Sometimes things don’t work out exactly the way that they’re supposed to.
Just ask Diamond Rio, winners of four Country Music Association Awards for vocal group of the year and CMT’s September Showcase Artist. The coming month will be big for the group, but a key element will be missing.
First the good stuff: CMT viewers will see members of the six-piece band talking about their lives and their music on weekends throughout the month (11:30 p.m. – midnight ET, Sept. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29; and from 12:30 p.m. – 1 p.m. Sept. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30).
At 7 p.m. ET tonight (Aug. 30), keyboardist Dan Truman will chat with country.com visitors about being the month’s Showcase Artist and about a month-long online auction benefiting the American Lung Association. Bidders will have a shot at the chair where Olander sat when he came up with the opening licks to “Meet in the Middle;” at a nine-hole golf game with frontman Marty Roe; and at a 30-minute piano lesson with Truman.
On Sept. 12, at Hermitage Golf Course in Old Hickory, Tenn., Diamond Rio will host its ninth consecutive celebrity golf tournament, this year dubbed “The Rio @ Hermitage,” which also benefits the American Lung Association. The event is open to the public from 11:30 a.m.- 4 p.m. CT, and it will be taped for a one-hour, prime time special on cable’s The Golf Channel.
In the midst of all this activity, however, Diamond Rio was supposed to be promoting a new album, their seventh including 1997’s Greatest Hits package. It ain’t gonna happen.
The project in question — titled Stuff until the song and single by that name went no higher than No. 36 on Billboard’s country singles chart this summer — has been delayed. Originally slated for release Aug. 22, the album will come out instead in February, about two years after the band started work on it.
“Certain radio stations, for some reason, didn’t want to play ‘Stuff,'” keyboardist Truman says with resignation during a recent interview. “Being veterans of the music business, we’re a little Teflon-coated. I don’t think it really got to us, emotionally.”
A little over half the 200 reporting radio stations played the record, not enough for it to be a significant hit. Touring, the band can tell from the stage which audiences have heard “Stuff” and which haven’t, Truman says. “We might play two places, 300 or 400 miles apart. One night, the people go nuts when we play ‘Stuff.’ The next night, it’s a mixed reaction, since some people have never heard the song before.”
Also complicating the picture for the band is the fact that their label, Arista Nashville, closed up shop in the wake of Clive Davis’ departure from the company’s New York division. In a slow transition, Arista’s Nashville operation was folded into the RCA Label Group under Joe Galante.
“We feel like we’ve lost a little time here,” Truman admits. “We’re ready. We’ve been listening to the album since Christmas. Our audience, our so-called ‘fan base,’ they are so ready, but we’ll just have to wait a little while.”
Chief among the things for which Diamond Rio is known and respected on Music Row is their ability to play their own instruments and sing their harmonies without help from session musicians. The group got its start when the core of the band — Truman, Roe and Olander — worked at Opryland theme park as the Tennessee River Boys. After adding drummer Brian Prout, mandolinist and high harmony vocalist Gene Johnson and bassist Williams, they signed with Arista and released their first album, Diamond Rio, in 1991.
That group has remained together throughout, despite some minor trials (which they detail in the interviews for their CMT Showcase shoot). Over the years, their work style has been to cut a few tracks at a time rather than going in to make an entire album all at once. “We don’t think 10 songs or 12 songs, we think three or four,” Truman explains. “We live with those songs after we record them, and at the same time, we’re listening to other songs.”
By the time they finished the new album, they had recorded 14 sides, including one, “I’m Trying,” performed as a duet by Roe and Chely Wright. The album runs the gamut, from country-leaning fare to more pop-oriented stuff. “We don’t ever say, anymore, ‘Do you think that’s too pop?’ or ‘Do you think that’s too hillbilly?'” Truman says. “If we like the song, we’ll try it in the studio to see if it can sound like us. If we like it, we’ll attempt it.”
A new single, “One More Day,” hits country radio stations Oct. 30. One of five ballads on the album, the song comes from writers Steven Dale Jones and Bobby Tomberlin, who also wrote “She Misses Him on Sunday the Most,” a favorite among the most faithful of Diamond Rio fans. At present, Truman says, One More Day also is under consideration as a possible title for the upcoming album. For their CMT Showcase performances, the band performs “Stuff” and a second song from the new album, a J.D. Souther tune titled “Hearts Against the Wind.” They also do “You’re Gone” and “Unbelievable” from their last album, Unbelievable, which has sold 530,000 copies, according to SoundScan, since its release in 1998.
“When we’re out on the road, none of us are overly concerned,” says Truman of the little bump he and his band have hit. “We’re just going along in our career and this is the kind of stuff that happens.”