As a rule, singers, songwriters and pickers from Texas are more likely than most to adopt the “kiss my ass” approach to making music. Often to their detriment, it’s the same approach they use for their career development and overall approach to life. It’s not necessarily a mean-spirited attitude, either, but rather an unwillingness to compromise for no good reason.
Which raises the simple question CMT.com poses to Pat Green: Exactly why are so many Texas musicians like this?
“I don’t know,” Green says as he sprawls across a chair at the CMT offices. “Maybe it’s because of the way we portray ourselves, the way we kind of see ourselves. … We kind of walk around with that arm extended and the middle finger at full extension, as well.”
He adds, “It’s like, ‘If you don’t like it, we’re fine with that.’ And I am. If you are a huge fan of somebody in country music and because you’re a fan of them, you can’t stand my music … great, man. You know, it’s NASCAR. I’ve got a different number on my car. That’s the only difference.”
For years, Green has been one of the biggest concert draws in Texas. He has also managed to do something that has largely alluded Nashville in attracting a devoted fan base among college students. A true success story built from a grassroots following, Green routinely sells out 10,000-seat venues in Texas and earned a gold plaque for his previous album, Wave on Wave.
Still, he is not without detractors — including some critics and a few musicians in Texas — who claim his songs are lightweight and there’s somehow something wrong with huge crowds enjoying his live shows. Green doesn’t dwell on those remarks, although he admits the comments can be troubling.
“Yeah, it bothers you,” he says. “Look, I’m a positive person. I’m a very positive person. I don’t believe that money and fame are real. I don’t believe that my songwriting is any better or worse than everybody else’s. Music is not a competition. The battle of the bands thing should have gone out the window with the dodo [bird].
“Look, it’s taste. I can be a fan of different genres of music. I can be a fan of Bob Wills and Kid Rock. So if somebody else has the propensity to like any kind of music, they can like my music. And if they don’t, they don’t.”
But it’s not as though Green doesn’t have plenty of supporters, too. One of them is Kinky Friedman, who pretty much personifies the prevailing attitude of the old school of Texas singer-songwriters. They first met earlier this year in Mexico City while attending the wedding of a mutual friend.
“Kinky’s cool,” Green laughs. “He is certifiable. … The owner of the hotel there in Mexico City brought the mariachis to my dinner table and started playing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. I’d been buying so many shots for everybody, they just thought it was my birthday. I was like, ‘Man, this is a sign from God that I need to slow down.’”
Friedman didn’t play a role on Green’s new album, Lucky Ones, although the project includes songs Green co-wrote with Brad Paisley and Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas. When it came time to record the album, Green had everything he needed — except all of the songs.
“I didn’t have much of the record written,” he explains. “When I went in, there were only like three or four songs done. I had so much fun with the Wave on Wave record. The songs that were written beforehand were great … but the songs I really enjoyed and sank my teeth into were written in the studio during that magical energy that happens when you’re in there. … It’s so intense because everyone is scraping and fighting and arguing and trying to get their licks in and trying to get their words in and trying to get everything … painted on this humongous canvas that is a record.”
Within the humongous canvas, there’s a basic sound that can only be described as coming from Texas.
“I think you start with the instrumentation,” Green says in describing the sound. “I think it’s that simple. I think a lot of people [from outside Texas] go, ‘That just doesn’t sound like anything else.’ Well, it doesn’t sound like anything else — because it’s not like anything else. The way that these guys are — in their own minds and in the own persona — is the way they play their instruments.
“I don’t really feel like it’s that different to be completely frank, but I think it’s tangible, what’s there. I just think maybe there’s something in the idea that a lot of the people that come out of this scene want to write their own songs. I don’t know if it’s because they think their songs are great. You know, a lot of our songs completely suck, to be completely truthful, but that’s why you don’t see very many of us make the scene.”