"William Clark Green and Gruene Hall….it sounds pretty good," says Green about his new album, Live at Gruene Hall, which was released on September 23rd. "Gruene Hall doesn’t let just anyone record there. They’ve only had Jerry Jeff Walker, Pat Green, Jack Ingram and Charlie and Bruce Robison. So when they gave us permission, we couldn’t pass it up. Honestly, it’s a dream come true and something we knew would be really special."
Recorded over two nights in January at the historic Gruene Hall, Green's first live album contains eighteen of his original tunes pulled from his four full-length albums, delivering the live show experience while also conveying just how special it was for Green to be there.
When we last spoke in May, you said you were still working on the record and that you didn't want it released until it was perfect.
For us, a perfect live record is impossible, but we wanted it to be as good as it could possibly be…and it is that. We spent a lot of time with Mills Logan, who mixed the record. He also mixed Ringling Road, so he was familiar with our sound; he knew that we didn't want to throw too many tricks out there - we wanted everything to sound as full as it could be while remaining close to what we do live. When we were finished, there ended up only being two overdubs on the entire record: Dani [Flowers] had to re-cut her vocals [on "Final This Time"] because there was too much guitar amp bleed on her mic, and then we had an additional guitar amp go out. So other than those two things, and Jack [Ingram] playing Saturday night [the completed record represents Friday night's show], nothing is doctored up in any way at all.
On the record, you speak about how Jack's Live at Gruene Hall album is one of your favorites. Is that how he came to not only be a part of the record, but to close it out?
That was totally spur of the moment. Jack had the weekend off and wanted to come out to the show on Saturday. We wanted to have him sing and I just came up with the idea of him closing out the show with “Goodnight Moon,” which is the way he finishes every show he plays.
It was a pretty stressful week and in the end, all I wanted to do was sit on the stage, drink a beer and watch Jack Ingram close out the night. I don’t know if it was stupid or genius (laughing), but it’s what I wanted to do. I think it was a cool gesture towards him and I think he appreciated it.
From what he says in his introduction, he definitely seemed to appreciate it.
Other than Jack closing out the night, you stayed true to a live show set list.
Our goal was to have as many songs from each record represented on this one. The first record didn’t have much from it, only “Wishing Well,” so we added “Gypsy,” which we haven’t done in years, but was always a song I was really proud of. Other than that, it’s a pretty normal set list.
There isn't much talking from you on the record, but when you do speak, you can hear how grateful and humbled you are by fans, friends, and family.
I was speechless. The first four years of touring we didn’t have many fans. We went into a town to play and there were maybe fifteen people there – so we knew everyone. And everybody that’s been supporting us from day one was at Gruene. Our first fans ever, Brian and Sarah from Dallas, came to this show as did fans from Lubbock and Missouri. They were super emotional nights for which I am so thankful.
If you've been to a WCG show, you'll often notice he steps back and watches his band, both in awe and admiration of their musicianship. It’s something that is definitely felt when listening to the record.
Similar sentiments extend to your band and crew.
Of course. I step back all the time at live shows and just let them do it, but these guys, and my sound guy as well, really stepped up and were just phenomenal on this record. I never get to hear them play, or hear what the sound guy does, because I’m so focused on what I’m doing, what I have to do next and what has to be done next. And although I’ve heard them do records, this is the first time they were put on the spot to play live for ninety minutes…and they played pretty much perfectly the entire time. I always knew they were great, but there’s the proof when you watch the beat lines on a computer screen and they’re perfectly matched up.
Cameron, Steve [who Green found on Craigslist], and I, man, we started from scratch and struggled together. [Josh and Sawyer came in later] And now to watch them all interact on stage...it’s exciting to see and hear. Even if you don’t like the songs on the record, you have to have an appreciation for all of these guys and how talented they are. I’m constantly impressed by them and their musicianship.
In the age of digital downloads, album artwork is still important to Green. He once again worked with the Dodds sisters of the Grammy Award winning Backstage Design Studio on the packaging.
The album artwork is phenomenal. Did you give the Dodds any input or did they just run with it?
The only input I gave them was telling them that I wanted to make the cover a cartoon with a little something from every record represented. And of course, they killed it. They also had Willy [Braun of Reckless Kelly] draw the set list and plane, which was so cool because I always think he does such an awesome job with his. Everything about the artwork is us. I’m very proud of every part of this record.
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Purchase Live at Gruene Hall here