Interview: Alabama Open Up About ‘Southern Drawl,’ Their First Album in 14 Years
Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook are following up 2001′s When It All Goes South with a 13-track record that includes, among other tunes, their latest single, “Wasn’t Through Lovin’ You Yet,” and a song featuring Alison Krauss. The project is now available on Amazon and iTunes.
The three band members recently sat down with The Boot to discuss their latest project, their 40-year career, and how they really get along after all these years.
It's been 14 years since your last studio album, When It All Goes South, was released. What made now the right time to release a new record?
Owen: Well, because the feeling was right; I guess that’s a simple way to put it. The deal with BMG was right. We had artistic control. The management was right. We had people who we felt like would stick with us. We wanted someone that, if we went through all this effort, they’d promote it. That was important to us: If we’re going to do this, are they actually going to go through the effort of promoting it? It’s important to us that the label is out working on the record.
The moon, the stars, aligned just right to make it all something that we wanted to do, and we were thrilled and excited about the new music. I can still listen to it.
How would you describe Southern Drawl?
Gentry: You’ve got love. You’ve got laughter. You’ve got funk. You’ve got southern. You’ve got reality. You’ve got spiritual.
As far as “Southern Drawl” the song, It's a southern, get-down, funky song that some of our heroes like [the] Marshall Tucker [Band] and Lynyrd Skynyrd might have done -- but we put the Alabama feel to it. We’ve teased the audience with the song; we haven’t played the whole song live yet, but the response has been amazing. We’re excited about the songs and to get out and play them live.
Owen: What I love to do is not listen to it for four or five days and then just crank it up and listen to the whole thing. Some of the vocals that Teddy came up with are amazing, and Jeff did a great job. The studio geniuses that we work with, they took our ideas and enabled us to do some stuff that we physically couldn’t do. We could hear [it] in our heads but couldn’t do [it], but they could do [it].
It turned into a really special project. Our hope and our dreams are that it pleases the fans and that, through their support, we get to do it again.
Did you have trouble narrowing down songs for the album?
Owen: We wanted a bouquet of music. We didn’t want two songs in the same direction or the same sound. That was one of the things that bothered me about disco: It all sounded alike.
The songs on this album still have the classic "Alabama sound," even though some of the styles have changed.
Gentry: There’s only one way we know to make a record, and that’s to start with great songs and try to make a great record out of it. It’s as simple as that -- no major direction change or trying to do something outside of what we do. Get a good lead vocal and then put harmony on a great song is about as much as we can do.
How has the format of country music changed since your freshman album, Wild Country, was released in 1976?
Gentry: It changes. It constantly changes. It has to change. It changed when we came along.
We don’t think about it now, but we were as far outside of Nashville [as an act could be]. Nashville wasn’t ready for us when we came along. We came in the back door -- we actually came in through Texas; our label was in Texas. Even after RCA signed us, they had no idea what to do with us. We had no idea what we were going to do.
You have to have new blood come in. It may not be the way we would do it, but it’s the way the business is. It’s great. Every time I see someone being successful and selling lots of records, I say, "Yeah! Grow more country music!"
After all of these years together, how do the three of you get along?
Gentry: I think that’s one thing, we don’t have any trouble. We know where each other stands. Not that you [always] agree with each other. The harder the times were on us, I think, the closer we got together over the years.
There’s nobody I respect any more than these two guys right here, because I know what it takes on a daily basis. At times, we’ve been put into positions where you’re worked to death and then asked to do more. I think, at those times, it’s easy to get angry, ill, edgy, but through it all, I wouldn’t change anything about these guys.
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