‘They Called Us Outlaws’ Documentary Tells the Story of Country’s Rebel Period
“I have a love/hate relationship with the term ‘outlaw,'” Eric Church says in the opening moments of the the trailer to They Called Us Outlaws: Cosmic Cowboys, Honky Tonk Heroes And the Rise of Renegade Troubadours, a six-part documentary due next year.
Executive produced by country music luminaries Jessi Colter, Ray Benson, and Jack Ingram (who narrates), the 12-hour film, released in association with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, will feature interviews or performances from names like Church and Miranda Lambert to contemporary singer-songwriters Tyler Childers and Charley Crockett, to late Seventies legends like Guy Clark and Billy Joe Shaver.
“From the very first interview with my hero Kris Kristofferson, who set the tone for the entire project, to recent performances and interviews with my contemporaries, the push and pull relationship with the music establishment is intensely felt, but as a way to delve into truth,” Ingram says. “And the truth is, regardless of what you call them (‘outlaws’), these legends were all about ’doing the good work,’ as Kris told us, ‘writing soulful songs.’ And that’s all any of us should aspire towards.”
In addition to the treasure trove of performances and interviews teased in the three-minute teaser, the trailer hints at the way in which the film will likely complicate and interrogate the narrative and mythology behind the “outlaw” label, first coined by country music publicist Hazel Smith.
“I think about my dad’s music when I hear ‘outlaw,'” Shooter Jennings, Waylon’s son, says in the trailer, “but I guess I’m dubious of it as a label.”
They Called Us Outlaws, written and directed by Austin filmmaker Eric Geadelman and filmed by Kelly Magelky, is slated for a 2023 release.
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“If you want to know what really happened in the ’70s in Nashville and Austin, take heed,” Colter says in a statement. “They Called Us Outlaws is full of ‘underground’ untold stories, and equations you must conclude for yourself. Just hang on to see true American music happen.”
Adds Benson: “It created some of the most iconic people of a number of generations … it created a kind of music … It will never happen again.”