The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Advertisement
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
Advertisement
Texas A&M infielder Trinity Cannon (6) reacts during Texas A&M’s game against Texas at the Austin Super Regional at Red and Charline McCombs Field in Austin, Texas, on Friday, May 24, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
Aggies a win away from Women’s College World Series after 6-5 victory over Longhorns
Luke White, Sports Editor • May 24, 2024

Texas A&M softball experienced every inch of the pendulum of emotions in its NCAA Super Regional matchup with Texas on Friday, May 24, but...

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
Southern slugfest
May 23, 2024
Texas A&M pitcher Evan Aschenbeck (53) reacts after throwing the final strike out during Texas A&M’s game against Mississippi State on Saturday, March 23, 2024, at Olsen Field. (Chris Swann/ The Battalion)
Down but not out
May 23, 2024
Advertisement
Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
Bee-hind the scenes
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • May 1, 2024

The speakers turn on. Static clicks. And a voice reads “Your starting lineup for the Texas A&M Aggies is …” Spectators hear that...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
'I was terrified'
April 25, 2024
Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
April 25, 2024
Advertisement
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Old school

 
 

An admitted member of country music’s ‘old guard’, Rodney Crowell has evolved into more than an aging country star. Since the ’70s, Crowell has made a name for himself as a rocker, a producer, a writer, a famous son-in-law to Cash royalty, and a poet with a six-string.
With the bulk of his commercial success behind him, Crowell and tour-mate Bruce Robison exist slightly under the mainstream radar. Crowell spoke with The Batt about their stop in Aggieland and how to remain relevant in today’s simplified, CMT crowd.
BATT: How often do you make it to College Station?
Rodney Crowell: I don’t think I’ve ever been there. Ever. In my memory, this is the first. We’re just doing a little tour. I’ll be in Texas the back half of April – just some festivals. Bruce Robison and I are good friends. We’ll be out together ’til early May.
BATT: Do you like to play for college crowds?
RC: Well, you know, historically, we all – writers, performers – like college crowds. They’re great ’cause it’s a time in your life when you’re open. I love college crowds. In the past I’ve come to college and talked to crowds about writing, and it’s great to just go into a classroom and talking about writing – either playing songs or talking about creativity.
BATT: Are you writing anything now?
RC: I’m a memoirist. I’m working on a book about the 10 years I spent in east Houston.
BATT: That’s a funky little part of town.
RC: Well, it was even more interesting in the ’60s. I’m also in a book with other songwriters – a little self-promotion here. (Former wife and country artist) Roseanne Cash edited it for Hyperion. “Songs Without Rhyme” – that’s what it was called. And I’ve been published in some magazines. They’ll ask me to write a story or article about something. But I’ve spent a lot of time working on a memoir.
BATT: Have you heard Roseanne Cash’s new album?
RC: All those records I made with her, I didn’t think she’d done as well as those. But I think that this one is the best work that she’s ever done.
BATT: What kind of band do you have with you now?
RC: I got a rock and roll band called The Outsiders.
BATT: Your style is eclectic. Before writing a song, do you decide ‘This is going to be a folk song,’ or ‘This is going to be a rock song?’
RC: Never. Never. Nothing should precede the writing. No thought. What kind of song it is. What kind of style. I’ve trained myself to let the source of my inspiration tell me what the songs are going to be.
BATT: How do you work in the studio? Any regrets with how songs have turned out while recording?
RC: I have regrets of lots of songs I’ve recorded (laughs). Maybe some of them I shouldn’t have ever recorded. You know, hindsight is 20/20. The recording process is a vulnerable process. You can write something and lose it in the recording process if you’re not careful. I’ve become more careful with that in the recent years.
I try to have them all laid out in the studio. I don’t do much writing in the studio. I don’t want to leave the language to chance. Three-quarters through the way of the recording process, other songs will volunteer to be on the record, so I’ll write them. But I try to lay out the language, the sequence and everything beforehand so all I have to focus on in the recording process is the performances and the language. Forgive me for waxing or sounding pretentious, but I want my records to be like works of literature. Revision, revision, revision. In order to get it down to what it needs to be, it takes constant revision – the economy of language. Same with songwriting. Some of it is spontaneous.
BATT: No offense here, but how’s it feel to be a member of the ‘old guard’?
RC: I love it. I get tons of respect from kids. My process is old school, but if you notice, I don’t trade on my past at all. I don’t play my old hits at all. I play my new stuff now. I thrive in the moment. If I were relegated to the oldies bank and had to play my old hits from the ’80s, ’70s or ’90s, I’d quit. I play my last four records in my live set. It doesn’t consist of past hits. I don’t bristle at the notion of being old school, but I do bristle at the notion of not being relevant.
Here’s the way I see it: If I’m not relevant to your life, that’s your problem. I’m taking on politics, I’m not just offering up good time dance music or broad stroke love songs. Cultural relevance is more important than anything to me. I mean, we play good time dance music, and this college kid came to our show, and he wanted serious conversation about writing. He was surprised at our exuberance. I’m serious about it, but we have fun, too.
BATT: Your latest album, “The Outsider,” took on politics, religious fundamentalism and conservatism. What’s the response been from the CMT, Larry the Cable Guy audience?
RC: (Laughs) I’d love to play music for them. Welcome to the world that we are in! If our culture has ever been more polarized than it is now … I’ve been studying history, and with Woodrow Wilson, right before World War I, we were as polarized then as we are now. Shoot, man. We are polarized! It’s also a consumer culture that we’ve become. One thing about the baby boom, we’ve, and I’m a baby boomer, we may think we are, but I’m not so sure we’re the best group of parents to come along.
“The Outsider” was about fundamentalism. Look at the song “The Outsider.” You’ll know what I’m talking about – Muslims that breed terrorism, Christian fundamentalists that breed control and social judgment. In my sense of things, God is the outsider. It’s my understanding of what God is. I didn’t bother to explain that. If I were to try to explain to you what my idea of God is I’m going to reach dogma.
“Give It To Me,” I wrote that about greed and reading about Enron. I’m being sarcastic. It’s irony. I would never tell the Dixie Chicks to kiss my ass. That’s a response to those guys who bad-mouth them then ask for backstage passes at their shows. Fuck off!
BATT: You name-drop Bob Dylan on “The Outsider” and also cover his “Shelter From the Storm” with Emmylou Harris. Ever met the guy?
RC: Nope. Not sure that I even want to either. It might ruin it. Emmy and I go back to the mid ’70s in Austin, Texas.
BATT: You’ve gained respect separately as a songwriter. Tons of artists, famous or not, have sung your songs. Van Morrison’s new album has “‘Til I Gain Control Again.” Do you enjoy that aspect of your career more than being a performer?
RC: I enjoy the money. But there’s never a day when I don’t like being in front. I love hearing a Van Morrison reading of my song. I’ve never written songs for other people. I did it a couple of times, but it didn’t work. I have a melodic sensibility, and if I get it right, it can be good for anyone that wants to sing it. I write ’cause it’s who I am and what I do. And when other people do them, it brings a lot of money for me. But writing for someone else – that’s putting the cart before the horse. I don’t write good when it doesn’t come from my heart. Writing for someone else comes from the mind, and the mind is a terrible tool.
BATT: But do you ever write a song and think, ‘I can’t do this song,’ and just put it out there for anyone else to grab?
RC: Oh, yeah. I do that. I really liked when Roger Daltrey did “Ashes By Now.”
BATT: How long are you going to keep up your music?
RC: As long as I have a longing in my heart to experience myself as a relevant artist, I’ll continue. And I think when I’m no longer relevant, I’ll just fade from view and just probably write. I’m sure I’ll spend the latter part of my life writing sentences. My daughter says, ‘Dad, you sure love to hear yourself talk.’ And I say, ‘No. I love to hear myself write.’
BATT: Where are you living now?
RC: Franklin, Tenn. For good? I don’t know. But I don’t live near Nashville for reasons one might think. The creative community in Nashville is great. I can pick up the phone and get Bela Fleck. I can get world-class musicians just like that. And being here, someone might get one of my songs and further subsidize my art.
BATT: How’s it feel to hear someone jack up your song? Ever feel that way?
RC: Sure. Not as much anymore ’cause I’ve come to realize it’s none of my business what they do with my songs. I’m gonna get paid whether it’s awful or good. I’ve had awful readings of my songs go to number one. And I’ve heard versions of my stuff that just made my heart ache, and I thought were way better than anything I coulda done, and they do nothing. There is no justice.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Battalion

Your donation will support the student journalists of Texas A&M University - College Station. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Battalion

Comments (0)

All The Battalion Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *