Pat Green simply wanted to have fun when he recorded Songs We Wish We’d Written II.
Asked about a typical day in the studio, he replies, “Oh, just a bunch of laughs. A break for lunch. Laugh some more. Break for dinner. Come back and do it again. It was really shoot-from-the-hip.”
Half of the songs, such as Tom Petty’s “Only the Losers” and Collective Soul’s “The World I Know,” will be familiar to a broad range of music fans. Meanwhile, the other half of the album draws on lesser-known material by songwriters like Liz Rose and Walt Wilkins (“If It Weren’t for You”) and Jon Randall (“Austin”). Cory Morrow, who released the first volume of Songs We Wish We’d Written with Green in 2001, returns for a good-natured duet of Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat.”
Released by Sugar Hill Records, the laid-back project kicks off with a cover of Joe Ely’s “All Just to Get to You.” Green filmed the music video at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth, where he now lives.
During a visit to Nashville, the easygoing singer chatted with CMT.com about his new collection, his generally optimistic nature and the advice he’d give to a younger version of himself.
CMT: What is it about “If I Had a Boat” that pulls you in?
Green: I remember hearing that the first time I drove into Austin. I was a junior or senior in high school, and I was going to visit my brother, who was at UT [University of Texas]. As soon as I got in there, KGSR was playing “If I Had a Boat,” and I was like, “No way. That is really neat stuff.”
I can’t believe Cory got the line about “kiss my ass, I bought a boat.” Did you fight over that one?
(laughs) I’m not much of a fighter. I don’t think of music as a competition. Music is something comfortable that we can participate in as much as we can.
Why was it important for you to have Cory on this record?
Well, Cory is obviously one of my closest friends in the music business. He sang at my wedding. We did the first record together. It was all just the two of us. I think there were three or four songs that we each did, then three or four songs together. At the same time, I wanted the second installment of this record different than the first one. Now, Cory’s still on it and on one of the cooler tracks. In a perfect world, I would have 25 tracks on this record, but I think the reality of life is that you don’t always get to call all the shots.
I can hear an optimistic tone in some of these songs, like Warren Haynes’ “Soulshine.” Do you consider yourself an optimist?
Except for when I drink. (laughs) Yeah, I’ve always thought I was the happiest person I ever met. I love life. But get a couple of drinks in me, I can go dark pretty quick on you. It’s just a hang-up that I have. I had such a big drinking problem forever. If I drink, I’m like, “You are so stupid. Why are you doing this again?” (laughs) “You’re such an idiot!” Of the demons that I’ve been fortunate enough to acquire, that’s definitely the meanest one.
When Songs We Wish We’d Written came out in 2001, what was your day-to-day life like?
It was much more of a party. And it was a happy party. Don’t get me wrong about that. If I could change anything about those days, I would go back and tell that kid, “Hey, slow down. You’re going to have a problem with this if you don’t slow down.” At the same time, if I had, I wonder if I had been someone else. So it doesn’t bother me. But that kid was insane. Hair on fire. Just lucky he didn’t kill himself.
What do you remember about your time on a major label with those big hits and big tours?
“Oh, what a lucky fool!” That’s how I felt. I thought I was next in line. At the time, I felt that way. I thought, “If I’ll ever have a chance, it’s now. And if it happens, let’s all enjoy it.” I never thought past that. I always dreamed of being the big guy, but I got such a taste of being the big guy in Texas. I’d get 20,000 or 30,000 people out without a problem. When it ended up being what it was on the nationwide front, it ended up being the best of both worlds. I got to be an eclectic theater guy out there, but at home I got to be as big as I wanted to be.
Were you happy with that? Did you want to go farther nationally?
Yeah, I mean, who didn’t want to? When I was standing in front of the mirror with a tennis racket at 10 years old, I wasn’t thinking about playing a coffeehouse. (laughs) I was Van Halen!
In those early Texas years, you had “Carry On” and nationally you had “Wave on Wave.” Between those two, do you think one of them is your signature song? Or maybe both?
I think “Wave on Wave” is our trademark. I think “Carry On” is as close to that as anything else, as far as the hometown people. If you think about “Feels Just Like It Should” and the singles that got some traction, I certainly think that all adds up to a nationwide touring ability for a while. We’ve been doing it for 18 years, which is at least 10 more years than most people get to do it.
Looking back at your early career until now, so much has changed for you. But what has stayed the same?
Well, I haven’t changed my name. I think everything else has changed. My life is just different. I have a wife and kids. I lived through a great career, and I’ve gotten some criticism for being the first Texas guy to come up here to Nashville and sign to a major record label. Now everybody else who gets the chance does it. Honestly, I don’t think anybody who got the chance to sign to a record label wouldn’t do it. It’s really your best shot at making it. I lived through all of that experience, and I’m on the other side of it with kids and a wife. I’ve got a better sense of what this business is and how it can chew you up and spit you out. But also the beautiful side. There’s a great deal of awesome stuff about all of this. I’ve never been so happy working hard.