We caught up with country singer-songwriter Clint Black to discuss his newest album.
Cowboys & Indians: Your latest album, Still Killin’ Time, offers some terrific live recordings of your hits, like “A Better Man” and “A Good Run of Bad Luck,” along with studio recordings of two songs — “This Old House” and “No One Here for Me” — that you originally wrote for your multiplatinum debut album, Killin’ Time, back in 1989. Why did it take you so long to record the latter two?
Clint Black: Good question. Kids today won’t understand, but we could only put 10 songs on an album back [in 1989]. And we already had “Walking Away,” so we didn’t want two waltzes. And after Killin’ Time, by the time I made my second album, I’d written some new stuff, so I opted for that. And then by the third album, well, I didn’t feel like those two songs fit into that album, either.
C&I: So you just kept them in a closet somewhere?
Clint: [Laughs.] Yeah, they just kept getting pushed aside in lieu of other songs, until I felt like, OK, they’re not fitting in with these next albums, as I evolved, and so they really were just forgotten about. They were in the stack of songs that I wasn’t really considering for this or that album. Actually, I usually wind up writing three albums’ worth of songs whenever I record an album. And there are a lot of songs that go way back that are still in a notebook. Some of them are right where they ought to be, I guess. But not those two. So when I started thinking of this commemorative release, I thought, This is the right time for those songs.
C&I: “This Old House” certainly turned out to be well worth waiting for. Especially since you have so many other artists backing you up on the recording and subsequent music video. Heavyweights like Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, Cody Jinks, Sara Evans, Michael Ray, Darius Rucker, Travis Tritt, and Steve Wariner.
Clint: It sort of evolved from, OK, I’ve got this song, I’ve recorded the track, I’ve sung it myself. I like it. But then I’m thinking about a video, and the idea popped into my head that it could easily be an homage to the Grand Ole Opry. And so, once that idea got into my head, then that’s all I could see it as. And then, I don’t know how soon after, but the next thought was having fellow Opry members singing with me. So I created this big list — a lot bigger than what we ended up with — and I got takers on it very quickly. And I suddenly realized there’s not that much song for as many singers as I have on my list. And so I had to stop my manager from the calls he was making. I said, “We’ve got to hold on a minute here while I figure out if I’ve diced this up too much.”
C&I: Why has it taken you so long to release a live album — that is, a mostly live album?
Clint: I never wanted to do a live album because I didn’t think it would really, for the listener, capture what a concert is like. And so I just, you know, released one song here and there. Like, I did release the live version of “Desperado,” and I think that was about it. But then, as we started thinking about something to do for the 30th anniversary of Killin’ Time, I thought, Well, if I were going to do a live album, this is the moment. And so I opened my mind up to it, and we record a lot on the road. I thought of it as a snapshot of who we are — four of the guys in the band, myself included — and what we’ve done as performers.
C&I: After 30 years, do you still get excited about performing in concert?
Clint: Oh, sure. I’ve said this before, but every night, to me, is the World Series. Every show is as important as any other show, every night. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be perfect. You just have to try to do everything you can to be in a position to achieve a level of excellence you’re striving for. And if you take it any more seriously than that, then you’re just fooling yourself. Perfection’s not achievable. So when you don’t achieve it, don’t be surprised. If people tell me my music is important, and they had a great time at the show, I’m going to take them at their word and try to keep my self-esteem high. [Laughs.] But not too high.
APPRECIATION: When it comes to music, Clint Black says, “I’m as much of a fan as anyone else.” He was especially impressed when he recently saw Eric Clapton in a Nashville concert. “I look at him, I look at the age of the guys in his band, and that’s encouraging. I think, like any profession, if you’re working at your craft and you’re not getting rusty, you can keep being excellent until your health starts to fade.”
Illustration: Jonathan Fehr
From our April 2020 issue.