On “Aviator,” the title track from Stoney LaRue’s forthcoming studio album (out October 28th), LaRue sings of crosswinds blowing down FM roads, of boys playing baseball on a sandlot long before having their hearts broken, of leaving and maybe not coming back again. The Texas-to-Oklahoma transplant is singing about growing up and growing wiser, and on songs like “Aviator” and “First One to Know,” the 37-year-old meshes the sort of hopeful, big-hearted Red Dirt country he’s become known for over the past decade with the influence of classic rockers. Recorded to 2-inch tape, Aviator is a meat-and-potatoes country-rock album done the old-fashioned way and dedicated to timeless themes.
For Rolling Stone Country‘s “5 Minutes in Texas” series, LaRue spoke about the themes of Aviator, touring Texas and Oklahoma, his upcoming debut at Nashville’s famed Grand Ole Opry and just where in the hell the name Stoney LaRue Phillips came from.
The Record’s Deal
“I have a son, I have children. [I made Aviator] thinking about how he’s going to grow up, how I grew up — at what point in my life I had different epiphanies and started leaning on different ideals. So it’s kind of one of those searcher-wonderer rescue missions for yourself. And it seemed to have a good ring to it as far as giving it a theme for the album.”
“We did it on 2-inch analog tape, in the same vein as Velvet, my last album. And we did it at Ben Folds’ studio in Nashville, which you can’t record there anymore, so it was good to be a part of that history. And we had money behind it [laughs]. We have investors, so obviously with a little bit more cash you can go a little further and dream a little bigger. … [We used 2-inch tape in an old studio] because I think the music demanded it. We recorded it all together, all at one time: you know, push play and record. When that tape starts rolling, you catch some kind of a raw, ghostly emotion. Digital can’t compare. And I’m nerdy enough to like that stuff.”
A Little Bit Country, a Little Bit Classic Rock
“You know, sitting down writing, actively, I didn’t think about being influenced by anything else. So whatever came out was subconscious. But I definitely listen to that stuff: Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Bob Seger. I really picked up my vinyl collection and started listening to it before I write. I think there’s an inevitability there for that influence.”
Texas vs. Oklahoma
“Oklahoma, that’s where I live. That’s where my children live and are raised. I love it. The people are nice. [The difference playing in Texas] depends on where I’m at in Texas, because it’s very diverse. Dallas and Fort Worth are always accepting, and San Antonio. You get into some of the smaller towns — I’m not going to be specific about it, ’cause I don’t want to name-call — but some people actually are fed so much of their music that they start disrespecting, they stop listening for a little bit and just [believe], ‘Well, this is our culture; this is supposed to be here.’ Whereas, you go to Oklahoma or other places in Texas and they’re just so hungry for it and appreciative there. It does take a lot to write a song, brother, so you want your stuff to be taken seriously.”
The Sound of One Band Clapping
“We [tracked Aviator] live. We separated ourselves in booths and all that. The only people that clapped for us after were our producer and ourselves. So we had to be silent until he said, ‘Cut.’ And then we would applaud each other. And that was neat, but you couldn’t hear that on tape.”
Fandom of the Opry
“Never been! I have this thing where I don’t want to go places until I’m invited. I might crack. Red Rocks [in Colorado] was one of those. We got to play Red Rocks, and Terminal 5 in New York, and stuff like that. But Grand Ole Opry? Are you kidding me? When you just said it I got a chill up my back. 1925, when it was founded, that’s [around] the Great Depression, you know? And they’d bring music to people. That was the catalyst for country music back then. And so now it feels like I’m walking with giants.”
The Name Game
“I was named after my grandfather on my mother’s side. His middle name was LaRue. And Stoney came from a TV show, this Stoney Burke character, who used to be a cowboy on TV. [My father] was flipping through the TV Guide, and they were like, ‘Stoney LaRue! That sounds good.’ What are you smoking?! I’ve gotten so many nicknames and questions about my name. But it’s made me who I am, for sure. You have to definitely wear the monkey suit.”