Patty Loveless Talks About Mountain Soul II
Where will you be Tuesday morning? Probably picking up a copy of Mountain Soul II, one of the year’s most anticipated releases. I was the lucky 9513er who got to spend a few minutes this afternoon chatting with Patty Loveless about the album, songwriting, and fishing.
JULI THANKI: It’s been eight years since Mountain Soul came out. How long after that release did you start thinking about a sequel?
PATTY LOVELESS: Actually, we only thought about it last year. I was out touring in support of Sleepless Nights for Saguaro Road, which was my first record with them. They approached us about possibly doing another record, but prior to their approach I had noticed a lot of people [I met on the road] had collections of various CDs I had done over the years, and the main one that continued to be in their collection was Mountain Soul.
Out on the road last year I wasn’t doing anything from Mountain Soul; mostly I was doing a mix from my past career and then I added the music from Sleepless Nights. So the show didn’t really give me an opportunity to share more of the music from Mountain Soul, the Appalachian, acoustic kind of thing.
I had a lot of fans who loved what we did and they said “When are you going to do another one such as this one?” and they’d point out the Mountain Soul record. And I’d say “Maybe in the near future.” I didn’t know it was that near (laughing). I had not made any plans yet to go back to the studio so soon; it had only been a year’s time. So we gave the idea to the label and told them the fans demand another record such as Mountain Soul. They gave us the okay and we went and did 90% of the record live. Except for a couple of overdubs, it’s live.
JT: You’ve also re-recorded several songs from previous albums. What made you decide to revisit them here?
PL: I felt “A Handful of Dust” and “Half Over You” did not get the recognition they should have gotten years and years and years ago. Of course, neither one was a single for me. “Blue Memories” was a single and we [originally] did it with a more raucous-type feel to it and changed it to give it a little more grassy feel.
“Feelings of Love” was another song that was never a single for me but we came to rerecord that one after it caught Emory’s [Gordy Jr., Loveless’ producer/husband] attention on YouTube one night when he saw [a clip of] me performing it with John Denver. He told me “I would love to do it acoustically.”
JT: The opening track isn’t the same version of “Busted” that most people know. How did you come across this version?
PL: The one that we do is truly the original lyric. Years ago when Harlan [Howard] was still alive, Emory went to go do a writing session with him; they were talking about songs and Emory brought up “Busted.” He mentioned to Harlan, “It’s such a great song, and I was thinking what a twist it would be if it was about coal mining.” That’s when Harlan shared with him, “Emory, you’re not gonna believe this, but the original lyrics are about coal mining.” I guess this was about ’94, ’95, when Harlan gave Emory a copy of the lyrics and Emory hung onto them.
Harlan had pitched the song to Johnny Cash—this is the reason it got changed—Johnny had given Harlan a call and said “Look, Harlan, this is a great song, but I know nothin’ about coal mining.” So Harlan asked, “Well, what do you know about?” Johnny said “Cotton,” and that’s when Harlan changed it to cotton. I think that’s why Johnny Cash was the artist that he was, because he wanted to sing about truth and what he knows. I think it was great of Harlan to make that possible.
I’ve had writers that I would call and say “Look, this is a great song, but it doesn’t quite fit what I know,” and they’d change it. But then there are some that will not change it, and sometimes they miss a cut because of it because [the song] is their baby and they refuse. But there are some who really know their stuff—like Harlan Howard did—and they’re like “hey, there’s nothing wrong with changing a word or two to make it fit the artist.”
JT: You and Emory have co-written several songs together. What’s the writing process like for you guys? Are they just ideas that pop into your heads or do you two sit down with the intent of writing?
PL: Whenever we’re doing our chores around the house, working in the garden, cutting grass, driving somewhere, or going to the grocery store, or daily just working around the house, an idea pops in our head and we bring it to each other. A lot of Emory’s ideas come when he’s working the ground, planting and tilling. Even if he’s out on the boat, things are quiet out there so ideas can come into your mind.
A lot of great writers have gone out there fishin'; I know Bob Seger has a sailboat and he loves to go sailing quite a bit. When you’re away from a lot of distractions, that’s when the best writing can come to you.
JT: You’ve got some incredible guest stars here like Vince Gill and the McCourys, and you all recorded live. That process must have been great fun.
PL: For the most part, these guys tend to get together and jam a lot. I’ve socialized with them quite a bit over the years, and all of us have performed together onstage at one time or another. In 2003, Del McCoury was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and they called upon me to be a part of the induction and we did “Working on a Building” together so it was appropriate for him to come into the studio and join me on this song. It was just natural. He also sings on “Busted,” and to me he’s the perfect character for the song because he can present it and it’s believable.
As far as Vince Gill and Rebecca Lynn Howard even, we’ve all been singing together on stage and it [feels] like we’ve been singing together all our lives. The whole feel of this record is like me inviting a bunch of folks to my house to jam and we all just love to perform and sing and play with each other.
JT: You’re singing a lot of traditional gospel songs here, and you also sing a cappella. What’s your personal history with this type of music?
PL: During my upbringing as a child I got to experience a lot of Baptist preaching. My grandfather on my mother’s side was an Old Regular Baptist preacher but there was also a form of Primitive Baptist churches where the preacher would line up hymns and the congregation would join in by starting to sing a cappella. What sets Mountain Soul II apart from the first Mountain Soul is that [“Friends in Gloryland” and “(We Are All) Children of Abraham”] are presented in that way in that they’re a cappella.
JT: Your career has kind of come full circle. When you were a teenager, you got your start with Porter Wagoner and the Wilburn Brothers. Now you’re working with 16 year old Sydni Perry. Tell me a little about what that’s like to influence the younger generation of artists.
PL: I met her when she was nine years old, back in 2003. She’s now out on the road with me, singing in the background and playing fiddle. She’s just awesome. She’s just a brilliant child and she could have more than just a career in music. She could have it in just about anything, because she’s very intelligent and very, very well homeschooled. She really has it together and it’s good to see that in a young person. She actually knows my songs better than I do, it’s pretty bizarre.
Sleepless Nights was the first time she had joined me on record and then she spent four or five days at my home, went fishin’, and she’d sing in the studio, laying her parts down. But with this new record, she had to deal with being live as well. I’m tellin’ you: she held her own. Very impressive, and I think she impressed everyone (who’d been in the business for a long time) with her talent.
I hope that I can continue to influence the younger generation. I hope that they can consider me an aunt, a great-aunt or a sister to them, and I hope that the music I’ve laid out in the past years will be something for them to look back on and learn from it and the history of country music.
JT: What are your thoughts on the current state of country music?
PL: When I look at the young people today, they’re catering to a young audience. It’s not as adult as it used to be…at the same time, at the age of 12 I was singing the songs of Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. Loretta Lynn, she was a young girl writing songs about married life; you know, she was married at 14. So when you stop and think about that, it’s kind of bizarre. But I think for the most part, the music I hear today has a little bit more of a pop and ’70s, ’80s rock influence. That’s what a lot of the young people were brought up on: not only country music of the ’90s, but also what their parents listened to, which was the rock & roll music of the ’70s and ’80s.
JT: Now that you’re on Saguaro Road Records and no longer really supported by commercial radio, do you feel a different sense of artistic freedom?
PL: They’re supported by Time Warner, so [Saguaro Road] isn’t too small, but I really have a little more freedom to do the things I want to do. I’ve been in the business a long time, and hopefully I’ve been able to establish some form of a name and a fan base that’s grown over the years.
JT: You’ve done bluegrass, you’ve done classics with Sleepless Nights, what’s next? Any special projects you want to do? Do you feel like you’ve got anything left to accomplish?
PL: I’ve always had a love for the old ’50s and ’60s rock & roll and pop music. I’ve had a love for that because I had a lot of older brothers and sisters who were turned on by country music and were also big fans of that [rock & roll] era because a lot of them were born in the ’40s. My husband has a friend that played on a lot of those old records; every time we hear a record, we’re like “that’s Hal Blaine playing drums.” So I think I would like to experience that at one point.
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