In an interview on The Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast Wednesday on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Steve Gill spoke to Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers about his show this week at City Winery during the CMA Fest.
Towards the end of the segment, the men discussed how the music business has changed and that you can’t just have a few good songs on an album due to music downloading. They agreed that there was more pressure on artists today that every song becomes a single.
Gill: Larry is up and Adam and with us. Larry good to have you with us on the Tennessee Star Report.
Gatlin: Well I’m doing this in my sleep so I’m still sleeping in too. Hi guys.
Gill: Good, good to have you with us. Man big week the CMA Fest underway you guys are going to be performing at the City Winery tomorrow night. And then doing the Opry this weekend. Its one of those times when you guys are always on the road, everybody else is always on the road. These are the times of year that out actually get to see your buddies and your friends. When they all kind of come together in the same time in Nashville.
Gatlin: Well it’s true you know. We don’t go out there for one hundred and fifty days like we used to. We’re very grateful that ATA has taken over the booking. They have done an incredible job. We’re doing about seventy days this year. And we’re grateful that we could still draw a crowd. You know I wish the Houston rodeo would ask us to come back and do that. We did it eight times. And we still sing pretty good.
But that’s Brad Paisley’s gig now. And that’s Luke Bryan and Chris Young and Carrie Underwood. And we are happy for them. We had kind of big time in the spotlight but the fact that we can still draw a crowd and earn our money and we come back and the people at the CMA Fest. I kind of felt for a while that folks had kind of forgotten about us. But every now and then you have to bang your own drum a little bit. But they’ve asked us to come to do some things. The Opry and the CMA Fest. We did that big stage thing last year. We weren’t able to do it this year. Been able to do the Winery. I’ve never been to that place. I can’t wait to go up there and do it. So, Ahhhhhh.
Gill: (Chuckles) You’ll be warmed up and ready to go tomorrow right?
Gatlin: Ahhhhhhh. That was an old Marlboro I smoked back in 82′ that just kind of got in the way of that. I did a thing with TG and Kelly last night. A Couple songs for the charity and the hospital they raise a lot of money for. That slips my mind because I’ve only had one cup of copy The folks at the City Winery, I’m looking forward to doing that. Just sing some old Gatlin Boys songs. At 71-years old to still be able to hit the notes. I tell people I’m grateful to my earthly Jewish physician Dr. Robert Osof and my heavenly physician the Lord Jesus Christ who gave me my vocal cords and I can sing.
Gill: You can’t complain too much Larry at 71. I mean you’re spry, you’re getting it on. We’re watching these D-day commemorations and you have this 97-year-old paratrooper that parachuted back into Paris yesterday. I mean you got to follow in this guy’s footsteps, you’ll be able to sing at 97 if this guy can jump out of an airplane.
Gatlin: I guess so, I missed it. Janis told me about it. We’re going to go Google it, not Google oh what are they doing, Facebook and all that stuff.
Gatlin: When she told me that this morning she said the guy jumped. He jumped? At 97? So at 71 like I say, I can hit all the notes. Steve and Rudy and I sound like we did, I have people tell us we sound like we did forty years ago. And I said, “Is that good?” (Gill laughs) Well anyway. But I’m happy for everybody. I’m very grateful that I hit a golf ball farther than I ever did. Had David do work on my back a year or so ago with this really awful surgery. But it worked. And my back is perfect so I’m very grateful. I could get up and gripe about this or that but it doesn’t do any good. First of all I don’t have a whole lot to gripe about.
Gill: Y’all are going to be at the Opry this weekend. One of the great things I think is that you’ve got as you were mentioning some of the younger folks, the Luke Bryans and others, they really understand. I think one of the things I love about the country music industry is a lot of the newer younger acts understand that they’re traveling on the backs of guys like you that went before. And you guys traveled on the backs of those that went before you. That history matters particularly I think at the Opry.
Gatlin: I think it does to. You know Sally Williams out there, she gets it. She understands that yes, the lifeblood that us old timers so to speak who have been there for a long time. And I go and I see Connie Smith and Bill Anderson and Osborne he was out there tearing it up last week. They get that we need new blood. We really do. I think there is a tendency, and I’ve heard that some of the young new agents and the managers, some of them don’t get it. They really don’t. They’ve been sitting behind a desk. And doing that thing.
The young people. The young artists. They’ve grown up listening to country music. And it has changed and that’s fine. The brothers and I didn’t do it exactly like the Statler Brothers and they didn’t do it exactly like the Maddox Brothers in Rose. There’s a name for you. (Gill chuckles) People do things. I’m rooting for everybody. I know there are people who say, “Well that’s not country music.” And that’s fine if that’s your opinion. It has changed. I darn sure wouldn’t want to get a root canal like you had to. But I darn sure don’t want to do it like they did fifty years ago. Give me the gas. Shoot the gas to me. Put me out.
Gill: And then this battle over is that country or not. Elvis Presley, we’re always trying to pigeon hole him. Is he gospel? Is he rock? Is he country? There are artists who have been refusing to be pigeonholed from the beginning of the first guy that started banging on a tree limb and called it music.
Gatlin: Well you know I wrote a song, Johnny Cash is dead and his house burned down. I’ve got a line in there that says, I got nothing against the young country stars but I could use one steel guitar. That’s my personal favorite. Steel guitar, a little harmonica and some fiddle in there. Great music is great music. You know what? Here’s the deal. There is really some awful crappy music on the radio right now. Country radio. There really is. Guess what there was some really awful crappy country music on the radio when we were… (Inaudible talk) It’s ok. It’s subjective.
Gill: I talk to artists who point out because it’s a download business now where you can’t put an album out that has twelve songs and you only have to have two or three really good ones and everybody’s buying the rest of them. Or you get the flip side of a single. Every song has to stand on its own. Some are arguing that you know frankly it’s more competitive than ever because you can’t just ride on one side of the single or on three other songs on the album. Every single song has to be able to stand on its own or you’re not going to get anybody downloading it.
Gatlin: Well that’s true. The old record business that you and I’ve known for fifty years, it doesn’t exist anymore. The Brothers and I, we had sixteen albums and I wrote every note and every word except for two songs. And I was diligent about that. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that all of them are great. Most of them are. When we put those things together. When we’d sit in that studio with those musicians and put them together. We knew that some of them because of the subject matter they weren’t going to be a side singles. But we didn’t just do album cuts. We tried to make sure that the work itself was viable and that the song idea was viable. But whether it was going to be a single or not. We didn’t just put stuff on there. But it is a different medium and I wish we could figure out one of those, catch lightning in a bottle and go viral on something. Because we’re not going to get a lot of airplay. I understand that. But with the Spotify’s and Pandora’s and all the other web. My royalty statements went down for years. Guess what? They’re going back up!
Listen to the full interview here.
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to The Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Larry Gatlin” by Gatlin Brothers.