After the Flood: An Interview with Courtney Patton
If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, let me introduce you to Texas country singer’s Jason Eady’s better half, singer-songwriter Courtney Patton. The couple was married in late March of this year after a romance that was spawned by the very music they share as a passion together. Their nuptials came nearly a year after Patton released her first full-length record, Triggering a Flood. The album is Texas through and through, but bears soulful and subtle influences from her idol James Taylor to friends Mike McClure and The Trishas. Lone Star Music Magazine sang her praises last year, saying, “There’s a palpable, this-is-my-moment-and-I’m-gonna-make-it-count sense of determined urgency on display right from the very start. Patton comes out swinging with “Twisted,” a full-throated roar of a break-up anthem packing a wallop of a hook and the first of many knockout vocal performances on the album. But Triggering a Flood is unmistakably Patton’s showcase, and one that heralds the true arrival of a talent long overdue for a breakout.”
Courtney was kind enough to chat with Engine 145 in between shows to talk about her latest album and what’s ahead (it just might include a duets album with her new husband).
First of all congratulations on your semi-recent wedding. Should we assume that it was music that brought you together?
I would say so, yes. Years ago, we met each other when we were married to other people. It was probably about seven years ago, I guess. At that time, we would go two years without talking to one-another. Somehow, along the path of music, we reconnected. We found out that we were both single. Even a year past that, we hadn’t even dated. And then somehow it happened. We sat down and wrote a song together and thought that we enjoyed each other’s company a lot. The rest is history.
That particular song has to have some special meaning then.
Yes, it does. It’s on his last record and is called “Lonesome Down and Out.” I had this hook and was working on it driving home from band practice one night. He came over and asked if I had any ideas. I had just this one line and we wrote it really fast. We had it all done that same afternoon. It was fun. The song is just about a turning point in one’s life so it’s pretty appropriate.
Have you found that you’ve been influencing each other’s music since you met one-another?
I think so. I’ve definitely embraced my “country-ness” more since we started dating and got married. He’s definitely helped me do that. Writing-wise, I think we’ve started writing sweeter songs. (laughter) We’re not doing as many jaded songs. And that’s all good, but it’s harder to write a happy song than a sad one.
Jason’s last couple albums have been pretty dark. This should be interesting.
(laughter) Yeah, we’ll have to see how long it’ll have to take to get a record out now.
Tell me about some of your early music influences.
I just had a great concert experience here just this last week seeing my hero, James Taylor. He’s a huge one for me. I grew up listening to him and a couple Christmases ago, Jason bought every vinyl record he ever made. He started at Sweet Baby James and went all the way through. I love that collection of every record he’s ever put out. I love mellow music. I always have. You can tell that on my record that I love slower songs. They speak to me and always have. I was never scared to write stuff that was real and that was true because that’s all I knew. I love Carole King and Don Williams. Bob McDill is the writer who wrote a ton of those songs that we all know and love. If you go through McDill’s song catalog, he’s just written so many songs that we all love. I love the real simple country songs that are about life and love.
I’ve had the same influences for years. We were just talking about that the other night at the James Taylor concert. It’s so cool to look back at those influences you had when you were 18 — and I’m 32 now — and know that they’re the same. They’re all the same. Willie Nelson. Don Williams. James Taylor. Carole King. I’m so proud to say that to this day, they’re still my favorite ones.
How did growing up in Weatherford have an influence on your music?
Weatherford was small when I was little, but it’s big now. It’s just a big extension of Fort Worth. It’s weird going back home now. Honest, I would just say that the bigger influence was in Stephenville where I went to college at Tarleton State University. That was the first time I ever really started playing guitar. I had gotten a guitar in high school that I played a church. I did musicals and choir and summer music things. They were all things that were really important to me but it never occurred to me that I would get to grow up and do them as my job.
But it was different in college. While I was going to Tarleton, they had an open mic night. And I was lucky that I had met some like-minded people. I met my core group of friends my freshman year in the dorms. My friends Brad and Clayborn played at the open mic night. I went to watch them one night to see what it was like and they invited me to play. And I was horrible. (laughter) I had a Washburn acoustic that I would have to mic along with my vocals because there was no plug-in. It was one of those $99 junk guitars. But I did it because they let me. And I was so nervous. So nervous. We would do some Great Divide songs. They were really big down there at the time. It would be that or “Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold)” by Dan Seals. I couldn’t play that one very well so my friends would have to come up and play it and I would sing it. It started this whole thing throughout college. Every Wednesday night was open mic night and all of us would just be our thing. All throughout college, I kept building this confidence and got better at the guitar and at writing.
Okay, not great at writing. I had a couple of decent songs, but I thought at the time if you wrote songs about beer, people would go crazy. So I wrote a lot of beer songs that I wished I hadn’t. I have an old record out back when I was 24 at home with two kids. I was thinking that I was never going to be able to do this because I was a mom and that was the most important thing. So I just wanted to get the songs down for posterity sake. So I did and now I regret it. People bring that up and I say, “No no no, that doesn’t exist.” (laughter) So I tell people to not pay attention to it because they’re songs that an 18 or 19-year-old would write. Now I’m 32 and trying to prove that I can write good classic songs. Unfortunately for me, iTunes existed when that came out. It’s on the internet forever.
You used to work for Nike. How did you go from that into the music scene?
I got my degree in public relations and marketing. I graduated and immediately had my two kids. I was staying at home being a mom full-time until they were both out of diapers. It was at that point, I thought that I had too much to give and too much energy just to sit still. I wanted to work and help the family so I got a job at Nike Golf. I met so many incredible people. They provided so many opportunities to me. I got to perform a concert for their global sales meeting they were having down in Fort Worth at their research and development facility. I got to open for Asleep at the Wheel. We had a band called Courtney and the Swoosh Bags. (laughter) One of the lead engineers was the drummer and one of the sports marketing guys was the lead guitar and I did vocals and rhythm guitar. It was a lot of fun. [PGA Tour star] Paul Casey tweeted me and I thought that was going to be the best thing that happened in my life. Come to find out, it was just the tip of the iceberg.
The commute on that job was about an hour and a half each way, though. It was three hours in the car. I wasn’t able to take my kids to school or pick them up. So I got a job a little closer to home where I was the PR person for the local Chamber of Commerce for about a year. Then I got offered another job to do the marketing for a local athletic apparel company that opened doors for me to be able to travel outside the state.
I went through a divorce right about that time and that really was the catalyst. That gave me so much more material to sit down and write songs. I really went through that whole grieving process doing a lot of songwriting. So my whole record is married Courtney learning how to be single mom Courtney and embracing the music and recognizing that I had put it away for too long. Up to that point, I had put the guitar away for almost two years. I hadn’t written a song, I hadn’t done a show. I had just buried myself into my family and my work and hadn’t realized that I had given up the one thing that makes me “me.” I couldn’t do it anymore.
So as I was travelling all that year out of state, I would take my guitar with me and try to book a show in a different state. I got a show in Columbus, Ohio. I kept taking a gamble and getting little shows like that. There were people taking off of work to come see me play. There might have only been 15 people in the whole bar, but they came to see me. I just couldn’t believe how cool that was and I knew I was on to something. So I did the Kickstarter thing. There was no way I could have privately funded my record being an independent artist and working a day job. So I did the Kickstarter thing and funded it in 17 days. I got so excited and it was then I realized I was ready to take the plunge. So I quit my job and started doing music full-time. I wanted to be playing music full-time by the time my album came out [in May 2013] so I could promote and do what I needed to do. So far so good. I’ve made my house payments!
It has helped having Jason because he also quit his job when he was 30. He’d been through all of this before me and knew what mistakes not to make because he had gone through all of them already. He knew how to keep me from making the same struggles he had made. It helped me not to make any of those same mistakes. It’s been a really good year and a half. I’m so glad I made that switch.
How would you describe Triggering a Flood?
I wrote all these songs during a very growing time of my life. It wasn’t intended to be a concept album, but the songs are ordered in the way of a woman learning to leave something she was comfortable in even though she wasn’t happy. That’s the first song, “Twisted.” It goes through life. It doesn’t have a lot of happy resolve in it, but I’ve had many women come to me and say they’ve seen themselves in it and that it speaks to them. It’s a full band record with 11 original songs. Three of them are co-writes. Even the fast and fun songs lean themselves to being pretty serious. It’s heavy music, but that’s what I’m proud of. It’s a little alternative country. You can hear a little rock and roll in it. You’ll hear Willie Nelson, but you’ll hear a little Neil Young in it too. I’m really proud of it.
I think next time, I’ll have a little more of a defined style but I’m really happy with the way this one turned out. I really tried to have my heroes like Carole King and Neil Young inspire the sound on different tracks. Every track and every overdub, was really thought out that way. I’m really proud of it.
You had The Trishas involved with the project as well.
I did! The cool part about that is that, as I mentioned before, I had put the guitar away for a while. One of the first songs that I wrote after that long hiatus was a song called “The Fool.” I wrote that and recorded it on my phone and Jamie Wilson, who is my best friend, had me play it for her. A couple days later, I got a text from her that said to send her that file. Awhile went by and I never thought another thing about it. Several months later, I got a text message from her late one night and it was a voice memo. She said to listen to this when you were in a car with good speakers. And so I went out and plugged it in and it was my song that they covered. They had cut my song and put it on their album and I had never even known it. I didn’t even have an idea. I didn’t even know it could happen. They waited until it was on their record to even tell me. It was really really cool and such a beautiful gift.
It was really exciting and I wanted to put that song on my album too. But I wanted to do it totally different. I’m so proud. I look up to them. They’re my friends and they’re great writers. They didn’t need my song. So to find out that it was the only cover song on their album was a huge compliment.
Jamie helped produce the record and all the other girls sang harmony on it. It was great to be a piece of their album and then have them come help me out on mine.
Male singers are dominating the current contemporary scene and I would say that the Texas country scene is not much different from Nashville in that regard. Why is it important to have a woman’s voice out there?
I’ll be the first one to say that I prefer a male voice when I’m listening to music. As much as music is an integral piece to my life, few artists move me like a long list of men who have. Bonnie Raitt is one of them. (Sighs) She just speaks to me. But I think we’ve all realized that with all these gals in the scene, we can hang with the boys. We can write. We can sing. We can hang with the boys. And we’re good! I think the guys know it. So we just need to keep working.
I think we need to stop having us all grouped together and calling it “Ladies Night.” That’s obviously the worst thing that can happen because it makes it sound like it’s a hard sell. Mix us up with a couple of guys and we’ll show ‘em. That’s just my opinion. I try to play as many shows with other men as possible. I want to open as many shows for guys that have the same feel as I do. Jason is a prime example. I want to play with a man who suits the type of music that I’m making, though. That way, his audience will hear me and say, “Oh yeah, that’s great!”
I think we’ve got it. It’s just a lot harder for a woman to break through that scene than it is a man.
Where do you see yourself within the music industry? What are your ultimate goals?
I have never wanted a tour bus or the fame that would take me away from my family, being a mom and being around them. But I do work a lot and have some goals. I just hope that I can continue to play shows. I’m excited that we’re going to be doing our first European tour in October. We’re going to Switzerland and Germany, just Jason and I acoustically. I hope more opportunities like that come.
I also hope that as a writer, I can break through and meet some people that would like to cut some of my songs. To me, songwriting is the big thing. I’d love to have the right person take and cut one of my songs and make it their own. That would be a huge compliment. Then I could continue to play the shows and be home at least 50% of the time. Because I really enjoy the performing part of it and I would be sad if I didn’t have that.
The whole publishing thing scares me a bit. I’ve seen my friends give such a huge percentage of their writing to publishing contracts. Sometimes, it paid off. A lot of friends in Nashville, like the ones that came out to Golf & Guitars there in Sacramento, make a living off of that. They’re exactly where they need to be, but I don’t know if Nashville would be the right place for me or my kids. It’s hard. I go back in forth on how I want to do that. Right now, it’s all about writing and playing them for whoever I can.
I’ve got a good group of songs and a couple of good solid songs. I always want to go in with more than I need and know that I can sort through the best and know I’m putting my best foot forward. I’m thinking by December I will be in the studio recording. That’s my goal. There are a couple of co-writes and I might cut one of Jason’s songs that he wrote for me to sing. It’s beautiful. I’ve had a lot of people ask me to include that on my next record and I think that’s a pretty good chance.
He and I are also working on a duets record. A lot of people are excited about the old school stuff. He did “Man on a Mountain” with Patty [Loveless] and I love doing that one with him when we’re on the road. We also wrote one together on his last record called “We Just Might Miss Each Other.” Every time, we get such great feedback and people always say we should do a duets record. The more we heard it, the more we realized there’s such a niche for that right now. We want that old-school throwback George and Tammy, Conway and Loretta, and Dolly and Porter stuff. We want to do that in the next year or two so we’re trying to sit down and write more for that.
What is country music to Courtney Patton?
That’s a good one. It sounds so cheesy, but it’s the rhythm of my soul. I talked about Don Williams and Bob McDill and that beat of bomp, bomp, bomp. I swear it’s my body’s natural rhythm. Good country music to me is when I close my eyes and listen and my whole body just becomes one with the music. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s when that steady saunter just takes you back to your childhood.
I remember the first time I ever heard Don Williams being played on vinyl. I think I was three or four years old. We had brown shag carpet and we lived in Fort Worth. I don’t remember the address or the phone number, but I remember the moment that I heard that soothing voice. My whole life, I’ve always gravitated towards that kind of country. It speaks to you in real words. It’s not about tractors and dirt roads and all those things Nashville made it to be or allowed it to become. It’s about real life, drinking, cheating, family, love, and a combination of all of those things. That’s what country music is to me.
I just hope that in my country songs, I can keep that alive.
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