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Riding the Wave
Texas singer/songwriter Pat Green labored away for years as an indie country singer, if you call the kind of popularity that allows one to sell out the Houston Astrodome "laboring away". Now Green has made the successful leap to the major label country world (remember that big song "Wave on Wave") and his newest effort, "Cannonball", has the singer on tour with Kenny Chesney and Sugarland.
Green phoned in, bare feet and all, to speak with OFF Magazine in advance of his Sept. 15 appearance at the SEMO District Fair.
OFF: So are you still on the road with Chesney and Sugarland?
PAT GREEN: Yes. It's fantastic, it's the biggest tour in the nation right now. There's none bigger.
OFF: So does your music mix well with those guys?
PG: I think so. It's a very powerful show, everybody's really focused on the task at hand, putting the best show together that they can.
OFF: Did you ever expect to be at this point 10 years ago when you were playing primarily for college kids?
PG: Anybody who ever picked up a guitar and tried to play professionally wants to go to the top of the planet. So I think in my wildest dreams, for sure, but no, I don't think that was very realistic thinking that way.
I don't know how else to put it other than just, when that kind of opportunity comes along, you're pretty ready for it to happen.
OFF: You also toured with Dave Matthews over the summer.
PG: Yeah, we did a tour with Dave Matthews. He's fantastic, he's very gracious ... I'd say a lot of the biggest touring bands out there, Keith Urban, too, he put us on a tour with him, there are a lot of bands out there that are thinking we deserve the opening slot, so I'm obviously very excited.
OFF: How did the Dave Matthews gig come about?
PG: I guess our agents worked out the deal, but I guess that Dave requested us.
OFF: Does touring with Dave give you access to an audience you wouldn't normally reach?
PG: Certainly, we had plenty of fans out there, our fans are a pretty loyal base, but I guess more than anything, sure, anytime you're playing in front of somebody's 20,000-person crowd and you're not able to draw a 20,000-person crowd you're definitely going to get the benefit of ... you're going to get some exposure there that anybody needs.
OFF: In any description I read of one of your concerts, you're always barefoot.
PG: I think that's just because of what I do, I mean, in the summertime yeah, I don't wear a lot of shoes. In the wintertime, though, it's cold, I wear shoes.
OFF: How different is it now than when you were an indie musician, being on the road with the big names, having hit videos on CMT?
PG: It was so big back home, we were selling 20, 30,000 seats back home long before we ever got on radio. Certainly it's, being an opening act is different, it feels different, but, you know, I'm certainly not uncomfortable around a big show. I take it as a challenge.
OFF: How did you get to be in a place where, as an indie artist you were selling out huge venues like the Astrodome?
PG: Well, it's just a crowd swell. It's a real organic way to do things. How does it happen? That's a mystery to me, I'm just glad it did.
OFF: Your music has a huge rock influence, yet you're a country artist. How do the two mesh in your world?
PG: Well, I think rock 'n' roll and country always go together, man. If you think of what Elvis Presley, the King of Rock 'N' Roll did, he never played a rock 'n' roll song that I ever heard. But that's just because it's generational, you know, the rock 'n' roll music of his day certainly was the country music of the '60s, or whatever you want to say. Really I think whatever rock 'n' roll was four or five years ago is generally what country is now.
OFF: Who inspires you?
PG: Certainly, I'm a big fan of all the old favorite country guys, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash and so forth. But who motivates me musically is Counting Crows, Dave Matthews, Springsteen, Keith Urban, you know.
But country is definitely my medium, where I create. I'm not trying to be a rock 'n' roll star, I was given what I was given.
OFF: You're a family man. Is it hard to work on the road?
PG: It's the worst thing on the planet. You miss your wife, you miss your kids. I can't think of anything worse, but at the same time every job has its drawbacks and its benefits. If I couldn't handle this, I wouldn't do it.
OFF: Anytime an artist with a huge underground following signs to a major you're always going to hear the word "sell-out". Do you have to deal with that?
PG: Well, I hear it, certainly. It's not a fun thing to hear, but at the same time, what are you going to do? This is my life. I don't know how to make decisions any better. I guess I don't think of it that way. The word "sell-out" to me, means successful. If somebody's trying to get ahold of you, that's what you want in the American dream. In the society that we live in, to move forward in life and to move forward in whatever business you've chosen is the thing. That's what it is, so honestly, that's a good thing to me.
OFF: How do you measure success? Have you gotten there yet?
PG: I have been, I think, for a while. I would love to see it go as far as it can go. I'd love to be touring stadiums and arenas on my own, but that's a goal, it's something I have yet to accomplish, but as far as being successful, I've been paying my bills playing music for 11 years.
OFF: What was it like when you scored that big hit on the charts, "Wave on Wave"? Did it make a difference to you?
PG: Of course it made a difference, that's mainstream success. That sure does open a lot of doors, but all the same you can't rest on one hit, you really have to develop a set list. You need to be able to do an hour-and-a-half of hits to keep on going in this business.
OFF: You've said exposure is the key. What do you do to get that exposure?
PG: I don't worry about it. I hired the best manager I can get so I don't have to think about it. I think about my show and my writing then let the manager do their job and get you the big gigs, get you on the TV, get you those things that you need to have access to the public.
For more information on Pat Green visit www.patgreen.com.