In the first episode of its new series Unearthed, instrument company Ernie Ball visits Americana songwriter Rodney Crowell at his Nashville home to discuss the Texas-born Grammy winner’s success in his adopted hometown and capture him in intimate performance.
The 15-minute documentary opens with footage of Crowell performing his Close Ties track “I Don’t Care Anymore,” with glimpses of the art and music memorabilia peppered throughout his home. Crowell then shares how he first got a record deal and moved to Nashville as a young artist.
“A friend of mine and I had made a record with this producer in Crowley, Louisiana,” he says in the clip. “He came to Nashville and we got a phone call saying, ‘Get up here. I’ve signed you to a 10-year recording contract with Columbia Records and you’re going out on the road opening for Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. So I bought a D-35 guitar with what little money I had, loaded up in my car and we drove nonstop to Nashville, slid in sideways.”
There’s a bit of a twist to Crowell’s story, which he explains further in the film. He also discusses meeting and befriending Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Mickey Newbury and other Nashville luminaries. “The thing about Nashville in 1972 and 1973 — the only discussion that happened was, ‘What are you writing? How’s it coming for you?'”
Ernie Ball’s new Unearthed series will showcase other beloved songwriters and their life and work in future episodes. Crowell recently released a new holiday album, Christmas Everywhere, featuring guest appearances from Lera Lynn, Vince Gill, Mary Karr and others.
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In August, he celebrated the 40th anniversary of his debut album Ain’t Living Long Like This. “My reputation as a songwriter is what got me there. I got a record deal because people were recording my songs early and covering them. Thank heavens, they kept me in business,” he told Rolling Stone Country. “I think that Warner Bros. signed me to a recording contract [thinking], ‘This guy’s producing material that’s making it to the top. He’s bound to hit sooner or later.’”