5 Minutes in Texas With Pat Green

Seasoned singer-songwriter previews upcoming album and talks about musical continuity that ignores labels

Pat Green Credit: Photo Courtesy of Triple 8 Management

Pat Green learned a long time ago to take opinions with a grain of salt. The San Antonio native has released a dozen albums — some indie, some with major labels — in a 20-year career that has seen Grammy recognition, sold-out stadiums and radio success way beyond the Lone Star State's airwaves. His fanbase is also widespread, as Green is one of the most nationally recognized voices ever to come out of the Texas country scene. But all accolades aside, with some people, he just can't win.

"I've been getting crap from just about anybody, from every dimension — whether I'm making a record independently or for a record company, which is when people say I've sold out," the singer-songwriter tells Rolling Stone Country. "But I've never made a record that I wasn't totally invested in and that I didn't like the sound. When you make records with big producers or big record labels, those records are really bombastic — that's just the way they are going to sound. That was a wonderful experience, but making this next record, I'm still the same guy. I'm still writing most of the songs, still putting things together in an arrangement that I like…. I'm proud of this one. It feels organic."

Critics will have a hard time selling the "sell out" theory with the upcoming album, tentatively titled Home, as it was made without a label home. His first new set of tunes in almost six years, the project is ready for release as soon as the singer inks a new deal. It includes collaborations with Sheryl Crow, Delbert McClinton, Marc Broussard and another Texas troubadour, Lyle Lovett, with whom Green duets on the project's first single, "Girls From Texas," a clever ballad that sounds like it could've been a Lovett hit from his "She's No Lady" days. (Listen below.)

We caught up with Green to chat about the new music and putting its fate in someone else's hands.

How did "Girls From Texas" become a duet?
It was [producer/songwriter] Jon Randall's idea. He called me and said he had a song, so I listened in my car on my way home from the airport and I got these chills all over my body. The first thing I did when I got in the house was play it for my wife, and she's like, "Whoa, that's amazing!"

Lyle is just great in it. It was my first time in a studio with him, so that was a real treat. He's such a fun guy and such a talented musician.

Your voice sounds a little bit like Lovett's on the song, too.
I really was not trying to channel him as much as I was just trying to complement him. My voice is kind of like a chameleon…. Obviously I'll never sing Whitney Houston songs, but I just felt like that's what this song kind of dictated to me.

Sheryl Crow duets with you on "Right Now." What's the story behind it?
I wrote that with Chris Stapleton. I told him the story about my wife back when we were dating in college. I broke up with her on Valentine's Day. I'm the first one to say that I've made my mistakes in life! [Laughs] It took about two years to get back in her good graces and she finally took me back, but we needed that time when we dated other people. We never lost contact, and it obviously ended well!

Sheryl came in and captured such a beautiful side to "Right Now" on a harmony level. She took it from a good song to an, "Oh my God."

How did using your own band instead of studio musicians affect the mood and sound of the new album?
The difference is when you're working with studio guys, they work a lot faster and there's an emotional connection but its not nearly as deep as the emotional connection with the guys you spent half the year on the road with. You really want to listen for people's ideas, whether it's with your band or not, but it's easier to say, "Hey, that's not what I'm looking for" and move on [with studio musicians], whereas with guys in the band you have to tell them why. It's more intense, and it's much richer as far as getting in closer to the material.

 You're still looking for a record label to release Home. Are you like a kid waiting for Christmas when it comes to getting the new music out?
I don't really feel that way; I'm a patient fellow. I have learned to be a patient fellow, I should say, because I wasn't always. The album has been nearly finished for over a year and a half now, so I think the timing is… you have to give something to providence or God or whatever else you want to put it in that bucket. This is just what it's supposed to be.

 At what point in your career did you learn to stop listening to critics?
I think when Wave on Wave and Three Days, those two albums in particular, were starting to get really good response on radio and I was going out on big tours with acts like Kenny Chesney... At some point I had to realize that this is my career and everybody has an opinion and really, it's not their lives, it's mine. But I do think it's natural once you get more and more of a public persona under your belt, people just tend to have an opinion about you. But it's better than them not talking about you at all!

Your annual charity golf tournament at Pebble Beach raised a lot of money for the Pat Green Foundation this year. What kinds of causes does that help out?
A lot of it is for adoption. My brother's wife was an adopted baby, my guitar player has adopted children, my old fiddle player adopted a kid… it's just all around me. Adoption really helps people complete their family, which is such a special thing. We also give money to a foundation that helps kids with asthma. My brother, my wife and my daughter all have asthma, and it's not a very talked about condition. Some people can't even go outside… Our stated goal is to give to foundations that are underfunded or have a hard time raising funds. We're just trying to look out for the little guy.