Shooter Jennings On Fitting in With Nashville: "I Just Know I Don't Want to Do It."

Categories: Interviews

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Since the 2005 release of his modern outlaw coming-out party, Put the "O" Back In Country, Shooter Jennings has proudly waved the banner his mother and father, Jesse Colter and Waylon Jennings, had helped design decades ago.

After the surprising release of his 2010 concept album, Black Ribbons, Jennings collected a talented group of musicians in his new home of New York to craft Family Man, which will bring back those scared away by his ambitious version of space rock. Combining country and fist-pumping Southern rock, Jennings' most personal collection of tunes is easily one of the best country albums in this very young year.

Jennings is bringing his new tunes, as well as older favorites, to the Rockin' Rodeo in Denton tonight for a show with Cody Canada and the Departed. We spoke to Shooter over the phone just after some SXSW gigs, and he opened up about New York vs. L.A. and why this album wouldn't have happened six years ago.

The current tour is with the Departed. Did you ever tour with Cross Canadian Ragweed when they were together?
Well, Cody and I go way back, probably 15 years, but we've never toured together, so this will be a fun time to get to hang like this.

Not that your past albums have been immature, but this new album certainly has a well-worn maturity to it. Would this record have been possible for you six or seven years ago?
No, I don't think so, and that applies on different levels. I think it applies music-wise and writing-wise. I'm proud of this record and we actually cut two records, with the other one coming out in December. We took a different approach to recording by going out to New York, and it was really great.

You've never been shy about switching styles and artistic directions quickly. What brought you back to the Southern country sounds of this album after the space concept of Black Ribbons?
Black Ribbons was me making a step in a direction that was totally outside of what my dad's thing was, and it was a record that meant a lot to me. But when I was done with it, I had shed that specific skin. So, for this record, I wanted to get back to putting emphasis on the songwriting. I'll do another album like Black Ribbons, but not anytime soon.

Eleanor Masterson, who has ties to North Texas, and her husband, Chris Masterson, played on the new record. Did any of your old band, the .357s help out with this one?
You know, I'm still tight with all those cats, but this tour has the people that played on the new record, except for Chris and Eleanor, who are busy with their Mastersons project and with Steve Earle. It's a whole new group of New York guys, really. I did run into [long-time bass player] Ted Russell Kamp the other day and we're still cool, but this was a different kind of project and vibe.

Chris Masterson is an unreal guitar player who's played with Son Volt, Jack Ingram, Steve Earle and so many other big names. What makes him such a valuable part of a project for so many people?
Chris and Eleanor were both such a big part of this record. I hired Chris and then he mentioned that his wife played fiddle. Of course, her voice is also such a big part of this record. I'm just lucky they were a part of it all and they helped all the magic happen. Plus, they're such great people. I saw them in Austin after a SXSW Mastersons gig, and it was great to see them. Chris' subtlety and taste as a player is phenomenal. He makes choices as a player that aren't the obvious choices. He takes the backroads, and that's very cool.

Given your lineage and the fact that you've proven you're more than just a legend's son, do you think you'd be more commercially successful if you played by the so-called rules of Nashville and tried to fit in with what's currently going down on Music Row?
I don't know if I could fit in. I know that I wouldn't fit happily. I've never written with teams of writers, so I don't know that I have it in me. Maybe if I did try, it still wouldn't work out, because I'm not some smooth-voiced Randy Travis-style Nashville singer. I mean, I can sing, just not like that. I don't know, I just know I don't want to do it.

You were an L.A. guy for years. What has the move to New York City been like for you as an artist and as a family man with two young kids?
It's been really difficult, but I love it. We've actually spent a lot of time here over the past 10 years, but this is the first time we've stayed and put down roots here. We go to local shows, and I'm a big Harry Nilsson fan, so it's been cool to find the places that he used to go to. It's been really inspiring for me. As far as my family, there's something to do on every corner, as opposed to California, where you're more isolated. In New York City, you want to walk around and do stuff with your kids.

I read that health problems with your fiancée's father inspired a couple of the songs on the album that many might think were inspired by your own father. He had a stroke, right?
He did, but he's OK now. That whole thing with my father-in-law was a big deal. I wrote "Daddy's Hands" and "Summer Dreams (Al's Song)" about those circumstances. Going through him being sick and in the hospital during Christmas and New Year's was like revisiting what I had gone through with my own dad. it was very hard, but in another way, I was able to look at it from the outside and gain perspective on both scenarios.The holidays always make things harder, and it brought a lot of emotion onto this record.

Were there any emotions that came about which surprised you during that time?
Like I said, I was kind of on the outside looking in, and when I went through this with my dad, I was 20 or 21. But when I looked at all of this as a parent, it definitely awakened those feelings and made me understand the importance of family even more.

Shooter Jennings performs with The Departed tonight at Rockin' Rodeo in Denton.


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13 comments
Josie Koerner
Josie Koerner

I love your music & think that you should stick with. Never try to be like Nashville country, it's what most people who don't like country music think country music is, they don't realize the different styles. I'm not into Hank lll either,  personally I like Hank Jr much more then his sons. I also can't believe the last person's comment very rude.

just sayin'
just sayin'

Shooter was just another rich kid in a sunset strip band (Stargunn) till he got a whiff of what Hank III was doing. Hell, I can't believe he had the nerve to name his first country record what he did considering Hank had been playing "Dick in Dixie, Cunt in Country" for years at that point.

Raidernationdna
Raidernationdna

I see how some people have a problem with III, but I personally love his stuff, and I see and hear his grandfather straight through him. Also, don't be so quick to write off III because his new album "Ghost to a Ghost" takes music even further into Cajun influences. Some songs are rude, but I see him telling it like it is. As far as a comparison between him and Shooter, I think they are doing totally different things. I personally love "Black Ribbons" more than any album I have bought recently. I would say both he and Hank III are breaking new ground in different ways. 

nothin' really
nothin' really

 I said nothing rude. Hank III has rude song titles.....

MBM
MBM

Hank III is the shit, and reading Shooter's album title I immediately thought he got that idea from III.

III is definitely the epitome of 'outlaw country' these days, and I also enjoy his metal with Assjack.

"I'm here to put the dick in Dixie, and the cunt back in country...Cuz the kinda music I'm hearing nowadays is a bunch of fuckin shit to me..."--------I love that lyric.

nothin' really
nothin' really

Excuse me, but what? lol

What nerve are you talking about? What do dicks and cunts have to do with country anyway? I don't get ya dude. And are you trying to say he's following Hank III? Shooter's far from Hank III man. Totally different styles.

Josie Koerner
Josie Koerner

 I haven't heard Ghost to Ghost , I'm not into Cajun music but I love music that is inspired by Cajun or mixed with it.

nc_rebelgirl
nc_rebelgirl

nc_rebelgirl, I gotta say I grew up on hank, and I like shooters music just as good. I must say that country sure has changed through out the years but hey Im liking a lot of singers in country today. I'LL  end with Blake Shelton and Erich Church being my favorite. I still how ever still like skynard and so on !

just sayin'
just sayin'

Shooter named his first country record "Putting the O Back in Country" Can you and Josie not see that Shooter was making a cunt reference? And the fact that Shooter did that AFTER Hank III had been playing his Dick in Dixie Cunt in Country song for years was the fucked up part. I have to think that ol' Shooter saw the press III was getting and saw the sold out shows and got the idea that maybe he should adopt Hank's business model.

Josie Koerner
Josie Koerner

I'm not into the Nashville country like Kenny Chesney.  I mostly listen to Texas country  Randy Rogers Band,  Eli Young Band, Cross Canadian Ragweed, & Miranda Lambert. I love Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lance_Lester
Lance_Lester

 No, that's not what he said.  He said he decided to follow what Hank III was doing.  III saw that the metal/punk stuff wasn't paying the bills so he decided to cash in on the family name.  Shooter could've possibly been doing the same thing.  He never would've hit as big if he went by a name other than his own.

Josie Koerner
Josie Koerner

 Well maybe he never heard Hank lll. I never have until recently when he was playing in San Antonio. But I didn't like his style, it's too punk rock for me. I made the remark because your assuming he only decided to get into music because of Hank lll. But I can see how they sound similar. BTW I do think Shooter has a potty mouth but that's his own business, I just like his music & I do have that CD along with a couple others by him.

T
T

I have loved Shooter since his first CD and never once thought he was talking vulgar.  This *Hank* is the same one that made the trashy Whites of WV famous right?  Cause he is trashy too? 

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