Steve Wariner has spent much of the last 35 years making music; the 61-year-old has released more than 20 studio albums, including the instrumental project, My Tribute to Chet Atkins and Guitar Laboratory. So when Wariner started working on his new record, All Over the Map, which is a mix of instrumentals and lyrics-based tracks and combines all of the music he loves without restricting it to one specific style or format, he found a freedom that he hadn't felt with any of his previous releases.

Wariner recently sat down with The Boot to discuss All Over the Map (out now and available on iTunes and Amazon), his legendary career and how Chet Atkins, his famous mentor in his younger years, still influences his music today.

What inspired All Over the Map?

I wrote a song about 12 months ago -- I wrote this little tune. I was sitting in my bedroom playing guitar one night, and I started picking on this song. I love it when they just kind of fall out. I go, “Oh my gosh, this song is writing itself,” and it turned out to be the song that’s on this album called "CGP," [which stands for "Certified Guitar Player,"] and talking about Chet Atkins.

It was just a real fun little song. And then I wrote another song, like a couple weeks later. I started realizing, I’m kind of assembling these songs; I’m making a record here and not realizing it. I just started writing, and the floodgates opened up, and I was writing all these tunes. I realized I hadn’t written an album in three or four years, so we just started putting together.

How did you come up with the title, All Over the Map?

I started looking at the songs, and I go, “This is a classical piece I wrote, then I’ve got this piece that has horns on it." It has all these styles converging. I noticed in interviews and telling people, I kept saying, “Stylistically, it’s all over the map. It’s everywhere.” I said that phrase so much, finally I said, “That’s my album title. I keep saying that, I should just call it that.”

It’s a little bit of everything on this record. All styles.

You have a lot of guitar guests on All Over the Map, including Eric Johnson, Duane Eddy, Jack Pearson, the Kentucky Headhunters' Greg Martin and Ricky Skaggs. Why did you include so many guests on the record?

There’s a lot of guitar heroes. A lot of the players on here are "bucket list" guys for me ...

I just pick[ed] up the phone: “Ricky, do you want to play on this thing? I’d love to have you if you want to play.” A lot of it was just getting the logistics in there. I talked to Billy Gibbons about playing. He said, “Yeah, yeah, I’ll do it. It sounds fun." But it’s a matter of catching people, too.

I’m lucky that I know so many people in this town, and we’re in a great city for that, and I’m lucky and grateful that a lot of my pals are always saying, “Yeah, let's play.”

You also have a song with your son, Ryan, "The Last Word." That must have been an amazing experience to be able to record with him.

He brought me a piece that he’d written one night, up to my studio. It killed me. I go, “We’re doing that song. You and I are going to do it.”

Every time I’m around him, I learn new guitar licks; he’s so good. Different style than me, totally, but what a treat to watch your son, now grown up, and he’s in your headphones, and you go, “Man, I’m cutting with my son here.”

Talk about the song, "When I Still Mattered to You," which you wrote with Merle Haggard.

Merle passed away halfway through this record. I started thinking about it, and I went and found the song and dug it out. I sent it to him when we wrote it, and he responded and said he really liked it, but we never did anything with it, neither one of us.

It was in the midst of this album, and I didn’t even think for this record. I started doing a new demo of it, because I just had the lyric; I didn’t have music. I had it written, I just didn’t have a demo of it. I went in and started making a demo, and then I go, “This is not a demo. This is going on my record. It’s all over the map, might as well put this on here, too. It’s Merle Haggard, for God's sake.”

And I love the song. I’m so fond of this. It’s sad, but it’s, like, old-school country.

You've often stated how influential Chet Atkins was in your musical career. Do you still feel his influence today, particularly on this album?

I learned so many lessons with Chet, even not related to music, too. My very first session with Chet, I was just a kid, and I walked into Studio A ... I was a kid and scared to death, but Chet would walk into a session, and everyone’s tuning and getting ready to play, and the minute he walks out, everybody just stops and follows him over to the piano. They gather around him at the piano, and he goes through the charts and talks about what we’re going to try and achieve. It was magic. And those days are long gone; that’s a different era.

He's like a father. And honestly, like everybody else, I’m still learning from him, even today. He’s been gone since June 30, 2001, and I’m still learning. I learned a lick the other day and I go, “Wow, thanks, Chet. That’s really cool how you did that.”

Chet’s one of those guys that never quit learning; he never wanted to quit learning. Every time you saw him, he was reading something, whether it was a manual or a book. He was always trying to learn, and he never quit. He still got excited, even in his older age. He never lost that.

What makes All Over the Map stand out from some of your other records?

I had a great time doing it. It was a learning experience. There’s stuff on here people can take away and learn or like and play. By learning, I mean guitar players; there’s a lot of guitar stuff that I think people will pick up and enjoy. It’s all about the journey and just loving it -- loving your journey.

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