By. As in, sung by, written by, released by, produced by…
That last one’s new for me. The only reason I never produced an album by myself before is I didn’t have time. Why not? Because I’m opening record labels and restaurants, working on movies and things like that. But I knew I was going to have to across the board dive in if I wanted this album to be one of the best of my career. So I came in with guns blazing.
So a tremendous amount of thought, time and effort went into Big Dog Daddy. Last year when we were finishing White Trash With Money, Tom Bukovac came in and played guitar. I told him I had a couple things that were going to be really rock edged on the next album, kind of a southern rock and blues thing. I asked him to take them from the guitar side and think about grooves and rhythms—help structure these things. So he and I co-produced “Hit It” and “Big Dog Daddy,” and I produced the rest by myself.
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I sang my own harmonies on this album and I’d never done that before. I’d let harmony singers come in and do their thing. This time we’d get through laying down a song and the engineer would play it back while I threw down a harmony track. Me singing with me. “High Maintenance Woman” is one of them. “White Rose” and “Love Me If You Can.”
You get out what you put in. I’ve always been the hardest worker, and prided myself on that. I may not be the biggest star around, but nobody will ever out work me. That’s my approach.
For the first time ever, I’ve made an album that I can listen to up and down and never go, “Man, I wish I didn’t let them do that.” If I didn’t like the way something sounded, I fixed it. There’s a little piece on “White Rose” where the chorus says, “Now there’s plywood for glass where the windows all got smashed…there’s a couple of cars half out of the ground…” right in there you can hear the harmonies do a big swell. Well, when they comp’ed it down somebody lost that. I was already hearing it in my head and loved it, so I called back and told them to turn those harmonies up 25%. Ten years from now I’d have been wondering why the producer let that go.
Those intricate pieces are scattered all through the album, and they’re stamped with my approval. We break it down as far as turning everything off but the steel guitar and listening to the full three minutes of just that. When you’ve got 30 tracks it takes hours to listen to one song that way. But we went in there, cleaning stuff up, taking out all the unnecessary string noises and accidental pick sounds. All those decisions are my brand on this album.
Every song on here means something to me and a lot of effort went into making sure there’s no letdown whatsoever. Dean Dillon and Scotty Emerick wrote a couple with me, I wrote one with Bobby Pinson, whose music I’ve really gotten into lately. I picked up one from Fred Eaglesmith that’s been on my list for years and I’m glad to finally get on an album.
When Craig Wiseman came out to write a couple songs with me, he played “Love Me If You Can.” I asked him to leave it with me for a while, and he did. It grew on me until finally not only did it get cut, it’s going to be a single. That song is just me.
I get roped into these political arguments, but the truth is I don’t see things right or left, I see them right or wrong. If you put check boxes on the left and right for all the big issues, my list will go back and forth all the way down. But all I have to do is disagree with a hardcore, far left liberal on one thing and they just mark me down with all the boxes on the right. And it’s pretty much the same thing on the other side.
That song says exactly how I feel about myself in the world. I have to deal with other celebrities assuming all my marks are in one column, and all it shows me is that most of those people are very uneducated. For instance, Sean Penn was accepting a humanitarian award from a freedom of speech organization recently and said Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Toby Keith should be held accountable now that the Iraq war has gone astray. He’s lumping me in with these guys when my song clearly, word for word, indicated my support for the invasion of Afghanistan.
Now the difference between me and Sean Penn is that I’ve talked to 50 generals. I doubt he’s even talked to one. I didn’t support the war in Iraq and still don’t, but I’m sure I know more about it than he does. When he and Clooney get together and say we should go to Africa and stop the genocide, I’ll be the one over there performing for the troops when it happens.
I’m not going to apologize for where I stand. I am who I am, and if that bothers people it’s okay. And if you agree with me, that’s fine, too. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. Not since 2000, anyway. My first seven years in the business I was fighting all the time to prove myself. But I’ve answered those questions.
It’s been a blur, the last 18 months. It really has. I looked up the other day and thought about the 50 million airplays BMI honored me for a couple months back. I had no idea what that means. There’s no board, no big music ladder you can look at and say, well you started out down here and you’ve gotten up this far. So I asked them, what does it mean? They said it means Elton John, the Bee Gees, John Lennon. That put it in perspective.
All I’m really trying to do now is keep my plate creatively full. Staying creative is important to me. I don’t work 155 shows anymore. I don’t work 100 or 80. I work 60 and that’s plenty. I can go out and tackle this acting world. The people who are in the know are very comfort
able with my first attempt. I just wrote the treatment for my next movie, Beer For My Horses. Turned it in yesterday.
And I can take the time and put the energy into producing this album. It was time. White Trash With Money was released on Show Dog, but it was still a 50-50 venture with Universal. It was actually the last album off my old deal with DreamWorks-Universal. Other than the soundtrack for Broken Bridges, this is the first studio album Show Dog has released that it has 100% ownership of. To own these masters, you would have to buy my record label. So it just seems right that it’s sung by, written by and produced by. I couldn’t be happier with it.