June 12, 2008
By David Huff
Pat Green - Country Fever 2008 - Jun. 12-15
Remains a Constant
Love ‘em or hate him, you have got to admit that Pat Green is a pretty amazing talent. Not only did he sell some 255,000 independently released records on his own before signing with a major label, Green became a legitimate star in his home state of Texas, with his gritty, no frills brand of country music.
Before he entertained any idea of being a musician, let alone a Texas music legend, Pat Green grew up in Waco. His parents divorced when he was seven, and when they both remarried, Green suddenly found himself one of nine children in the combined families. In high school, Green enjoyed the Doors and oddly enough, Louis Armstrong – with a little Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson and George Strait mixed in. Then, as his luck would have it, he stumbled onto Robert Earl Keen’s No Kind of Dancer his senior year. It changed everything for this budding musician. He went from playing hardcore honky-tonk to hardcore Texas music.
Green was 18 when he started singing in bars and clubs around campus “to pick up chicks”. He attended Texas Tech University where he received a degree in general studies. In 1995 when he was 23, Green borrowed $12,000 dollars from his family to record an album, Dancehall Dreamer, with Texas music legend Lloyd Maines producing. Green didn’t make a full commitment to his music career until 1997, when he was unceremoniously fired from his job as a fuel wholesaler by his stepfather. He had seen Pat counting the money he had made singing over the weekend and knew the boy needed a mighty push to fully pursue his dream.
Soon Green caught the ear of Willie Nelson and began touring with him and other famous country musicians. His appearance at the 1998 Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic marked the start of his road to nationwide recognition. Green’s style had started to come into focus with the 1997 release of George’s Bar. Its follow-up, Here We Go, further cemented his status in the Texas music community. His Live at Billy Bob’s album sold over 70,000 copies, more than any other country artist in the ongoing series, with the exception of Merle Haggard.
It was the live shows that kept Pat Green’s fans coming back for more. Initially, the college crowds were drawn to his party-friendly style of music. Students kept passing around Green’s self-released discs, and word grew from there. Though it was an unorthodox way to get a career off the ground, for Green, it was almost atypical of the way he approached his music. Most artists generally try to sign with a major label in exchange for national attention. Pat Green would have none of that. His live performances were exceptional, and his power to draw huge crowds was undeniable.
For instance, in a 60-day period between mid-February and mid-April of 2002, the singer sold more than 180,000 tickets to shows that didn’t even include his shows at Billy Bob’s (sold out in 35 minutes), Spring Break at South Padre and Chilifest in Snook, Texas. More than 56,000 watched him at the Houston Rodeo where only George Strait outsold him.
Although Green’s independent career route enabled him to preserve his own artistic autonomy, in the summer of 2001 he signed with Universal Records for his first major-label record. Three Days had previously released material from past Green albums, plus a few new ones. The record entered Billboard’s Country chart at #7, selling almost 100,000 records before the second single was ever released.
Green cites as his major influences musicians – particularly those artists of the outlaw country movement, Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings – whose body of work is totally original
“I like people who create their own sound,” said Green, “and not just on the country side either. I admire artists who not only come up with their own unique style, but make things happen on their terms, not someone else’s.”
When it comes to influences, you also have to include Robert Earl Keen. As far as Green is concerned, Keen epitomizes the heart and soul of Texas music.
“Robert Earl Keen,” states Green, “is doing the same thing Willie and Waylon did in the ‘70s, only he never stopped. I mean, he’s writing songs that everyone can relate to, and just going out and having fun. His music was never the whole ‘girl-love-dove-from above’ thing, it was just total rebellion.”
The Texas native likes to compare his brash attitude toward music to the approach Keen adopted and stayed with – total rebellion. Another central element to the ‘Pat Green Sound’ is his seamless blending of electric and acoustic instruments. He has written, or co-written, most of the material he’s ever recorded.
The evolution of Green’s music bears examination, something that’s easily done because a number of his signature tunes have appeared in various forms on different records. Take, for example, “Southbound 35”.
“That’s an anthem song”, declared Green. “We have three or four songs of that caliber, ‘Dancehall Dreamer’, ‘George’s Bar’ and “Carry On’, that will never go away from our set. Those are the types of songs you nurture and constantly let evolve because they are always going to be a part of you.”
Despite his unusual road to success the past ten years, Pat Green is in no immediate danger of becoming a hero in Ropers. That’s due in large part to the grounding wife Kori gives him, a fellow Tech alum and lawyer. So what did audiences see in his music that kept them coming back for more time and time again?
“Honestly,” states Green, “I really don’t think people see me as a country artist. When I first started playing, I hated country music so much it made me sick to turn it on the radio. So when I first began playing in clubs, I developed a singing style that made me comfortable.
“When things started rolling, my attitude was, ‘Hey, I want to be the only guy who has a life-long career in music that makes plenty of money for everybody in the band, including myself, and never leave Texas!’ Of course it was really naive at the time to think that way, but in certain ways, I have stuck to my guns. I’m certainly not part of a label where people tried to change me, dress me, tell me who could be in my band and least of all, who is going to write my songs.”
Whether he’s performing for 200 people, or 20,000, one thing about Pat Green remains a constant. He never gives his audience less than a 110 percent of himself.
“I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I hit the top of the mark,” said Green matter-of-fact. “There’s about 40 percent of the country where maybe 100 or 200 people might show up to one of our shows. There are other parts of the country where we can sell out arenas or sheds. So there’s always a challenge out there waiting for us.”