanding I have of these songs. Your mind changes on stuff. You see things in a different light–no pun intended [laughs].
DS: Music is just something else. When I first started, I was about 15. I’ll never forget this. It was at a skating rink. I was singing this song to this girl called “Sugar”–I’d wrote it. One of the worse I’ve ever wrote. Just a terrible song, but boy, she started crying and I thought “Wow, there’s some power in this.”