New Music

MG CDIt’s been a few years and a few big challenges since we had new music from Montgomery Gentry. But this week, the wait is over, and the obstacles have been overcome. Eddie & Troy are back better than ever with their eighth album “Folks Like Us.” They sat down to talk about it with Country Countdown USA.

Talk about this song Folks Like Us: (Eddie) It’s just who we are, it’s who we’ve always been about growing up through the clubs, hearing everybody’s stories. (Troy) I knew this was a Montgomery Gentry song right out of the box. There’s not one lyric that’s not Montgomery Gentry. It covers all the bases, the American hardworking blue collar class, the military, our faith, family, everything we ever stood for. I knew this was a huge hit for us. (Eddie) It’s a work hard, play hard song, that’s what we are and America is.

One other bit of news that has happened since your last album is that Troy’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. How’s she doing? (Troy) She was diagnosed at the end of September, between stage 1 and stage 2, but as of today, she’s had meetings with her surgeon, they took four lymph nodes out and they came out clean, so she’s on her way to recovery.

An Eddie, you also had prostate cancer about five years ago, so how are you? (Eddie) I’m clean and green now, I lucked out, I found mine so early that it was unbelievable and I got it taken care of. (Troy) That’s the thing, she got hers caught off an annual mammogram, and he was just having some pain, and he got it checked out. That’s the thing about a lot of cancer is if you find it early, it’s 99% curable.

You were just inducted in the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame: (Troy) It’s pretty diverse, all music formats, actors, and songwriters. The Backstreet Boys were in our group. Somebody who surprised me was Florence Henderson lived in Kentucky. Cool to be honored by our state for what we’ve achieved.

Chris Stapleton

In a town known for singers, Chris Stapleton is often called the best voice in Nashville.  He’s written hits for George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, and Luke Bryan.  He has sung background vocals on numerous hits.  This week, Chris Stapleton steps into the spotlight, with the release of his debut album Traveller. He’s also opening concerts for Eric Church.  Country Countdown USA spoke with Chris about his new album.

Chris wrote Luke Bryan’s hit “Drink A Beer” after the death of his father.  That same event inspired this album’s title song “Traveller.” “I wrote that song driving through the desert in a head clearing move, and thinking about life and how we’re all just passing through it. That’s where that song came from.”

Chris’s father was a Kentucky coal miner.  When he died, he left behind his wife, and Chris’s mother.  We wondered what Chris’s mother thought of when she heard the song.  Chris said, “You know, my mother is a woman of few words. I’ve never actually a gotten a verbal reaction to the record from her. She watches what I do, but we’ve never discussed it.  Maybe I should discuss the record with her.  We’ll see what she thinks of it.  Maybe she’ll speak up and render an opinion.  She was married to my dad for 43 years, and misses him very much every day, and she’s working on finding a new routine for life.”

We noticed the title song is spelled with two “l”s, rather than the conventional “traveler.”  The dictionary says both are acceptable, but we asked Chris why he chose to spell “Traveller” this way: “That’s the old English spelling, and I just liked it better.  I think it looks better with two Ls.  When there are two spellings, I like the older one.  It’s like why would we change the spelling?  It seemed like the way this particular traveler should be spelled.”

Chris wrote 12 of the 14 songs on the album.  One of the songs is a cover of the George Jones classic “Tennessee Whiskey,” done in a blues style.  I asked Chris how that came about: “If you’re going to do a Jones song, you’re not going to out-Jones Jones.  So if you’re going to cover something, and can’t take it to a new place, you shouldn’t do it at all.  That was a happy accident.  We were playing a show in Charlottesville VA, and the band was vamping on that groove, and I wanted to sing something on top of that groove.  So I started singing that song.  We played it that night, and every night ever since, and wasn’t planned to be on the album, but it found it’s way in there.  The writer Dean Dillon gave his thumbs up on it, so I think we did OK.  I feel better about it, I have a fun time singing it, it’s one of my favorite songs, and something I hold in high regard.”

You recorded this record in an historic studio RCA Studio A.  How’d that happen?  “It was another happy accident.  My producer and I usually record in the Sound Emporium (built by the legendary Cowboy Jack Clement), but it was booked.  So we were looking around, and RCA Studio was mentioned.  At the time, it was slated for demolition.  So I said we should go there.  I’d never set foot in it.  He said ‘It has a sound.’  I said I don’t care, we should do it.  That should be our room, because it’s the last one left, and it’s not going to be here anymore.  It was the best accident that ever happened to me.  There’s something in the walls, it’s a magical place.  If you haven’t recorded there, it needs to be on your musical bucket list.  It’s a magical place, and I’m glad we’re saving it.

You also co-wrote Gary Allan’s current single, “Hangover Tonight.”  Talk about that one: “As a songwriter, one of your goals is to have your songs played on the radio.  I was writing with a guy named Jesse Frasure, and we wrote ‘Crash & Burn.’  Gary wanted to record it, but it wasn’t available.  So instead he got to write songs with Jesse and me, and we wrote three songs with him at his house, and he recorded all of them, and one of them turned out to be the single.  The background parts that are on the record I sang in his house that day.  We didn’t re-record them.”

Reba_LoveSomebodyReba is back with her first new album in five years called “Love Somebody.”  Country Countdown USA’s Lon Helton asked if she approached this one with a different process: “Not really.  It’s the same formula I’ve always used, just try to find the best songs possible, the ones that touch my heart.  If they touch my heart, hopefully they’ll touch your heart, and if they do, then I’ve done my job.  The only difference is that there are some new songwriters.”

Is there a difference with writers today vs. writers 20 years ago? “Well yeah, things are on the more pop-ish side than they were, and more aggressive on the instrumentation.”

Are the lyrics different than they were? “I think that the song ‘Enough’ reminds me of ‘Does He Love You,’ that I sang in 1994.  It’s the same subject matter.  I wouldn’t say it’s more racy.  Some of it’s more clever.  Like ‘Until They Don’t Love You’ is very cleverly written.  But it’s another version of songs I’ve done before.  Just a little different twist, different instrumentation makes them more modern.  But how many things can you write about?”

Take me through the album and tell me about lyrical content: “Well there’s ‘She Got Drunk Last Night,’ about a woman getting drunk enough to make that call.  You can hear a guy doing that, but maybe not a woman.”  Lon asked which call is that?  “You know what I mean.  You mean a booty call?  But then there’s ‘Til They Don’t Love You.’  Everybody’s been there.  Or the single, ‘Going Out Like That,’ where she’s not going to sit there and have a pity party, but she’s going to go out and have a great time.  Another song is ‘That’s When I Knew I Was Over You.’  She knew she was over her other guy when  she looked in the new one’s eyes and didn’t see the previous guy.  It’s an eclectic group of songs, but the main theme is love, and that’s why we called the album ‘Love Somebody.'”

You also have a lot of strong woman songs.  Is that what you’re drawn to? “Yes, that’s what I tend to turn to.  My grandmother and my mother were strong women, so that’s what I like to hear.  Songs that are woman anthems, and give women hope and faith.”

What drives you to work so much? “What drives me is I love to work.  I can’t stand to be bored.  I love to be creative.  I love looking for songs, and getting in the studio.  I was sad when we finished this album.”

The new album comes at a milestone moment in Reba’s career.  This year marks 40 years since she became a recording artist, and she just celebrated her 60th birthday a couple weeks ago.  “I love what I’m doing, I love to get to do the residency in Las Vegas, and looking ahead, this marks the 25th anniversary of Tremors, which was my first movie, so maybe somewhere in the future, I’ll get to do an authentic Western.”  Is that a possibility? “Nothing’s on the drawing board and I haven’t seen a script, but I’ve been putting it out in the universe.”

Lee CD

In June, Lee Brice previewed songs from his forthcoming third album for a group of invited guests in Nashville.  They gathered in the historic Columbia Studio A, where Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Bob Dylan recorded in the late 60s and 70s.  Lee was interviewed by Nashville journalist Robert K. Oermann about the project.  The centerpiece of the album is the 1940 Gibson guitar in the picture, a wedding gift from Lee’s wife.  The guitar is also on the album cover.  Of course Lee’s gift to his wife is the current hit song, “I Don’t Dance.”

Lee told Country Countdown USA’s Lon Helton: “I had this idea for this song, I thought it would be perfect for the first dance at my wedding.  I don’t dance, but I’ll do anything for my wife.  I was a single man for a long time, and didn’t see myself with the family, being happy being settled down, and she changed all that.  Now I don’t believe I waited this long to be in this family life, to find this kind of true joy.  So this is for my wife, but now I think it’s for a lot of folks.”

But there’s a lot more to Lee’s new album than the title song.  In fact, there are a total of 13 songs, ten of which were written by Lee.  Lee also took charge in the studio, producing the entire project.  He told Lon, “For a long time, I heard a lot of things in my head that I didn’t know how to get out.  I was able to completely be me, and it’s the things I’ve wanted to get out of my head.  I got to play the instruments, play the lead guitar, and one song I played ALL the instruments.  I felt I wrote those parts, so I might as well play them.  That way it sounds like me.”

Let’s talk about some of the out of the box songs: One is “Girls In Bikinis.”  Thomas Rhett came on my bus one day, and just gave us the title.  He said, “This is stupid, but I gotta say this.  Watching girls in bikinis is like watching a slinky walk down the stairs, you can’t help but stare.”  I said, ‘That ain’t stupid, it’s true!”  So then we wrote it, and recorded it in a little home studio, just me and John Stone.  We had a ball, singing all the parts, playing all the instruments, just the two of us.  That’s as fun as anything on the record.  Another song is called “Always The Only One” is a letter to my wife.  Production wise, I wanted to go for the guts of me.  It’s a love song to my wife that sounds like the Foo Fighters.  Some people will say it’s way different for me, but I don’t hear it that way.  Then there’s a song called “Good Man” on this CD that I think will be a single.  It’s got some R&B influence on it, and it tells who I am.  ‘I ain’t no bad boy, I used to be, but not no more.'”

Which song should I listen to first?  “Panama City.”  It was a song I heard 12 years ago.  It was the greatest song I’d ever heard.  It wasn’t very commercial, but I thought it was great.  So when I got the freedom to do this album, I called the writer, and what I fell in love with was a piano & vocal, and that’s how we recorded it.  Sang it one time, didn’t add anything, just took the mix and put it on the record, and it’s live.  It may be the best vocal on the record.  When you hear the song, it reminds me of an Eagles or Jackson Browne song.”

The new album by Lee Brice, “I Don’t Dance,” will be released on September 9