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Steve Wariner Talks New Album ‘It Ain’t All Bad,’ Songwriting & Messing With Country Cliches

"I think any writer's best work comes from what they really experience or what they're going through at the time."
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It may have been eight years since Steve Wariner released a vocal album, but that doesn’t mean the award-winning, chart-topping singer/songwriter/guitarist been on vacation. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

In 2009, Wariner released My Tribute to Chet Atkins, which included the GRAMMY-winning “Producer’s Medley.” Wariner went on to release the instrumental Guitar Laboratory two years later. All the while, he never stopped writing.

“Over those seven or eight years I’ve been writing a lot, which I always do,” he told Radio.com. “I write, write, write and tuck them away or pitch whatever.”

Wariner, who was signed to RCA by Atkins himself back in the 1970s, has released dozens of singles throughout his career, including such hits as “Holes in the Floor of Heaven,” “Life’s Highway,” “I Got Dreams,” and “All Roads Lead to You.” He’s also written songs for other artists, including Keith Urban, Clint Black and Garth Brooks.

Wariner’s latest effort, It Ain’t All Bad, which was released Tuesday (Sept. 10), features 12 tracks, all of which Wariner had a hand in writing.

“These are songs that I really felt were tailor-written for me,” he said. “That’s what this album is. It’s just a collection of my favorites and I think some of my best writing in several years.”

Steve Wariner cd cover it ain't all bad

It Ain’t All Bad includes poignant ballad “I Want To Be Like You,” which Wariner wrote with Bill Anderson and Tom Shapiro. Anderson came up with the idea for the song, which is from the perspective of a father looking at his son grow and seeing all the beautiful things in his child. Something Wariner could relate to having two sons of his own, he said the idea was very realistic for him.

Wariner said most of his songs are written from a real personal perspective.

“It’s something in my life, something that’s happened to me, something that I know about. Honestly, I think any writer’s best work comes from what they really experience or what they’re going through at the time,” he said. “You could probably follow writers and you know what they’re going through in their world because of what they’re saying. If you just put it all together and connected the dots it’s their life.”

“It’s Called a Brand New Day” was written shortly after his mother passed away. A difficult topic to write about, the track itself is not necessarily a sad song.

“It’s a really hard-driving, rock-and-rolling country song,” Wariner said. “If you listen to the lyrics, I’m coming out of the darkness, and I’m here to play. I thought it was a nice little twist that it wasn’t a downer song.”

“Whenever I See You” is a track likely to be played at many weddings. Written with Rick Carnes, this isn’t Warnier’s first collaboration with the songwriter. Together they wrote Garth Brooks‘ monster No. 1 hit “Longneck Bottle.” 

“We write a lot together, he’s a fantastic songwriter,” Wariner said of Carnes. “‘I really love the positive twist on it and all the imagery. I imagine that will be at some weddings.”

And what’s a country album without some country cliches? Wariner admits that “What More Do You Want” deals with the classic country topic of a guy that comes home to find a goodbye letter.

“You left me, took everything, what more do you want? Musically speaking, I wanted it to be George Harrison, Beatles almost with a George Martin [guitar]. I wanted it to be more on that kind of feel, almost retro in a way but more rock retro,” he said. “The lyric is funny that it’s real country. The two kind of merge.”

At the end of the day, Wariner said the goal is always to write a great song.

“I try to come up with something that’s very unique and clever,” he said. “I heard Paul McCartney speak to it before, it’s really about how it sounds and how it comes off your tongue. A lot of times I don’t really have anything in mind that I’m going to write, but it’s just the way it flows, the way it feels.”

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