Country music comes in many forms and flavors these days but there was a time when country music was called country/western or country and western music and with his upcoming album Smoke Wagon Serenade, independent artist Jeremy Crady has been working to bring the western part of country music back to music in the way artists in the past were able to do it. His debut single “The Toughest Ride” (watch here) showcases this and from the instant listening to the song, his traditionalist-leanings are evident.
In an exclusive interview with Roughstock, Jeremy Crady discusses where he came from and where he hopes to go with his music and why it means so much to him to have recorded the album with Milton Sledge and a few friends who happened to record with some guy named Garth.
Matt Bjorke: Where did you grow up?
Jeremy Crady: I grew up in Rowlette Texas, about 30 miles east of Dallas. I was born in Dallas and it was rural country when I moved out there with my family when I was 8 but if you go visit there now, it’s kind of grown-up there, I guess that’s what country does.
Matt: Who were your influences?
Jeremy: I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it wasn’t Garth. And I think that people my age group, that was the same for a lot of us but he was the springboard into a lot of other things like George Strait into George Jones, Waylon Jennings and Dwight Yoakam and so on. That whole class of ’89 was the stuff I grew up on. And outside of country, I listened to a lot of oldies when I younger, like Elvis and Buddy Holly when I was real small.
Matt: When did you know you wanted to be a country singer?
Jeremy: Somewhere around 11- years-old. I was into singing and doing all of that stuff as a kid, as a son of a Baptist music minister and had sung in church. So singing music was kind of natural to me but the country music bug bit me in about 1990 thanks to my older brother and his friends who were playing “Friends in Low Places.” I remember sitting out at recess with my discman, which was a new technology that I got for my birthday, listening to No Fences, which was the first album I really wanted to go and buy.
So I knew as an 11 year-old kid in elementary school and had the benefit of knowing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life at a young age but with the downside of it being dang near impossible to do. A lot of people want to do it but not many get the chance to so it’s been a blessing and a curse, you could say.
Matt: You went to South Plains College, which has alumni like Lee Ann Womack, Natalie Maines, Jedd Hughes and Jarrod Niemann, how did going there prepare you for the music business, if at all?
Jeremy: It’s a commercial music program with a focus on country music which was, at the time, unique. I’d have to say that for me the biggest thing that happened there, for me, to prepare for the music business, was the craft of songwriting. Terry Banks runs that program there, he didn’t at the time, he took me under his wing and I wrote songs then and took him to there to pick on ‘em. Being a singer-songwriter, and that being what I love, that aspect of mentorship and having a safe place to bounce ideas off of was the biggest thing for me. Obviously the classes about the business were good foundational elements but crafting songs was what I took away the most.
Matt: Was it daunting or intimidating? to you when you finally arrived in Nashville, particularly for a guy who is a Texas guy?
Jeremy: Yes, it was daunting to move but after South Plains I went to the university of Texas, in Austin and while there, actually while in college, I started to listen to Texas artists like Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen and that kind of stuff. I started doing the Texas music scene, as you do when you’re playing around there. I had a meeting with Terry London, the former President of Gaylord Entertainment, and he said ‘you need to move to Nashville,’ after having made a Texas album. and it was something I always thought I’d do but I was comfortable and happy there in Texas. It was kind of out of the blue but after it was said, in a few of months I sold my house, sold everything packed up and moved to Nashville.
There was a trip I made with a friend to come to Nashville to sign a lease on an apartment and I got to about Little Rock and had a break down and a freak-out thinking “What am I doing?” So I didn’t even make it the whole way to Nashville, that first time so I came back home and thought “I can’t make it, what am I doing?” so to say daunting and intimidating, I think it would definitely be true, especially with the fact that I didn’t even make it the whole way that first time.
Matt: What has the co-writing process taught you that writing by yourself maybe didn’t?
Jeremy: It’s taught me that there’s more than one way to write and my way isn’t always the best way. It’s taught me to be more open, to have different ways at looking at a song or an idea, to have somebody sitting there looking at something for you in a different way from your own prospective, I think it helps me when I go back and do my own thing. Probably co-writing teaches me more about human relationships about working together or not working together. It’s probably more of an object lesson that way. It’s definitely a different experience to co-write and you have to be willing to concede and compromise and work together, which are skills that are good to have in general. But it’s definitely a different experience than writing by yourself.
Matt: How did you come to know Milton Sledge?
Jeremy: I came to know Milton through one of my co-writers, Stan Webb. Stan wrote “I’m From The Country” for Tracy Byrd. He’s a great friend and a great writer. Stan introduced me to Milton and we all wrote a song together one time and then we became good buddies through writing first then just hanging out and different stuff. That’s how I got to meet Milton. I originally wanted to make an EP and my album Smoke Wagon Serenade started out originally as an EP project and I kind of recruited Milton, who obviously knows his way around a studio, because you’re not a studio musician for that long without knowing how to be a producer too.
I think that studio musicians don’t get enough credit for their part in these wonderful albums that they’ve been a part of. So I went to him and asked him if he’d produce a few songs for me since you know your way around the studio. Milton, being the great guy that he is, agreed to do it and lo-and-behold the legendary drummer Milton Sledge is a good producer too, so I am thankful for him.
Matt: When I first listened to Smoke Wagon Serenade I immediately knew that you worked with Garth Brooks’ studio band. Was it Milton who got everyone together for the project?
Jeremy: Yeah, it’s something that was quite honestly beyond my imagination. It was something beyond my reach. It was something I never could’ve dreamed up,We were originally gonna use different groups of studio bands on different tracking days, that was Milton’s plan. And he came to me one day as we were planning for this record and said ‘I was thinking it might be kind of fun to get the Garth band together.’ I was acting all calm and cool and saying that ‘might be a good idea or fun’ but was thinking ‘holy crap.’
He called in some favors and went to the well on my behalf with his friends and we originally were going to use them for one day and they showed up because their friend Milton asked him to. The next time we got together, Milton and I had lived with the tracks for a while and he came to me and said, ‘it’s time to put together another band’ and he asked what I was thinking and I said, “I don’t know, call me crazy but I think what we got here feels pretty good.’ He said “that’s what I was thinking, too.’
So he called the guys up and quite honestly that second day in the studio with them was one of my highlights of my career when they came in and it was more than a favor for their buddy Milton, coming in with smiles and saying ‘so glad that you called us back in.’ That, to me, quite honestly has never been a bigger compliment about my music then those guys coming back knowing what they were in for.
Matt: With the album done, what has the reaction been to it in Nashville?
Jeremy: We haven’t gone for many reviews yet because it hasn’t really been released yet but it’s been real positive for those who have heard it and we’ve got the first single out at radio. They tell me that’s going great but I haven’t promoted a single before, so I don’t know what to expect from it. But everything’s been real encouraging. I tell people that if you listen to the album, if you don’t like it it’s my fault and not the players because I think they have the track record to prove otherwise. I think that if I’m the weakest link on every record that I ever make that will be a real honor because that will mean I’m working with the best. At least if people hate it they’re not telling me so I don’t know if it’s good or bad…
Matt: Have you gotten to play any of the songs of the album at shows?
Jeremy: We’ve played quite a few shows around here in Nashville, and I’ve been real encouraged by the folks who’ve shown up and listened to the music and giving feedback. And when I say feedback, it could be a yell in the middle of a song or something but it’s always encouraging. People who walk out and ask where they can get the music, that’s encouraging.
We’re hoping to play live more in the near future, in the fall or the beginning of next year, on a little tour, because that’s the real deal there, live music.
Matt: What are your goals for the album?
Jeremy: My ultimate goal is to make this thing work enough to avoid getting a day job. I say that as both a joke and completely seriously. That’s success, in my book. If we can put music out, the kind of song that touches people in their everyday life. That’s country music to me. It may sound hokey but that’s what I believe. If you’re not touching a nerve with people than what’s the point of it? Like I said, to be able to pay the bills and keep doing it and have fun doing it.
Matt: What are your thoughts on the internet and how it relates to you and your career?
Jeremy: The internet…[pause] Man, it’s the thing for independent artists like myself and I’m not a technology guy myself so it’s not always natural for me to go get online but it’s exciting to me that I can be accessable to would-be fans or that they can be accessible to me. It’s a brave new world out there for music and quite honestly I’m getting to do what I get to do independently because of the internet. On one hand I’m not a big internet guy but on the other I’m very thankful for it being there for me and my career [laughs].
Matt: Do you use social networks to reach out to your fans?
Matt: What can fans expect to see if they come to a Jeremy Crady show?
Jeremy: They can plan to see a good, diverse mix of music; it’s a good time to me. We’re not diggin’ ditches or anything like that. Hopefully I think they’ll get to some real country music and that’s something I’m real proud to bring to people.
Matt: What would you like to say to fans who may be hearing about you for the first time?
Jeremy: Check us out. I’m trying to be true to the music and thank you for listening.
For more information about Jeremy Crady and his upcoming album Smoke Wagon Serenade, you can visit his website (click to view).