Pat Green Maintains His ‘Fun Guy’ Status
Pat Green releases his tenth studio album Tuesday with a title that wraps up the project's theme: 'What I'm For.' From the inspiring opening track, 'Footsteps of Our Fathers,' to the re-recording of one of his signature hits, 'Carry On,' the new CD reflects a more mature side of the 36-year-old husband and father, while staying true to the fun-loving side that made him one of Texas' biggest breakout stars. What Pat Green is for is moving forward without forgetting to look back.
The Boot was invited for a visit aboard Green's tour bus just before he took the stage for a sold-out show at New York City's Irving Plaza. We talked to the charismatic singer about the new album, his songwriting "home run" and the risks he's taken on the road to success.
What attracted you to cut the album's first single, 'Let Me'?
It's a love song that never uses the word love. You don't hear that very often. Love songs are a dime a dozen, and that seemed to be a different slant on a common subject. I always listen for the melody and lyric be equal, as far as carrying of the hook. And with this song, I think the melody is as big as the lyric. That's hard to find. And then every girl I've ever met in my life who's ever listened to my music has said, 'That should be the single!' [laughs]
When you signed with a major Nashville label a few years ago, you made the jump from huge Texas star to "new" Nashville star. Was that a scary leap to take?
First of all, I enjoy more than anything being creative for a living. That's a tough thing to come by. It's an even tougher thing to have it last for 13 years, like we have. But as far as taking it to the next level, that's beyond me. I'm not able to control or manipulate that. I just have fun watching it happen the way it's supposed to. And if it doesn't go anywhere, that's fine. If it does, I'm fine with that, too!
Your buddy Jack Ingram often starts his shows with "My name is Jack Ingram, and I play country music." And we're told that he does that because he's sick of being labeled "Texas Country" or "Alt-Country." Do you have the same frustration?
We wrote that line together! [laughs] Jack and I have a similar philosophy: This isn't our hobby -- this isn't something we want to do just a little bit. We don't want to play the coffee houses; we want to play the stadiums. That's our choice, and if somebody chooses not to take it that way and do it for the artsy-fartsy thing, then I am totally fine with that. But this is how Jack and I both choose to do it.
What is the coolest venue you've ever played?
It's hard to beat the Garden [Madison Square Garden]. I've also played the Cotton Bowl, which is so cool for a Texan to play. But the place I played that I thought, 'Man, I've finally made it,' was The Backyard in Austin. That's where I saw Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson play. It's gonna be really sad to see it go.
What's with the shoes tonight? You're usually barefoot on stage!
If it's hot outside, I play barefoot because it's so hard to take my boots off! [laughs] My feet get all sweaty. I'm a big guy, so I sweat a lot. In the summer, if I've got leather boots on, it takes me an hour to get them off!
Who have you had the most fun touring with?
Kenny Chesney is hard to beat as far as fun goes. And I've been on tour with some pretty bang-up guys. But really, I'm the funnest guy to be on tour with! [laughs]
What do you think is the secret to Kenny's success?
Kenny's the best live entertainer in country music. He connects with the audience, touching them and holding them and being one of them. He does everything he can to make sure that the guy in the last seat is on top of it. That and a kick-ass live show that looks really good no matter if you have the worst seat in the arena.
Your own live show has gained you a lot of fans who aren't necessarily country fans. Why do you think that is?
I don't think of it that way. I play to crowds that beg for me to be me. It's very difficult to communicate to 20,000 people at once without screaming your lungs out. So what's easier for me is to get up there and be quippy and make fun of people and life in general.
Which new country artist do you feel has a big shot at longevity in this business?
Randy Houser. He has a fantastic voice, handles the crowd so well and is just a fantastic songwriter.
Would you say those are the three key ingredients to making it as an artist?
When I started playing music, my dad was always keen to tell me to learn the whole craft -- from the business to driving the bus. I'm certified to drive this bus! But you probably wouldn't want me to. [laughs] But my point is, learn it all. And if I had one critique to make of the music business -- as great of songwriters as we have out there, if you live in the music world, you can write great songs. You just have to try. And there are so many guys out there who just don't try. Because there are so many great songwriters out there ahead of them writing great songs. But if they'd put something down on paper, they'd be surprised at how individualistic they could be and can stand apart for the rest of the world.
What's one song you wish you'd written?
[Willie Nelson's] 'Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground' is the first that comes to mind. But as far as funny songs, 'I've Always Been Crazy' by Waylon Jennings or 'A Boy Named Sue' -- Shel Silverstein wrote that and Johnny Cash cut it. As far as ethereal songs, Bruce Springsteen's 'The Rising' is an anthem; it's serious; it'll lift you up. It's just a complete song. You can't pick just one song for the soundtrack to your life!
Think back to when you wrote 'Wave on Wave' -- the biggest song of your career so far. Did you have any idea then how special it would be?
Yes! I knew immediately. I knew it was something that would connect. If there was anything that I knew in my life, other than I was going to have a great time watching my kid be born and on my wedding day, I knew when I wrote 'Wave on Wave' that it was a home run. No doubt.
What's the biggest risk you've taken in your career?
I'm torn between saying signing or not signing a record deal -- I'm not sure which risk was bigger! But whatever the risk, it sure has turned out great.