Clint Black is back.
The multi-million selling country mega-star is releasing On Purpose as his first full-length
album of new songs in eight years. And he’s doing it on his own terms. “To me, it’s only a ‘comeback’ in that I’m putting out something new,” says the award-
winning singer-songwriter. “I don’t look at it as a ‘comeback’ in the sense that I’m going to have the same kind of hits on the radio. I chose a different route.”
During his hiatus, Black was courted by three major labels. All of them wanted him to sing other writers’ songs and conform to their ways of doing things. Black insisted on writing his own songs and being his own producer. He also plays lead guitar and harmonica.
“I’m not going to be tormented by other people who have their own ideas about what I should do with my music,” he says, bearing no ill will to major music corporations. “Instead, I’ll take my chances being me.
“I ended up just walking away. I wound up looking for independent labels where artists can make their own decisions. And we ended up at Thirty Tigers. I really feel that this is a place where I can be myself.”
Thirty Tigers also distributes music by such independent spirits as Marty Stuart, Shooter Jennings, Jason Isbell, Lucinda Williams, The Eli Young Band, Pat Green, Aaron Watson, The Avett Brothers, Chase Rice, Billy Joe Shaver, Sturgill Simpson, Bruce Robison, Jessi Colter and more.
Black’s On Purpose collection for the company compiles a strikingly diverse group of his self-produced songs. His ballads “Only One Way to Live,” “Stay Gone,” “Breathing Air” and “Last Day” have never cut deeper. His merry, clever “Beer” and “Better and Worse” are among the most upbeat songs he has ever crafted. “Time For That,” “Doing It Now For Love” and “Summertime Song” are catchy examples of how groove-soaked his music can be.
The lilting “You Still Get to Me” marks Black’s third duet with his wife, actor Lisa Hartman Black. “Calling It News” is a wry, topical statement. “The Trouble” is colored by Australian slang.
These new songs continue a stellar career. To date, Clint Black has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide and racked up 57 charted singles, 31 top-10 hits and 13 number-one smashes. Performances such as “A Better Man,” “Killin’ Time,” “Like the Rain” and “Nothin’ But the Taillights” have led to honors from from the Country Music Association, The Academy of Country Music and the American Music Awards, as well as membership in the cast of the Grand Ole Opry.
Raised in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, Clint Black is the youngest of four musical brothers. He began performing with them at the family’s backyard barbecue celebrations. After graduating from high school, he spent 10 years on the local honky-tonk nightclub circuit. He auditioned for a Nashville recording contract in 1988. The following year, he led a movement of young talent that transformed country music into a multi-million dollar industry in the 1990s.
“I don’t really feel like I was leading a change in country music,” he remarks. “It just felt like big success to me. I would hear things like, ‘So-and-so is going to record, and they’re using their own band because you did.’ Or, ‘So-and-so wants to write more of their own songs, because you did.’
“But I don’t feel like I changed anything, other than contributing my work to the big picture.That’s my humble assessment of it. It’s hard to look at myself and say, ‘Wow, you had a big impact on country music.’ I just know that my songs have reached a lot of people.”
He married Hollywood headliner Lisa Hartman Black in 1991, and the two became an instant celebrity couple. Daughter Lily Pearl was born in 2001, and the family subsequently relocated from Los Angeles to Nashville.
Black branched out from producing records, performing concerts and writing songs by becoming an actor and a video director. He has founded several song publishing companies. He has been a musician backing Kenny Loggins, Toto, Billy Joel and others. His vocal collaborators have included Martina McBride, Wynonna, Roy Rogers, The Pointer Sisters, Waylon Jennings and Steve Wariner. Among his songwriting partners have been Wariner, Merle Haggard, Don Henley, Marty Stuart, Bill Anderson and Jimmy Buffett.
In 2004, he scaled the top of the charts by trading lines with Buffett, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney on the Hank Williams classic “Hey Good Looking.’” He contributed to the 2005 post-Katrina charity album Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now. He released albums in 2004, 2005 and 2007. But his recording progress was halted when his record label closed its doors in 2008.
But Clint Black has hardly been idle since then. He competed on TV’s Celebrity Apprentice in 2009 alongside the likes of Dennis Rodman and Joan Rivers. He swears that controversial host Donald Trump was always gracious at the time. In 2010 and 2012, he starred in the films Flicka 2 and Flicka: Country Pride, the latter with his wife and daughter.
“Since then, my manager and I have talked a lot about, ‘What else can we do like this?’ Because I meet so many parents who hunger for these things. They want things that the whole family can watch. There’s an audience out there that really wants this. They tell me that their kids watch these movies again and again.”
In 2013, the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain began marketing an album of his hits, which continues to sell strongly. In early 2015, he collaborated with Joe Nichols on a Superstar Duets NBC-TV special for the Academy of Country Music.
In the past, Black has produced records for artists such as Buddy Jewell and Carolina Rain. This has led to his latest venture, Chideo’s online “Clint Black Dream Recording Session Contest,” the winner of which will be produced by the star. The aim of this endeavor is to raise funds to find a cure for Rett Syndrome, a genetic brain disorder. He is the honorary chair for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation’s “Research to Reality: Funding Process,” and his 2015 contest has attracted the attention of national television.
“I love producing, and I love being in the studio. That joy drove the Chideo contest. About a year ago, I came up with the idea for the talent contest for that website. They figured out how to do it and were ready to go. This could be the fund raiser that helps us breakthrough the threshold and find a cure for this disorder. We are so close.”
In the midst of this, Clint Black has been crafting On Purpose. During his years away from releasing records, he says he has accumulated a large backlog of songs.
“For almost every album I have made, I had two or three albums worth of material ready,” he comments. “I’ve always had an abundance of songs. probably 30 to choose from for the 10 that I would need to make the best album. For this one, I probably had more like 40 songs to choose from.”
The new album is dedicated to his father, who died in late 2012.
“My dad was a huge country fan and is the first reason I listen to country music. He is probably the reason that I am a songwriter today. He was my introduction to who’s behind the music. I grew up wanting to be the writer behind the song. That really all started with him.
“To him, country music was this sacred thing. Now I’ve lost my dad. From time to time, I imagine him out behind the spotlight, listening. So I dedicate this album to him, wishing we could share one more release together. But the clock ran out. I’ll just live with the faith that somewhere, he’s able to hear it.”