"I probably wrote about four albums worth during the downtime!" says Black of what he's been doing in the ten years since he released new music
The last time Clint Black released an album of new music, George W. Bush was in the White House, Carrie Underwood had just won American Idol and Luke Bryan was just a little-known songwriter without a record contract.
The long silence wasn’t for a lack of material. “I probably wrote about four albums worth during the downtime!” says Black, whose new album On Purpose – his first in 10 years – is out this week. Instead, it came down to sheer stubbornness.
“I’d been talking to record companies but they wanted to find a song they thought could be a hit on radio and get me to sing it. That’s a great deal for a lot of people but not for me – I’ve never been just a singer and I wasn’t going to start at this age,” says the 53-year-old, who tallied a string of self-penned hits in the ’90s since his triple platinum debut Killin’ Time was released in 1989. “I told them, ‘If you don’t really want me, the songwriter, you don t get me, the artist.’ ”
Black stuck to his convictions on On Purpose with 14 new songs, all written or co-written by the man himself. And though the singer realizes times have changed since he and his fellow class of ’89 hat acts like Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks ruled the airwaves, he still embraces country tradition.
“I know it’s a different time, but I try to go into the studio and make music where you can hear the instruments for what they are,” he says. “That’s not necessarily what everyone is doing.”
At first, he didn’t expect that his new songs would find a place on country radio. “But there’s been a great reaction online and I know fans want to hear these songs on the radio, so it’s a matter of if they’re willing to demand that guys like me get to be heard.”
Two fans permanently in his corner are his wife of nearly 24 years, actress Lisa Hartman Black, who sings with him on a new duet, and their 14-year-old daughter Lily. Lily is not only an inspiration for his music (he wrote “Breathing Air,” from the new album for her) but she also guides his choices.
“I’ve always known when I’m making music that 4-, 5-, 6-years-old are hearing in people’s cars as they drive around listening and I feel like there’s some responsibility there,” he says. “I think about my daughter and what she’s hearing and what I have to say. You always want to make your own family proud.”
Lily, he says, does have the performing bug herself, but the singer says he and his wife have laid down some ground rules.
“She wants to go into the family business, but we’re setting the bar high,” he says. “We’ve emphasized that that is out there in the future but the present will dictate how happy and successful you will be, so she’s got to round out her education and get that done first.”
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