Pat Green Will Quit Counting the Miles … Eventually [Interview]
A new Pat Green album is made better by knowledge of his last album, or any album from his 27-year-old collection. The groundbreaking Texan's fascinating journey began with an independent record titled Dancehall Dreamer in 1995 ("Of course, before that I sang at a lot of barbecue restaurants") and includes a still-controversial dalliance with mainstream country radio.
Miles and Miles of You is his first new album in seven years, but he's continued to (pardon the pun) log the miles. When pressed, Green estimates he's played about 3,000 shows in his life. It's a stat that more than compensates for the relative lack of recorded music and a nod to how he prefers to spend his time at age 50. His wife, children and other artistic interests are also priorities that the comforts of success allow him to lean into. Still, it's hard to ever imagine him putting down his guitar for good.
"I will," he says, correcting Taste of Country Nights host Evan Paul during a recent studio visit. "You're wrong about that," he adds with a laugh, finishing, "Not for a long time, though."
I'm particular and I'm a lead singer and so, you know, there's a lot of ego in there. I don't know how else to put it but if you don't have a strong sense of confidence ... you're not going to look very good.
There are more stories to tell and people to meet. Hopefully, there are a few more songs to share with other artists as well. Abby Anderson shines alongside Green on a new track called "All in This Together," but several more high-profile artists remain on his bucket list. In 2015, Sheryl Crow joined him for a Chris Stapleton co-write called "Right Now" on the duet-heavy Home album. He chose this song to play for the Taste of Country audience. This is what we mean when we say the new is made better by the appreciation of the old.
"[Stapleton] goes, 'Do you have any ideas?'" Green recalls, conceding that at that point he'd never heard of his co-writer. "It's like, 'I've never written a song about this day that I was dumped by my girlfriend on Valentine's Day.'"
"It was an easy song to write because it's such an emotional thing to talk about. You breakup with somebody you love and living through a lifetime of music."
Spoiler alert: Green married that girl 22 years ago, and now they raise their family in Texas. He's still writing and recording songs about her, whether she likes it or not.
Taste of Country: You released several Mile Marker videos to YouTube ahead of this new album. To what extent is Miles and Miles of You a look back on your career?
Pat Green: I don't treat albums as projects. Like, I'm not trying to make a statement about this or that. I appreciate that there are people or bands out there that want to do that. I write at a very slow pace. I'll write one song every three or four months. I'm an artist as well. I sculpt, paint and all those things, and I take those things very seriously, but very slow.
What I think about is what I'm thinking about. I write mostly about my family and myself. Radney Foster said it to me a long time ago, he said, "If you're just telling the truth, they'll know it ... but if you're bulls--ting, they'll know that, too."
It's cool that after 20-something years of marriage, your wife still inspires you to write new music.
Everybody is surprised that we're still married. (Laughs).
Well, I'm not an easy person, I know that. I don't think a lot of people are that easy. I'm particular and I'm a lead singer and so, you know, there's a lot of ego in there. I don't know how else to put it, but if you don't have a strong sense of confidence and consciousness about who you are getting on stage in front of thousands of people, you're not going to look very good. (Laughs). A lot of shaky hands.
My hands, for some reason God gave me steady hands when I'm in front of as big a crowd as — actually, I go the other way. When I'm in front of lots and lots and lots of people, I turn on.
What did your wife think the first time you played "Steady" for her?
(Laughing) She doesn't really like that song. I love it. It just came from a very sincere place of appreciation for her. She goes, "You make me sound so boring. No girl wants to be called 'Steady.'" And I understand that, after the fact.
In the beginning of that song, you mention how her dad didn't care for you. How long did it take for him to come around?
I'm not sure it's happened yet. (Laughs). I'm teasing. No, I have a great relationship with Rick. Kori and her father are very much alike. She was the first kid. They're both extremely intelligent. He's a huge brain that works for Texas Tech University. Has a farm, has a ranch. He's just an expert in his field.
I told him one time at Kori's cousin's wedding ... we had just started dating. And we're both standing at side-by-side urinals, and I told him, "I'll never take your daughter out of college to marry her." Now, that might have been the dumbest thing I've ever said to any other human being in my life. He's got this Wyatt Earp mustache ... he's part Indian, so he has really dark hair, just a good-looking fella, and he's like (growls). And he just walked away. (Laughs).
When you broke up, did they get involved?
We broke up because I left Lubbock, and music wasn't going as well as I wanted it to. One of those displacement things that people do. I blamed my lack of success in music on being in Lubbock — which was not a music city — and her.
I moved back to Waco, central Texas, another music hub. (Laughs) — you see what I'm saying? The logic wasn't sound.
Who is on your bucket list still?
I still haven't gotten to sing with Dolly Parton. I think Kacey Musgraves is an extreme talent that I would love to be around. She's an interesting person. I only met her a couple of times, but I talked to her one time for a few minutes, and I really thought she was fun to be around.
Texas is its own music hub. If you start getting noticed in Nashville like Parker McCollum is now, do you lose some of your Texas cred?
I think that depends on what you want out of your career as an artist. If you're a songwriter and you want to play to a crowd that's sitting down and listening to you, that's one thing, and that's respectable. You should respect any vehicle that you want to ride in. I wanted to be singing in front of large audiences for the rest of my life. So, in order to do that you have to have a critical mass at radio. Koe Wetzel is an interesting counterpoint to that. He hasn't had a lot of radio success, but he has huge ground swell and organic numbers. I didn't have that opportunity. I knew that my music was big in Texas, but I wanted it to be big enough everywhere else so that I could continue to tour. Once we hit that critical mass, the record labels began to drool.
Now, like you said, I have a 25-year career and there's no end in sight. As long as I want to play, I can play.
Radney Foster said it to me a long time ago, he said, 'If you're just telling the truth, they'll know it ... but if you're bulls--ting, they'll know that, too.'
In rock music, if you're an indie band and you crossover with a song that "makes it," you kind of lose a little indie cred.
Well sure. Those indie fans, the people that really love the smaller side of music, they take a very deep ownership of it and get irritated when other people own their stuff.
Do you find that in Texas?
I did when I went through it. But I think now, if you got the cred to get a big record deal and get out there, it's okay. I think I took the brunt of the blow as far as, what does it look like to "sell out." But I'm still here and I got a wonderful life.
Most of them have come back around, too. "Wave on Wave" was the [makes a voice] "ultimate sellout," but I think there's not many people that like the Texas music scene that don't know that song word-for-word.