"It Ain't All Bad" when you get to have a chat with

Steve Wariner

One of Steve's toys

One of Steve's toys

Steve started weaving his  way through the music business as a child and it paid off at the age of 17 when Dottie West saw him playing at a club -  hired him right then and there. He toured with Dolly for 3 years as her Bass player. I wonder if she had any inkling the career that it would lead to for Steve. He went from playing with Ms. West to playing with Bob Luman’s band alongside guitarist Paul Yandell. This is where one can look back and see the importance of the intricate connections you make as you navigate through life. It was through Paul that Steve was able to meet his “idol” Chet Atkins. It was his connection and friendship with Chet that led to many things down the line for Steve and his career including Chet signing Steve to his first recording contract with RCA in 1977.  From there Steve has gone on to release 29 albums including a Christmas one. He did the voice for the theme song for ABC hit TV series “Who’s The Boss” as well as a few other songs for movies. He has been inducted into 3 hall of fames: Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, the National Thumbpickers Hall of Fame and the Music City Walk of Fame.  His first guitar is on the way to the Musicians Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He has 4 GRAMMY Awards with 11 nominations, 4 CMA Awards, 1 ACM Award, 16 BMI Country Awards, 15 BMI Million-Air Awards, among others.  Steve’s first grammy was in 1992 - Best Country Vocal Collaboration “Restless” from Mark O’Connor & the New Nashville Cats ~  Mark O’Connor, Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill. His last was in 2010 – Best Country Instrumental Performance “Producer’s Medley” from Steve Wariner, c.g.p., My Tribute to Chet Atkins. “Holes In The Floor of Heaven” is probably one of his most known songs received CMA and ACM of the year for the song and CMA of single (producer) of the year in 1998.

He is at the point in his career where he has the freedom to experiment and one of those areas he’d like to do a bit more is with the film and TV business. “I’ve done a little bit of it but I’d love to do more. You know that’d be cool.”  As far was touring, he has never played in Australia it’s on his bucket list so to speak “we talked about going for years and we never have. We’ve been asked to play at the “Tamworth Musical Festival”. It’s not confirmed but looking like we’ll be playing there this year.”

A big music festival they have every year .

Prior to “It Ain’t’ All Bad” Steve’s last two albums were “guitar projects” so I had to inquire as to why he came back with a full vocal album?

Coming off 2 guitar projects the first he did a tribute to Chet Atkins. Which he said (it made me snicker as I thought to myself no luck – pure talent) “we were lucky to sneak in a grammy win.” On the heels of that, a couple years later I decided to do another guitar project called Guitar Laboratory. All during that period of time, I was still writing a lot. Writing and writing all the time and getting a few cuts in.” As a song writer he never stopped writing and he amassed quite a collection of songs during that time, he had some that he couldn’t part with.  “These songs on this album are my favorites from 8 year period. It turned out to be some of the best songs I’ve ever written.  I really do think it is some of my best work.”   As the guitar lab wound down and he started playing on the road again, he played some of those songs and they generated a lot of interest from his fans.  One in particular that generated some great feedback was ‘Blue Bonnet Memories.’  It is kind of a bluesy song with some twang to it. “People were asking where can I find this – I like this song – reluctantly I’d have to say I haven’t recorded it yet.  A lot of people were asking when you going to do another singing album?  I got to thinking I’ve got all these cool songs I’m sitting on here I think it’s time to make a new album.”   And that my friend is how “It AIn’t All Bad” came to fruition. 

One of the benefits of having your own label is the freedom that comes with it creatively speaking.  The album is very versatile. It ranges from the traditional sound you’d expect to hear from Steve to some bluesy, western swing type feeling music along with some almost “big band” sound.  “It really is all over the map isn’t it. It’s a little bit of everything on that record. I think that’s beauty and freedom of having your own record label.   Kind of doing it myself.  If I had suits looking over my shoulder, they might not be letting me be so quite versatile; they’d want it all to stay pretty close.”

As we talked about the new CD It was such an neat thing hearing Steve talk about some of the songs, you can hear the emotion, the belief behind his words especially sense he had written them over such a long part of time as he was experiencing his life. Some of them are what he experienced not just physically but mentally. Some of my favorite songs on the album are those songs, thought provoking – reflective.  “Spokes On A Wheel” was written at Kent Blazy’s house near Radnor Lake.  Radnor lake is a 1,200 acre natural preserve that lies in the heart of Nashville, 4 unpaved paths wind through the woods around the lake.  “It’s a beautiful park, it’s really pretty nice” you could hear the admiration in his voice and I imagine he was picturing it in his mind “that morning Kent had just gotten back from walking the dogs. We started talking about stuff like – how beautiful that lake was and how we hope it never got effected by people. We started talking about that and the conversation went from there to we need to all take care of this planet. What’s it going to be like when our grandkids have kids? We started talking about that and that’s where it came from ‘we are all just spokes in the wheel turning around together.’

One of the most thought provoking songs on the CD and the most personal song Steve has written is “A Thousand Winds” - Steve wrote the song after attending two different types of funerals. One was a very somber occasion, lots of tears and mourning the other one was Roger Millers memorial at the Ryman a few months after he died. He and Chet sang “Amazing Grace” together at the service. “It was a real happy occasion, they showed some film clips of Roger – People were laughing more than they were crying.  It really was a happy thing, a celebration of his life. I was kind of sitting there thinking about that, like with myself, it’s weird thinking about your own mortality but, I was thinking when it’s my time I want it to be like this. A real happy occasion, great memories, laughter and songs.”   As Steve went on to describe in depth more about the song the lyrics, I must admit I got goose bumps. “It’s really almost of an open letter to my wife in a lot of ways. You know she always loves the rainbow on the water, when you see that she always loves it and  I said ‘I’ll be that rainbow on the water I’m going to be that hawk eye in the branches those kids making angels in the snow, all that stuff is going to be me. I’m not going to be too far away and I’ll be a thousand winds that blow. It’s kind of talking about my own mortality but in a positive way.”  Short pause of contemplation “Very personal, I wrote that by myself, I thought it was really a touching kind of neat little song and thought it would be a nice way to close it out.”  It is a touching song that you feel the love, feel the emotion behind it. Steve arranged the string quartet arrangement on the song as well.

Steve Wariner

This was not his first venture with arranging strings he helped his son on his album about 5 years ago. “My son, he was wanting to put some strings on that thing kind of like ELO, so I brought out some I had arranged and I did the strings on a couple of the songs. That was the first time I’d ever done it.” It may sound odd but you can hear the creativity in his voice as he talks about it. “It’s really fun it is very challenging thing. It’s kind of a different world for me but I really enjoy doing it. I also arranged the strings on another song on this album of his,  “I Want To Be Like You” he arranged the English horns on it as well.

Of course part of the reason any musician plays music is they hope it gets heard so here is "Its Called A Brand New Day" 

Steve believes that they have “radio worthy” songs on the CD.  “We’ve got the goods if we can get it past the suits.”   I would highly recommend grabbing his CD and not just because he thinks it is his best work yet, but because it is an outstanding CD.  He is hitting the road as well so keep a look out for him to come to a venue near you.  Since a songwriter never really stops writing he’ll continue to write as evidenced by a recent tweet “Working in the studio today on a demo of a song I want to pitch to @Jason_Aldean love this song!” so who knows what we’ll hear from him in the future.  You can go to his website if you’re interested and grab some free guitar lessons.

I asked him what was his biggest achievement was with his career?  “Musically speaking being asked to be a member of the grand ole opry was mighty cool. That was pretty sweet. You know winning a Grammy, I’ve got 4 those were all special.  The first one was incredible, I’ll never forget. It was at Radio City Music hall in NY City. Those are special. Wining CMA song of the year with “Holes In The Floor of Heaven”  that was really special.  That was actually song and single of the year so that was pretty awesome. ”

As you look back on Steve’s career. All the different awards – the number one hits – touring all over the world – songs in movies –what else can you expect - ready for this …. drum roll …..

He is getting ready to have an art exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum. The opening Gala is Oct 10 and will go for about 3 months. Steve will have 20 pieces some are water color some are water color pen ink mixture and some encaustic pieces. “You used heated beeswax, it’s a really cool medium – it is interesting looking, real textured. It starts Oct 10th so that’s going to be cool.”

(lol who would’ve thought I would come away from the interview with an art lesson)

Steve started painting in high school however some of his strongest influences came as he was touring with the band.  Every year they would play at a casino near Window Rock, AZ which is considered the capitol of the Navajo Nation. The area is rich in culture “the people were great, I was really inspired, I used to take a lot of pictures and do a lot of paintings of it. That really inspired my love for the southwestern art.” They played at a lot of reservations.  You could hear the respect for the Navajo people and their culture even now as we talked about his experience and how spiritual they are as a community. “It was a lot of fun they have a really cool culture. They are beautiful people and look at things differently than we do.”

Talking to Steve about his art left me with a yearning as such to see it. I must say if I have any chance of getting to Nashville to see his show I will be jumping at it.  The same passion that he pours into his music was evident when he talked about art and where his influences and inspirations came from.  So to all you anywhere near Nashville in the next 3 months I’d add that to your “to do list.”

You often hear a lot of left – right brain talk and studies about how it affects creativity etc. well, while talking to Steve that left side comes out very clearly from his music to his art.  It is the passion and emotion that he pours into his works that make a connection with us.


Links to Steve