Steve Wariner Is at Peace With Not Being ‘the Guy at Radio Anymore’
Steve Wariner spent two decades as a mainstay on the country music charts; from his first Top 10 hit, "Your Memory," in 1980, to his Top 30 duet with Garth Brooks, "Katie Wants a Fast One," in 2002, the singer-songwriter was one of the most successful country artists of his generation. But even Wariner knew that his time as a reigning hitmaker would come to an end.
When a new generation of artists -- Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Sara Evans, etc. -- started dominating the airwaves, Wariner wasn't at all disappointed; rather, the 61-year-old says that he was excited for the opportunity to explore his creative freedom without the constraints of a major record label.
"You hear a lot of artists that are bitter, and they don’t understand why they’re not on radio," Wariner tells The Boot. “They say, 'I should still be on radio.' No. It’s a new time; it’s time for new artists to come along, and new music. Now you’re the old guy that’s out there, and you just need to be able to accept that. That’s why you reinvent yourself.
"Luckily, for me, it was a fairly easy transition, because I started writing. I had hits that I wrote for Garth Brooks and Keith Urban and Clint Black; I had a No. 1 with Anita Cochran, a duet," he continues. "I just shifted my thing and started being a writer."
A bit surprisingly, Wariner admits that he was prepared for the shift to a newer generation to take place before it actually happened.
"There comes a point when you’re not the guy anymore," he concedes. "I was on radio in the ‘80s -- heavy in the ‘80s; I had a great run in the ‘80s and ‘90s. And even in the 2000s -- I had hits in the early 2000s -- so that’s three eras there that I was in. I knew a long time ago that, at some point, you’re not going to be the guy at radio anymore; you’re not going to be on the big labels. But I understand, too, that it’s just evolution of how it happens."
In addition to his songwriting, Wariner has released several albums independently, including his newest, All Over the Map. He's relishing the freedom that comes with being the one in charge of his music.
"I’m doing it the way I want to do it," he says. "I’m hoping that we sell some records. If we do, I’m grateful, and I’m really proud of this music, because I think it’s truly some of the most interesting and cool music I’ve made in my career ... but I’m doing it; whatever happens, I’m the captain here, so whether it happens or not, it’s all good.
"It’s so against the way I used to do it," he adds. "It’s totally, totally self-indulgent. I’m producing; I’m doing it on my own time and my own label; I’m my own captain of my own ship, so to speak. No rules, really, just whatever feels right."