“Stuff” Happens

Sluggish Single Gives Diamond Rio "One More Day" to Craft First-Rate Collection
Diamond Rio was ready to go last May
with its seventh album, titled Stuff. The
quirky title cut was released as the first
single, and after two months it found its
way to No. 36 on the Billboard country
singles chart — where it decided to
stay.

“It was going to maybe go to about 20
or 25 on the chart, and that’s all we
were going to get out of it,” says lead
singer Marty Roe during a recent
early-morning interview at Arista Records. “Where ‘Stuff’ was played, it was a big
hit in some markets. We stand by it, but the fact that it didn’t do that well overall
may actually have helped us in the long run.”

Such is the advantage of being a veteran band that has been up and down the
charts a time or two. After 11 years, six albums and 17 Top 10 Billboard singles,
the men of Diamond Rio are well aware of the ebb and flow of their profession.
Roe says when “Stuff” stiffed, the band stepped back, regrouped and rethought
issues such as sequencing, singles and album title.

They released “One More Day,” a gut-wrenching ballad of hindsight and regret, in
October. The song has climbed as high as No. 8 on Billboard‘s country chart,
giving the band the boost it needed for launching the album, retitled One More
Day
.

“It’s just true, and everybody can relate,” Roe says of the song. “I’m not a bad
person, but I get caught up in my work and everything else I do, and I take for
granted and neglect things that are most important to me. This song reminds you
of that, and if you have a heart at all in there somewhere, it’s going to prick you a
bit.”

Keyboardist Dan Truman attributes the song’s power to its simple but striking
melody.

“You could put those words with a different melody, and it could have been kind
of schlocky, too sweet,” he says. “But, it was just right, and whatever the
songwriters did, they nailed that song.”

One More Day is Diamond Rio’s first project since 1998′s platinum-selling
Unbelievable. It is a testament to the talent and perseverance of the band that it
remains standing when other country groups have drifted away. Among the
stellar collection of songs is the tongue-twisting opener “That’s Just That,” the
rollicking “I Can Do It With My Eyes Closed” and the full-on bluegrass of “Hearts
Against the Wind.”

“We’ve never cut a bluegrass song, but we thought, ‘It’s time,’” Truman says.
“The harmonies on that thing are so cool. Our three singers are harmonizing in
falsetto. I’m not one of the singers, so I can brag.”

Also included is a duet with Chely Wright. Reminiscent of the band’s 1998 hit
“You’re Gone,” “I’m Trying” is a painful look at the realities of a relationship in
trouble. The band already had finished cutting the song when Roe decided the
tune needed a woman’s voice.

“Actually, our co-producer, Mike Clute, wasn’t too
keen on the idea because he liked the record,
and it worked so well,” Roe says. “But I really
thought, you know, this song is a conversation
between a man and a woman. Chely came in,
and she and I had a little talk about where to go
with it. It’s almost like acting, which I’ve never
tried, but you almost have to take on a character.”

The song wasn’t in Wright’s key, but she tackled
the project anyway.

“If Diamond Rio had asked me to sing ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’ I would have
done it,” Wright says. “The key was low, but that gave my performance a certain
quality that they said they liked. When I hear my voice among theirs, it gives me
goosebumps.”

Another lady adding her voice to the project is Roe’s daughter, Sarah. The
then-4-year-old belts out “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” at the beginning of the
singalong cut “Sweet Summer.” Written by Neil Thrasher and Michael Dulaney,
the song paints a vivid picture of childhood memories, heightened by the sound of
real children at play.

“Mike [Clute], being the cool engineering dude that he is, pulled it off,” Roe says.
“He ended up recording all our kids. The crack of the bat is Dan’s kid’s ballgame.
For me, it just really sets the tone. It catches you off guard and makes you
listen.”

The same can be said of Diamond Rio’s trademark sound, which is in top form on
the album. It’s an amalgam of the stacked vocals of Roe, mandolinist Gene
Johnson and bassist Dana Williams, with musical support from Truman’s piano,
Jimmy Olander’s guitar and drummer Brian Prout’s backbeat. The result is
classic Diamond Rio, but the sound never veers into the predictable.

“I think from the word go we’ve always had an instrumental identity,” Roe
explains. “The trio of piano, mandolin and guitar is as distinctive as our vocals, if
not more so. And there’s a particular way [producer] Mike [Clute] mixes us, not
only the vocals, but the instruments. It’s in the way he layers them, and they
sound the same sonically.”

As corny as it sounds, that harmony has spilled over from the stage to the
band’s relationships with each other. Diamond Rio’s lineup has remained
constant since the first album in 1991, and the members have managed to
continue being friends while also succeeding as business partners. Roe and
Truman attribute their stability to a shared focus on family and faith.

“The way we look at life and the way we look at music is similar,” Truman says.
“I appreciate Marty for where he’s at. He’s Church of Christ, and I’m Mormon, and
we have some serious differences, but in our hearts we’re the same. We’ve all
helped each other through the years. You hear stories about how other acts can’t
live on the bus together, and I’m thinking, ‘I’m buoyed up when I go on the bus
with these guys.’”

In fact, Diamond Rio is probably on the bus right now, out West somewhere
playing shows with Sawyer Brown. The two bands, who became friends after
touring together in 1994, are joining forces again for what they’ve dubbed “The
Battle of the Bands.” A tour with fellow Dreamcatcher Management client Kenny
Rogers is in the works for later in the year.

Because Diamond Rio will be out on the road promoting One More Day, the band
will miss this summer’s Fan Fair for the first time in its career. The Country
Music Association is moving the festival to downtown Nashville and switching
from a weekday to a weekend schedule. The band will host its annual fan club
party during the week but will hit the concert trail before the Fan Fair weekend
gets into full swing.

“We’re not going to have [an autograph] booth or anything because they’ve moved
it to a weekend,” Roe explains. “We were booked before we knew about it. It
wasn’t an easy decision for us. We believe in and support Fan Fair, and we’re
fine with the changes, but we can’t afford to miss prime time work. I hope we’ll be
able to be there in the future, but this year it just didn’t work out.”