CMT Insider Interview: Alan Jackson

Superstar Talks About New Album, Good Time and CMT's Invitation Only

Editor’s note: The CMT Insider interview with Alan Jackson airs Saturday (March 1) at 1 p.m. ET/PT. The concert special, Alan Jackson: Invitation Only, premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Revving up for Tuesday’s (March 4) release of his new album, Good Time, Alan Jackson recently performed in front of a small group of devoted fans for the CMT series, Invitation Only.

“You do all these big arenas and things for years, and you don’t have that one-on-one with the fans as much,” Jackson tells CMT Insider. “It was a chance to do something in a small environment, and the crowd was really nice. You don’t have to do your regular show. It was a laid back kind of little show, and I think the people there really enjoyed it. We got to talk. They asked me some questions, and we did a couple of new songs off the album. I thought it turned out pretty nice.”

In this segment of his interview with CMT, Jackson talks about working on the album with his longtime producer, Keith Stegall, and explains that he’s not working quite as hard as he once did.

CMT Insider: With the new album, does the cover say it all? You’re sitting in the car with that smirk on your face.

Alan Jackson: The whole album isn’t necessarily a big party record, but I wanted this album to have more of that feel. It reminds me of some of my early records. We’ve got a lot of up-tempo fun stuff as well as the serious things. Yeah, I thought the cover matched with it pretty good.

Is there any story behind the car that’s featured on the CD cover?

It’s a ’68 Charger. It’s one of my cars we stuck in there. You can’t tell much about it. Every time they put a car in a shot, you don’t see anything but a little piece of it, so you can’t even see what it is. I’d say, “Man, why don’t you back up and shoot the whole car so we can get a good shot?”

What was your goal when you started working on the album?

I always try to just find good material that works together that would make a good album. But we had several years without making one of my country albums because the gospel thing kind of jumped out there accidentally and the Alison Krauss thing [Jackson’s Like Red on a Rose album that she produced] was gonna be bluegrass, and then it turned into an album that was released on regular country charts. This was the first real album I’ve had in years, so I felt like I needed to just make things more like what I’ve always done. Keith, my producer, and I were excited about getting in and doing it for a change.

You wrote all the songs on the album. Did you mean for it to seem so personal?

Well, I didn’t sit down and write a bunch of stuff and say, “I’m gonna cut all this.” I just write songs, and I ended up writing about 22 new things and cut them. We had some good outside stuff, too. But Keith and I, we’ve always worked together, and I bounce my songs off other people around us. So that’s what we felt like we wanted to put on this album. I was proud that they were all mine, so now they can blame me if it doesn’t work They’re not all that personal. I mean, some of them are. As a writer, you’re always writing stuff from your life and things you remember of that. … So there are some songs on there that are close to real life for me. But some of them … I just made up.

When you sit down to write a song, what are your inspirations? Who are you writing for?

I think sometimes you sit down and try to write something and think, “Well, this may make a good single,” and you’re trying to do something for your career. But most of the time, I write what comes out or I have ideas I’ve scribbled down over the past year or two. I had “Small Town Southern Man” written down, and I’ll just pick that up and start writing it. I don’t know that I sit down and try to designate each song for something special. Just write each one and pick the ones you like. I’ve always tried to mix it up on an album where there’s some up-tempo things and some mid-tempo kind of cool songs — some real love ballads that are pretty. Heavy broken-heart songs and drinking songs and just a little of everything. You know, that’s kind of the way country music’s always been.

Your video for “Small Town Southern Man” is a hit. You had so many different looks in the video. Did you have a good time dressing up in all of that ’60s and ’70s clothing?

I got to dress up sort of like Hank Williams Jr. from that era and kind of the ’70s-looking thing with the big side burns and all that. That was pretty cool. … I’ve had a lot of comments about that — the sideburns, mainly, in that scene where it’s kind of real funky looking.

What is it that keeps you motivated to continue to do what you do and give it so much effort?

Well, I don’t know that I give it so much effort anymore. But I do. I don’t tour as much as I used to. Making an album’s always been something that’s been every year or two, and it’s actually fun to go in and create the new music. So that keeps you going. I’ve always felt like as long as radio still played me and fans want to hear it and they still want to buy tickets to come see me … I feel like it’s stupid to walk away from it. It doesn’t take that much time away from my life like it did in the first five or six years of it when you’re gone all the time. So I don’t feel like it’s something I should give up as long as people are still enjoying it and I’m enjoying doing it. I’m glad my career has lasted long enough for my girls to grow up and see what I actually do, you know, as they’ve gotten older. So I guess I’ll just keep on doing it as long as the fans and business will have me.