Pat Green: "We're Still Totally In the Mix"

Earlier this morning, Rocks Off talked to Texas country star Pat Green, who plays the Coastal Conservation Association's "Concert for Conservation" Saturday at Sam Houston Race Park with his hero Jerry Jeff Walker, Sammy Kershaw, Gene Watson, and a few others.

After more than a decade as both one of Texas country's top-selling and most controversial artists -- some critics thought his early songs were a little narrow-minded in their Lone Star boosterism, others thought he went soft when he spent most of the past decade on a couple of Nashville major labels -- Green seems to be at a crossroads in his career.

His latest album Songs We Wish We'd Written II (SugarHill) is a companion to 2001's Songs We Wish We'd Written, his album of duets with buddy Cory Morrow that's usually cited as one of the handful of records (alongside Green's Three Days) that broke Texas country wide open.

The rest of our conversation, from Green's home in Fort Worth a couple of days ago, centered around where he thinks this whole Texas thing is now, plus a couple of questions about fishing.

RO: Do you think this kind of music they call Texas country or Red Dirt has reached its peak of popularity yet?

PG: That's a hard question to answer, I would say. The reason why I say that is because I think that music is cyclical like anything else. I think certainly there are times when certain kinds of music are more relevant, but has it really ever lost its total relevancy? Probably not, ever.

You can go back eons of time, and whatever music people listen to is still relevant to them. I just don't know that there's a shelf life to music, but as far as what's really the hottest thing right now, if I'm honest I don't think it's the hottest thing going right now, like it was however many years ago, but I definitely think there's obviously still myself, and Randy Rogers, Eli Young Band, Josh Abbott, whoever else you want to throw at the flagpole, they're still doing very, very well.

Selling out in the state of Texas especially, and Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, we're still selling out bigger venues than the mainstream country out there. To me, people are still buying hard tickets and coming out to watch the shows, and interested. Man, I think we're still totally right there in the mix.

RO: Did you ever have a feeling, when this stuff was growing so popular, that you and these other guys had gotten in on the ground floor of something that was going to be really big?

PG: If you can call the ground floor of a resurgence of a type of music the ground floor. I think that's difficult to say, because obviously the outlaw music with Willie and Waylon, etc. was the original, as far as I can tell. And then the plastic country came, and it was a bit much, I think, for a lot of people -- the overshow, if you will.

People eventually gravitated back towards Jerry Jeff Walker and Robert Earl Keen, more real storytelling, more real... I don't know what you want to call it. You know. We were just the younger, newer version of it.

It's like Paul Simon said, "every generation throws a hero up the pop charts." One time Ray Benson said to me -- this is years ago -- I was sitting in his bus, and he said, "Pat, you know you're only the hot new thing for a few years, and that was several years ago for you" (laughs). Ray has such a great way of putting things, and he's right.

Obviously I'm not Josh Abbott or Eli Young. Those guys are much younger than I am, and they're comin' on strong and they're doing very well, and God bless 'em for it. I think anybody who can make a living singing, you should give 'em a hand. It's so difficult in any day and age to draw a crowd.

RO: Would you say you're comfortable where you're at right now?

PG: Aw, yeah. I'm 40. I've got two kids. I love my life. I've got a pool in the backyard. I'm a happy cat.

RO: This thing you're playing Saturday is a benefit for CCA. Are you a big outdoorsman yourself?

PG: Man, that's funny you said that. I just took my son and had a friend of mine bring his kids up, and we did a camping trip for the last few days up in the mountains above Aspen. We were camping at about 12,000 feet. Sleeping outdoors at that altitude, it's about 30-35 degrees at night, so yeah, we were definitely outdoors. Now if I'm an outdoorsman I don't know, but we did go fishing quite a bit.

RO: Between you and, say, Robert Earl Keen, which one could catch more fish?

PG: Oh, I'd have to say Robert. Without a doubt. I mean, I just don't give it as much time (laughs). I haven't written any songs about fishing whereas he has the "Five Pound Bass," so I've gotta give him credit for that.

RO: Would you rather be governor of Texas or owner of the Dallas Cowboys?

PG: (laughs) Neither. I guess governor of Texas, because I'm so used to everybody lambasting me anyway in the press, so at least I'd be used to it.

With Jerry Jeff Walker, Sammy Kershaw, Gene Watson, Brant Lee Croucher and Kevin Charles, Saturday at Sam Houston Race Park, www.shrp.com. Gates open at 2:30 p.m.

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