Mike Stinson, whose song "The Late Great Golden State" was recorded by Dwight Yoakam, is the kind of act Nashville record execs and publishers usually run away from. Songs like "Last Fool at the Bar" hardly appeal to the glammed-up CMT crowd. But when we caught up with LA's king of neo-honky tonk, he'd just left Nashville, where he'd been pitching songs and looking for a hit. It seems to have gone pretty well.
Houston Press: How was Nashville during your recent visit?
Mike Stinson: There's such a culture of co-writing. Everywhere I went people were talking about writing appointments. That's a phrase I don't think I've ever heard in California. I see how it can multiply the number of people that might hear your song...I just wonder how to make sure I'll be inspired at noon on Tuesday.
HP: Besides Dwight Yoakam, who else has covered your songs?
Stinson: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Gilkyson and Austin Hanks. Tony's version of "Worthless" is my favorite. It's so much better than my own. He treated it like a classic country song. I gave some of my songs to Ray Price recently, and I put that one first.
HP: You and your friend, recording engineer Charlie McGovern, both world-class drinkers, spent some time in Billy Bob Thornton's Beverly Hills kitchen recently. What was that like?
Stinson: Looking for beer and not finding any. I finally broke down and drank a bottle of his wine in about eight minutes. I hope it wasn't expensive. He's a really cool, hysterically funny dude. He invited us over to hear his version of "Late Great Golden State." Charlie and I hung out with him and Dwight until about 5 a.m. I've always been more comfortable around night people.
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HP: The production on your records has been pretty minimalist -- someone described them as "no budget." What is the plan for your next record?
Stinson: We may not have fancy gear, but I think my records have a lot of charm [that is] missing from most of the million-dollar productions I'm hearing these days. I don't know when I'll make my next record, but I've got a batch of songs ready that I'll put up against anybody else's. Damn, I'm starting to sound like Robert Earl Keen. Kill me now.
HP: Here's a favorite Houston Press interview question: Football or foosball?
Stinson: Football. I'm from Virginia and...I got to go see my Redskins beat Jacksonville in overtime at FedEx Field. The excitement in that crowd made rock shows I've seen lately feel like funerals. Foosball can be fun, too, sometimes when mixed with alcohol. Do not attempt sober. Mike Stinson will perform Saturday, October 14, at the Continental Club, 3700 Main. Call 713-529-9899 for more info