Well regarded and known throughout Texas and the Midwest, singer- songwriter Bart Crow has released five albums, garnered six number ones (on the Texas Music Chart) and has an ever loyal and growing fan base that connects with his musical sensibilities. Now, partnered with Thirty Tigers, Crow is poised to reach an even larger audience with his latest album, The Parade, due October 2nd. Ahead of the release, Bart kindly took the time to talk about the new record, the songwriting process and much more.
Before we get into the record, congratulations on your Opry debut in August. Was that a bucket list item that you can now cross off?
Absolutely. It was the most amazing thing that I’ve done in music. It’s the mother church, it’s where country music started. Now, I know I’m not the countriest of country music, but the Opry invited me and I played it and I’ve got that. They said they’d love to have us back and I’d love to take them up on that because it’s a pretty incredible opportunity and feeling to play there.
Your new record, The Parade, releases October 2nd. Six albums in, what if anything, did you do differently?
In the beginning, nothing. Now that we’re at the end, there was a huge difference. I thought we would be releasing a record around September of last year, which would have put us at two years from Dandelion, and that didn’t happen. I worked with Justin Pollard, who plays drums with Pat Green--they tour, we tour, the other guest musicians do other things, so the biggest difference was that it took 17-18 months to get the record made. During those months, I was still writing songs, so in the end a handful of these songs that made it [on the record] weren’t even written until September or October of last year or the beginning of this year. I hated it at the time, but in hindsight, it’s the smartest thing that could have happened. We ended up with the right songs, the songs that needed to be on the record.
Another terrific thing that has happened is that you have partnered with Thirty Tigers to release the record. You're in some mighty fine company.
Isn’t that the truth? I am thrilled to be working with Thirty Tigers and the whole crew there. And what a good time to be on the Thirty Tigers roster with the butt kicking they’ve been doing with Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Aaron Watson, and countless others. Those artists’ success is obviously a beautiful reflection of their music and artistry and it’s also a reflection of having Thirty Tigers behind them. The people there are so passionate about music, they’re not comfortable just plugging you into a system and trucking on; each project has its own plan and I love that.
They heard a couple of my albums, asked a few people about me and kind of agreed to bring me on sight unseen-- and haven’t asked me to change anything. They want people to love the artists who they have put their time, money and effort into….and that’s exactly how I’ve been made to feel. They’ve accepted me for me and what else could I ask for….besides a million dollars? (laughing)
Sounds like a pretty ideal environment.
Many of the songs on the album really give a glimpse into who you are both professionally and personally.
I think I kinda put myself out there on the previous albums, but I don’t think I’ve been as opinionated. A bunch of the songs I’ve written give you a glimpse into who I am, and what I’ve done, good or bad. I definitely think this record is the one where I’ve allowed myself to be a man, realizing it’s okay to give my opinions about things and give a glimpse into who Bart Crow the person is.
Opinions are definitely there on "Top of Rock Bottom." What’s the story behind that song?
My buddy Jonathan Terrell, who is an amazing songwriter and even better entertainer, and I wrote the song. We were talking, venting our frustrations wondering why non-substance music wins and the music that you bleed over, and bleed for, doesn’t always win the race. It may in certain places because there are always exceptions to rules, thoughts and ideas, but we find it frustrating to work so hard - on little money, sleep, and energy - on something that we just love so much when sometimes it just doesn’t pay you back. We’re happy in our homes with our families, but sometimes the financial struggle and having to pick up side work is tough--on the back and the psyche.
Art is supposed to move you, either by tapping your toes or crying or all things in between. So when you see something that doesn’t strike a chord or move you be successful, it’s frustrating. On the flip side of that we were asking why people feel the need to publicly berate and trash other bands and people, because in the end it’s all opinion. We wondered if we did have huge success if we could we roll over, lay down and let people talk trash about us or would the good ole boy in us have to stand up and say “Hold on now.” This was just a conversation and an hour later he texts me to check my email and he’d written “Top of Rock Bottom.” I was like “Dude, you got that from our conversation?” That’s just a tip of the hat to the songwriter Jonathan is. Then in the studio with Justin we put music behind it, rearranged it and came up with our little Steve Earle type song.
And it’s a good one. One other song I wanted to ask about is the closer, “Free Like Me.”
“Free Like Me” I wrote with Mando Saenz in Nashville. When we started writing this song, I had Jeff Bridges character in Crazy Heart in my head. I didn’t tell Mando that because I didn’t want to mess with his creative process, but me, I had that character in my head. It’s like it sucks being alone, but you’re kind of a cowboy and you just can’t make yourself stick around even though you met somebody. You wanna pick up the phone but you don’t, so in the end your old friend, alone, is the one who is always with you.
The song after is “Let It Bleed,” a Rolling Stones tune. When we started this record, I wanted to have fun, I didn’t want everything to be song in, song out. I wanted to replicate the good times we have playing music and making music. I told Justin I wanted to do a cover song, but I didn’t know which one. I said, “Just think 'Friends in Low Places,'” a big song along with everybody having a good time. I had maybe twelve songs I thought were cool and then my drummer Nate suggested “Let It Bleed” and I knew that was the one. So I invited all of my Austin friends who are singers, musicians, and songwriters to come in, have fun, drink a couple cases of beer and just sing our hearts out.
It really is a nice contrast with “Free Like Me.”
I’m glad you said that because that was exactly my hope and my goal. The cd’s over with a sad song, but then “Oh, wait a minute,” everything brightens up and we’re having a party.
Exactly, it’s hopeful even.
So, The Parade. What is the significance of the title?
Justin came up with it. We were three quarters of the way through and “Queen of The Heartache Parade” was the big jammer. It was the day we were recording Queen and that song was, compared to all of the work we had done together, our most creative and artistic one to date. We had other songs done like “Baby Come Back Home,” “Vapor Trails” and “One Night With You” and he just said that we should call the record The Parade because just like each float in the Macys’ Parade where each is different but has a central theme, these songs are so different, but have a common thread. I thought that was rad and that was it, it stuck.
The artwork is beautiful. Were you involved in the design?
Sara and Shauna Dodds from Backstage Design did the artwork. They’ve done work on four of my previous albums, except Dandelion. We went and hung out for a couple hours and had a put it all on the table talk about frustration, excitement, goals, dreams and musical styles and a week later they came back with almost this and I was like “That’s it, yes ma’am, absolutely,” and we started building the cover. It’s fun to work with them and see them get excited about something to the point where they take themselves out of it and are like “Damn that’s good.” When they get fired up, that’s when they really start coming with the thunder and that’s what they did with this.
I can’t wait for people to get it. There’s a raised, physical embossing and a finish where it’s almost like this really light velvety feeling which is so cool. They knocked it out of the park.
They absolutely did. So what are the plans with this record? Will you expand your touring?
Yes, my largest goal with this record is to tap into a broader fan base so we can go do different shows and tours. We’ve been working Texas predominantly for over a decade, but I have dreams and goals too, like doing a successful East and West, Northeast and Northwest run. I want to broaden our touring base and go play my music. I don’t want to be labeled or pigeonholed into any genre or place, I just want to go play good live music anywhere that’ll have us.
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Photos Courtesy All The Buzz