Alan Jackson faced a room of steely-eyed reporters, each determined to ask him in no uncertain terms if he knew just how wonderful he was. The soft-spoken superstar grinned like a man in familiar territory.
Jackson ventured out of his lair Monday (April 28) to attend a party ASCAP, the performance rights organization, threw at its Nashville headquarters to celebrate his 32nd No. 1 single, “Small Town Southern Man.”
Normally, only a dozen or so media types show up for these celebrations, but in the hour before the party began, print and radio journalists and TV crews packed ASCAP’s main conference room, hoping to get a usable quote or shot from the usually reclusive Jackson.
But instead of asking precise and pointed questions that might lead to solid information, the reporters softballed Jackson with such effluvium as, “Talk about what it’s like to be the most-nominated artist in CMA history.” Given the slowness of Jackson’s speech, open-ended queries like that could have pretty much eaten up the afternoon — and came close to doing so.
Nonetheless, Jackson did have a few things to declare. His new album, Good Time, returns him to his longtime producer, Keith Stegall. The album before that, Like Red on a Rose, was produced by Alison Krauss. Jackson said the switch back to Stegall had been easy to make: “We knocked it out,” he said of the 17-cut album, all of which he wrote. “It was like cruise control.”
Jackson said he had recommended to his record label that the title cut be released as the first single. But he acknowledged in hindsight that “Small Town Southern Man” might have been the wiser choice. He said virtually all the songs on Good Time were “brand new” and written specifically for that album.
Asked if his songs are ever pitched to other artists or if he’d like them to, Jackson replied, “Unfortunately, I don’t turn in a lot of songs for [the publisher] to pitch. … They all get cataloged and kind of swept under the rug.”
As has become his habit, Jackson will again perform at the 2008 CMA Music Festival in Nashville. “It’s one of the easiest things I can do for my fans,” he observed. “It’s the least I can do.
“It was also a full house for the party as people from all over Music Row streamed into the ASCAP lobby to get a glimpse of — and maybe even a photo with — Jackson.
“It’s an honor to make records with this man,” Stegall told the cheering crowd. “I think this was what I was born to do.”
Jackson was humble as he accepted award after award for his achievements.
“If I never had another No. 1, I would be fine,” he said. “I’ve had a wonderful career. It’s a privilege to still be on the charts.”
ASCAP chief Connie Bradley offered the final words of praise: “He’s really our modern day Hank Williams.”