(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
It's not often you see a career self-destructing before your eyes in an astonishing matter of moments, even seconds. It was hard for me to believe what I was hearing and seeing.
It very much disturbed me, and I was concerned for Mindy McCready and tried to reason with her about the wisdom of attacking her record label BNA and especially about savaging RCA Label Group head Joe Galante publicly. Galante was the man who had auditioned her in his office when she was 17 and signed her to his BNA label.
This was in 1997, and I was interviewing her for Billboard magazine. She would hear none of what I was saying. She said I didn't understand, that Joe didn't understand, that no one understood her greatness. That she was being denied the great songs, the great producers, the great showcases -- that she was unfairly being held back. She hadn't any clue about the possible consequences of what her out-of-control mouth might do to her career and life. She had no older, wiser publicist or advisor in her life teaching her to not criticize other artists or her own record label or basically anything else. And, above all, not to preach that your greatness is being held back and denied by the stupidity of those around you.
What truly disturbed me back then and still disturbs me now was the almost messianic glint in her eye and the tone of her voice. It was obvious that there was something dark circulating underneath that gorgeous blond exterior, something lurking in the bloodstream and watching me.
I talked to Joe, who was not surprised.
He said they had tried everything. Her mother and family were less than ineffectual. Mindy seemed impossible to try to deal with.
She listened to no one but her then-current "circle of advisors" who seemed to me to consist of older Nashville hustlers who have been traditionally interested in young sex and new talent and, through that, in getting publishing deals and song credits. There were circles of those Music Row buzzards hovering then, and there still are today.
Remember, Mindy was still just 21 years old at this point in her career, and already her early success was beginning to decline. And remember this was before white trash was being celebrated in certain music circles and condemned in others. McCready certainly qualified for both.
And she struck me at the time of the interview as totally out of control mentally and emotionally. I haven't seen that all that often in my life, but it's hard to miss. I tried talking her out of running this interview. But she wanted to see it in print to more or less punish her enemies.
I decided then for the first and only time in my life and career to censor myself. It would have been completely unfair to such a young and obviously naive and high-strung artist to publish such damaging remarks.
I remain convinced that if I had published her venomous remarks in Billboard -- which was then still considered the Bible of music -- I could have had a suicide on my hands.
I felt that the highly emotional and melodramatic Mindy could have overreacted once she saw the reaction and the meltdown to her fatal career decision. Nashville was a different world in those days, and I don't think Mindy ever had any concept of Nashville at all, outside of her fervent imagination, as a sort of wonderland. She obviously had no idea that there were trolls lying in wait in her fantasyland.
I finally laid it on the line to her, thusly: "Mindy, if I print what you just told me, you'll be out the door tomorrow. You don't seem to realize and understand that Joe holds your career in his hands."
"Look," she snapped. "He's wrong. He doesn't understand me."
I regret (and I hope that she subsequently did also) that she decided to go to that tawdry British documentary Naked Nashville to try to air her dirty laundry and throw stones at Joe and BNA. If anything, she was even more desperate on that documentary to get her points across. It did, though, have the desired effect that she wanted.
Joe Galante, always a decent man and a greatly respected record executive, had no choice but to drop her from BNA Records. After a brief, ineffectual stop at Capitol Records, Mindy was cut loose to drift in the wind, and her career went on to completely unravel. Unfortunately, there are no do-overs in the music business. Once you f**k yourself, there you are. I don't know what ever happened to her circle of advisors and Svengalis of the month. I doubt that they will ever step forward.
It's up to educated medical professionals, and not me, to decide what ailed and troubled her. To me, it appeared to be a genuine emotional problem. What I saw and heard in her eyes and voice convinced me that deep in her brain, there was something dark lurking under the surface way back then -- that was way beyond anything I had ever seen or could handle. Obviously, it was beyond anything McCready could handle. She could have had a good career but for a few of those careless little decisions. ... And then those bad decisions multiplied and tumbled her downhill, with no possible turning back. Superman and Roger Clemens? Why not? What could possibly go wrong?