Doing It His Way

Dwight Yoakam Tackles Three New Projects and a CMT Special

Dwight Yoakam’s career has been long and diverse. The reclusive superstar, 13 years into a professional journey that began in 1984 with the release of his debut EP, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc., has crossed musical lines within country and roots rock and expanded his career to further express himself artistically through acting and directing. Dwight will share with CMT viewers how all of his creative muses come together in music videos in Dwight’s Video Bio, an exclusive 90-minute special. The show airs September 2 (10 a.m. and 8 p.m.) and September 13 (9 p.m., all times Eastern) and is the third in an ongoing series of Video Bio specials that have previously featured Shania Twain and Trisha Yearwood. Shot on bluescreen and a “virtual set” created around Dwight to showcase his videos while he talks about them, Dwight’s Video Bio offers viewers a unique setting to watch one of country’s biggest stars.

For well over a decade, Dwight has continually made music that has made critics and fans alike sit up and take notice. With more than eight million records sold, two Grammy Awards (including 15 nominations) and scores of accolades, Yoakam has carved a niche as a consistent hitmaker. As the millenium winds down, he has undertaken three new projects that showcase his musical diversity — a concert tour, a new album and even a book.

Now in the middle of his first major North American tour since 1996, he is once again impressing audiences with electrifying performances. As the New York Times once noted of his shows, Yoakam “…makes sure that a song’s conflicting emotions all come through. His breakup songs are blue and lovelorn, but angry, too; his rambling-guy songs are footloose but regretful; his come-ons are both seductive and menacing …The band rolled through old-fashioned honky-tonk and waltzes, blistering rockabilly and new-1960’s pop.” Cities on the tour include Boston, New York and Nashville, among others.

The album at the focus of the tour is the new release Last Chance for a Thousand Years: Dwight Yoakam’s Greatest Hits from the ’90s. The record contains 14 songs, including three new ones. The first single, an effective interpretation of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was written by the late Freddie Mercury and recorded by Queen. Other new songs on the project include a 1976 Waylon Jennings tune called “I’ll Go Back to Her” and “Thinking About Leaving,” a new song written by Dwight and Rodney Crowell.

The collection otherwise culls its tracks from 1990’s If There Was a Way, which Rolling Stone named as one of the “Top 5 Country Albums of the Decade”; 1993’s This Time; The UK-only 1992 release La Croix D’Amour and 1995’s Gone. Of This Time, Rolling Stone magazine wrote, “(Yoakam) has no peer, his emotional precision and command of nuance have attained a kind of perfection…” Some of the songs on the collection include video hits like “Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose,” the Roger Miller co-written “It Only Hurts Me When I Cry,” and the Elvis Presley cover “Suspicious Minds.”

In April Yoakam released a book containing a collection of 61 song lyrics, all written or co-written by Dwight. The book spans the length of his Reprise Records career, beginning with 1986’s Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc, Etc. and winding up with lyrics from his last studio album, 1998’s A Long Way Home. The book also contains an introduction penned by Dwight, reflecting on his career as a songwriter.

In recent years, Yoakam has also branched out into the world of drama, acting in feature films and directing many of his own music videos. He received the Premiere Performance Award at the 57th Annual Motion Picture Club Awards for Outstanding Breakthrough Performance as Doyle Hargraves in the Academy Award-winning motion picture, Sling Blade. Most recently he appeared alongside Ethan Hawke and Matthew McConaughey in 1998’s feature film, The Newton Boys. He hopes to soon direct a feature film that he wrote, but in the meantime he has directed or co-directed all of his music videos since 1993, including “Ain’t That Lonely Yet,” “Gone” and others. In Dwight’s Video Bio, he relates in depth the process of video making, from concept to finished product.

As certainly as Dwight’s career has thus far widely encompassed all of his varying creative talents, there are no signs that the future will be any different. As he told last year, all the aspects of his career provide challenge and satisfaction for him.

“At different points there are different kinds of gratification,” he said. “I derive from different aspects of what I do … I try to only do things — performances and recordings — that I’m inspired by and caught up in and infatuated with. It’s a good thing; I’m not complaining.”