Pat Green: "I Don't Feel Like I Needed Rebooting"
Did Pat Green save country music? That is a contentious question no matter on which side of the Red River you're standing, but it's also a little beside the point. Nurtured by the storytelling culture of legendary Central Texas singer-songwriter rooms like New Braunfels' Gruene Hall and San Marcos' Cheatham Street Warehouse, Green's high-octane but sensitive music was exactly what a lot of beer-drinking young Texans wanted to hear in the late '90s. Fans flocked to his shows in droves, but also others like him such as Kevin Fowler, Cory Morrow and Jack Ingram.
Photo by Anthony Joseph Baker
In short order, Green had jumped to a major label (Universal, for 2001's Three Days) and, along with his peers, gave rise to a specific brand alternately known as Texas country and Red Dirt that continues to do blockbuster ticket sales across the Southwest, in venues from Billy Bob's in Fort Worth (where Green hosts an annual Christmas show) and Midnight Rodeo in Austin to the pair of Big Texas dancehall/saloons in Spring and Clear Lake.
Now the man who grew up admiring Robert Earl Keen and Jerry Jeff Walker has found himself passing the Texas country torch to Randy Rogers, Roger Creager, Josh Abbott and many others, but the Waco native is barely 40 himself.
His new album, Songs We Wish We'd Written II, is a hell of a ride. A kind of sequel to his 2001 album of duets with Morrow, Songs We Wish We'd Written, Songs II ranges from rave-ups like Joe Ely's "All Just to Get to You" and the Allman Brothers Band's "Soulshine" (with Austin guitar hero Monte Montgomery) to more reflective pieces like Lyle Lovett's "If I Had a Boat" (with Morrow returning) and pensive versions of Tom Petty's "Even the Losers" and Collective Soul's "The World I Know." It's Green's first album in four years and his first for SugarHill records, the bluegrass-leaning North Carolina indie label known for Americana legends such as Doc Watson and Marty Stuart.
Green headlines the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas' Concert for Conservation Saturday at Sam Houston Race Park, with Walker, Sammy Kershaw, Gene Watson, Brant Lee Croucher and Kevin Charles. Rocks Off caught up with the singer from his home in Fort Worth earlier this week, just after he finished taping a prototype episode for a radio show Austin's KVET-FM. "The Vet" was one of the first country stations to play Green's music before there were "Texas country stations."
Rocks Off: What was the first song you remember really falling in love with?
Pat Green: That I didn't write? Because if you ask a songwriter what his favorite song is, he'll always tell you his next one.
PG: My favorite song that I remember falling in love with -- it's gonna sound weird. I dated a girl in college in Georgia, and I remember listening to that song over and over again, just as far as the first instance of those feelings in a young person. But it's really hard to say that that was the first one.
The first one I really remember as a child listening to over and over was "Ode to Joy." My dad had a thing for classical music, and we'd always listen to that over and over. As six- and seven-year-old kids, me and my brother used to run around as it got faster and faster and faster and faster. We'd run faster and faster around the coffee table in the den until we fell in a heap.
RO: Which venues were most important for you in your early career?
PG: I guess as far as Houston's concerned, I sure remember always being excited to play the Firehouse Saloon on 59 there. That was one of the first places where we had the sensation of having a sellout venue of any kind. Stubb's in Austin stands out in my early days as being one of the big ones, so to speak.
RO: What place do you think you've played most often?
PG: Wow. Certainly we have never stopped doing the annual [Christmas] show here at Billy Bob's here in Fort Worth.