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Clint Black Talks Songwriting, Love Songs & Revisiting Past Successes On New Album ‘When I Said I Do’

"I am a songwriter first. I start with the song."
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(courtesy: clintblack.com)

(courtesy: clintblack.com)

Annie Reuter
Annie Reuter
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Clint Black took a different approach on When I Said I Do. For his brand-new album, a collection of love songs released this summer through a partnership with Cracker Barrel, Black put a new spin on some of his classic hits like “Something That We Do”; others, such as the title track, he re-recorded with the same exact players as the original. He also included three brand-new songs.

In an interview with Radio.com, Black talked about his music, from his past hits (which made him one of the biggest and best-selling country artists of the 1990s) on up to his current project and beyond (he’s planning an album of all new material in 2014). He touched on the stories behind some of his most recognized songs, such as his current album’s title track, an earlier version of which earned him the ACM Vocal Event of the Year in 1999.

Black also explained that he writes all of his material, both now and dating all the way back to his 1989 debut single, the No. 1 smash “A Better Man,” which he penned with Hayden Nicholas. Watch an early performance of the song:

Writing all his own material, Black explained, went against the grain of how much of Nashville operated in the late ’80s and 1990s, when he was swiftly gaining recognition as one of the most popular artists on the country landscape, thanks to albums like Killin’ Time, Put Yourself in My Shoes and The Hard Way.

“Nashville has a very different way of approaching the making of records. I didn’t really fit into that way. I am a songwriter first. I start with the song. I make my records. They or I, one of us were backwards to the other,” he said.

Black said that often artists, their A&R department and producers work together to find songs to record. He, of course, wasn’t utilizing that system.

“There was a lot of pressure for me to be a part of that,” he said. “I always had so many songs written each time I went into make a record. That made me weird or a misfit, and for years I wondered, ‘How does the songwriting community that I respect and admire, who have written some of the soundtracks to my summers, how do they view me as a songwriter?'”

It turns out they all respected him. One songwriter complimented Black and said they all wished he would run out of creativity so they could write some songs for his records.

Black was driven to write at an early age after his father would explain the liner notes to him. He said nine times out of ten, under the title of a great song Merle Haggard recorded, Haggard wrote it himself.

For his latest release, Black re-recorded his 1999 No. 1 hit “When I Said I Do” with the same conductor, arranger and musicians as the original version, which appeared on his album D’lectrified. Black called that album a fool-the-ears unplugged album. “If you didn’t know and you listened to it, you wouldn’t know there were no electric instruments on it.”

Hear the original version:

The idea behind that album was to have several guest artists who influenced Black collaborate with him. But as Black explained, he realized there was one person he hadn’t included. “As I’m getting close to start the recording process [for D'lectrified], I realize the person who had the biggest influence on my life had no role in the recording process and that was my wife,” he recalled. Black was then and is still married to Lisa Hartman Black. “She didn’t know I was writing [ "When I Said I Do"] for us. It was a real struggle to get her to record it with me. Eventually she did just four days before my deadline.” It’s their original duet that won the ACM Vocal Event of the Year 14 years ago.

Black’s wife once again sings this current album, as does his friend and co-writer Steve Wariner.

(Courtesy: Essential Broadcast Media)

(Courtesy: Essential Broadcast Media)

Among the three new tracks on When I Said I Do is a song called “Samantha.”

“I was hired to write the music for a touring musical, an equestrian family show that’s set in Australia, and Samantha is the lead female role,” said Black. “Her dad is singing to her, telling her why he’s taking her to Australia. I didn’t intend to record that, but I loved it so much and wanted to put it on this record.”

While this new album, When I Said I Do, is focused on love songs, Black promised that his next project will be diverse.

“I always try to have a lot of diversity within one album while still having some cohesion,” he said. “There are some very sweet ballads, and there are a couple of things that really rock hard country-wise. I played slide guitar on the new record for the first time. I decided I would sit there for hours and hours to accomplish playing slide guitar. What I ended up with was something unique. It’s going to be very good, according to me.”

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