By Dave Gil de Rubio, Last Word Features
Clint Black considers himself lazy. It’s a rather absurd statement when you take into account what he did during the pandemic-fueled year-and-a-half of lockdown. In addition to performing on a regular live stream and launching a line of java called Clint Black Cowboy Coffee (available on his website), he pitched and was cleared to host “Talking in Circles with Clint Black,” a television show that is a behind-the scenes conversation with entertainers talking shop (Travis Tritt and Brad Paisley were among the initial guests).
All this came on top of releasing 2020’s “Out of Sane,” his 13th studio outing. And now with live music venues back up and running, the Nashville resident is finding he’s back to doing something closer to the 70 to 90 dates he did prior to the pandemic. Black’s welcoming his return to the road.
On Thursday, June 9 at 8 p.m. he’ll take the stage at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Rutland. “My booking agent—we renamed him rescheduling agent — and he did a great job of keeping things moved up just far enough in front of us so they might happen,” he said. “Now I’m as busy as I like to be. I’m streaming stuff, getting a coffee company off the ground and getting a TV show done and then bam!—we’re back on the road. That’s how I dealt with the shutdown and then suddenly, we’ve started back up and I still have a TV show and a coffee company.”
Far from complaining, the singer-songwriter has a few dates each month on the books into September to go with all of his other activities.
Not surprisingly, this nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic meant he spent most of 2019 holed up in his home studio working on “Out of Sane,” squeezing in 18-hour days when he wasn’t on the road playing roughly 70 dates that year.
“I had enough success to sustain me after the major label and also build a studio,” he said. “I was able to learn more about engineering and I can record anything I want without an engineer. I wouldn’t do a session, because I want things to move quickly. I know my studio inside and out and there is a joy in that. Some people want to be able to take an old Chevy apart and put it back together. I can take my studio apart and put it back together and that to me is the joy. That’s why the album is titled ‘Out of Sane.’ It starts out with sanity and a mind at work and it ends up with a mad scientist out of sane just doing the science work. It seemed like a good title and it fit well into 2020 well.”
The latest collection of songs finds Black sticking with the tried-and-true, working with longtime collaborator Hayden Nichols. After opening with the bluesy slow-burner “Hell Bent,” Black switches gears into the twangy toe-tapper “My Best Thinkin’” and the sentimental “America (Still In Love With You),” both penned with friend and fellow Nashville veteran Steve Wariner. Elsewhere, Black delivers a solid reading of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” (“It’s still one of the songs I can listen to when I’m overexposed to it and my ears are still happy.”)
Born in Long Branch, New Jersey, Black and his family moved back to his grandfather’s hometown of Katy, Texas, when the future country star was less than one. After dropping out of high school and playing bars for about a decade, Black burst out of the gate with his multi-platinum 1989 debut “Killin’ Time.” Not unlike a number of fellow performers like Steve Earle, k.d. Lang, Dwight Yoakam and Lyle Lovett, the Texan stormed Music Row as an artist who penned his own material. And while that worked for a while in the early ‘90s as he created other hit-laden follow-ups that included 1990’s “Put Yourself in My Shoes,” 1993’s “No Time to Kill” and 1994’s “One Emotion,” pressure from then-label RCA to start relying on outside composers for material became a running theme. After agreeing to change a verse in a song at the request of RCA’s Joe Galante, Black found himself in the president’s office having an uncomfortable conversation about wanting to continue writing his own material.
“I recorded the new verse, sent it in and [Joe] loved it,” Black recalled. “So I went in and talked to him and told him I wanted to be cooperative, but I didn’t understand the pressure to record outside songs when I have so many songs that I had written. He said they just wanted a little taste and it broke my heart. If he would have said that he didn’t think my songs were that great anymore, I would have felt better. It would have still hurt. But it wasn’t about that. It was about spreading the revenue from my record to share it with the people on Music Row and I thought that was the exact wrong reason to do anything.”
Following the release of 1999’s “D’lectrified,” Black and RCA parted ways, with the former briefly starting his own label Equity Music Group before shutting it down in 2008 after getting into financial difficulties. And while he’s continued making music and touring, Black has expanded into television and film roles.
Among the shows he’s appeared on are “Secret Talents of the Stars” (“I worked on my jokes and performed in a comedy club”), “Celebrity Duets” (“I sang a song with Cheech”) and “Celebrity Apprentice” (“I’m glad I have it behind me. That up close, up front and personal exposure to ugliness is more than I ever want to see again.”)
More recently, he and Hartman Black appeared on “The Masked Singer” as “Snow Owls,” competing as the series’ first duet competitors while riding in a mobile egg. As difficult an experience as it was, Black was happy coming out of the other end of it.
“It was really challenging in a good way,” he said. “The challenge in a bad way was singing inside that suit. You can’t see—the little lenses you’re looking out of are fogged up after 30 seconds and you’re sweating. If you have to move at all, it’s perilous because it’s inside of that egg. We had inches at a time. But I typically like stuff like that because I don’t see myself as too precious to step into weird things. I sometimes second-guess myself after getting in it. I like being a little afraid of things and I like finding myself in situations where something comes out that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.”