Eddie caught up with Marty Stuart as part of Country Music Week in the UK. After the huge success of his C2C performances fans were keen to see him again and know more about Marty and his band.
Marty, why did you call the band the Fabulous Superlatives?
When we put our band together we were actually on an airplane about to do one of our very first shows and we needed to name ourselves! I was thinking man, we need a name and there was a florist, a southern florist who has beautiful flowers here in Nashville which is a very old traditional florist and they are kinda famous for their radio spots; they come on with lush orchestral music. The voice of their radio spots is this old fella with this southern brogue, and at the end he always said “We invite you to come to Emma’s, the superlative florist”. We were laughing about how that guy could make the word superlative sound 10 mins long and I said that’s what we should call our band, the Superlatives coz we’re pretty good but nah, needs to be more famous than that. How about the Fabulous Superlatives! That’s how it started, but then it was kinda funny as we were getting started and people went to introduce us and couldn’t say it. Porter Wagoner at the Grand Ole opry said “I don’t know what the hell that means, just come out and tell people who you are!”
When you talk about them you say we – You see yourself as one of the band…
It’s listed as Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives but at the end of the day I’m one of the band members, I love being in the band. I started my first band at 9 years old so it’s the only life I know. I’ve been in enough bands to know that boy, this is a good one! This is my Buckaroos; this is my Merle Haggard and the Stragglers, my Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys or Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three. That’s the kinda bands I grew up idolising and I think the Superlatives are going to be one of those bands. You know Eddie, you’ve been in this a long time, you’ve been to a lot of shows, there are certain bands that in a moment in time everything around the band is just magic. People tell me they saw the Beatles or Jimmy Hendrix, people never forget a great night like that and I think The Superlatives are one of those kinda bands that represent Country music these days. There are not a lot of bands out there like that anymore. I think people will go away and think ‘I got to see those guys one time’.
The feedback from C2C this year was absolutely incredible. I think a lot of new Country fans didn’t really know what to expect and on the night you just took the roof off that place! How did it feel British Country fans suddenly got that excitement?
Well it felt right because we had a mission when we left America to come to Europe, it had been a long time since we stepped out onto the world stage. I’d been over there with Johnny Cash and my other band but The Superlatives had never got serious about finding a place for ourselves in Europe. I knew that times had changed and Country music had changed both the sound and look. We are a little bit different so I didn’t quite know how the modern Country fan would accept us over there. What I found really worked is they responded to the authenticity and the honesty of the heartfelt stuff and that is the Country fan that I remember. I felt like it was in the pocket, in the groove and it made me want to come back.
How do you go about planning the set list for the tour?
Well, we have so many songs! I like to walk around the venue and meet people, we change the set list from night to night but there are familiar songs and some from ‘Way Out West’ and my new collection ‘That’s Country’ 44 songs, it reminded me of songs I haven’t played in a long time so we mix it up from night to night.
‘Way Out West’ makes me feel like it’s a movie soundtrack. I love it, where did the inspiration come from?
The west ha! If you’ve ever been way out west it’s a very cinematic journey. I wanted to take the listener on an experience, we could take off riding a magic carpet and we could touch upon several of the sounds that inspired me and my band; it has an element of twang to it and mystique. I love conceptual albums that take me somewhere and that’s what I was looking to achieve with ‘Way Out West’.
A bit like ‘The Pilgrim’ was another concept album
I love that album to this day! Here’s what’s crazy… When I look at the calendar that album was made in 1999, it’s hard to believe it’s almost 20 years old. I am determined on the 20th anniversary of ‘The pilgrim’ to re-release that record with maybe some bonus tracks of things we left off and maybe some photos because I think it’s an important record, the record never goes away. I always talk to people about it, somebody is always asking me about it. I actually think at this point in time it fits in better than what I was doing back in that point in time, so I think there is an audience for that record and I really want to re-release it.
Can we expect more of those conceptual albums?
Well there was a time in my life where I chased the charts, radio charts, billboard charts really hard! Then suddenly back in the 90’s it didn’t seem to click anymore. I chased the charts for another 2 years and it almost drove me crazy, I wound up a shell of my musical self. One day I said “take it back to the bedrock, take it back to what you love and believe in the most and start over”. While I was in the midst of that thinking, I found a box-set called ‘Ella Fitzgerald – the verve years’. It was a multitude of directions and I thought what a wonderful way to live. With radio off to the side not caring about what I did anymore, I started off on this trail and started to build a legacy with this band within the umbrella of Country music trying to see where it took us. The next record is a hillbilly surf band record that is well underway! After that… I don’t know!
You’ve worked with so many people but is there anyone you want to work with that you haven’t yet?
Well oddly enough, the jazz musician Wynton Marsalis because I think he is doing in the jazz world what I am doing in Country. I see him as a kindred spirit; I appreciate how he has taken the path, made it fresh and turned it into a modern day curriculum and then added to it. Honouring the old timers while making it interesting enough to bring in new musicians and writers. He is the person I have my sights set on.
Country music often goes in circles from traditional to pop and back again,
You’re absolutely right; I got tired of chasing trends. I decided to go somewhere and stand where things are eternal and evergreen. I found myself back at the altar of Country music, I don’t concern myself with the trends that fly by, and I know we are at a steady and timeless place. We are making music that is timeless and it really doesn’t pander. There is a great relief living that way.
You recorded the new album in LA, was that deliberate to get out of Nashville?
For this particular record absolutely, these songs seemed to call for that authenticity. I knew we could record it in Nashville and it would be wonderful but there’s just something about the human element of it, where you walk into a studio and when you walk out you see capital tower in LA where Buck Owens and the Buckaroos and Merle Haggard the Stragglers recorded or you see palm trees and blue skies. The landscape inspires people to play different. It was the first time I’d ever gone to California to make a full record like this one. I felt that room, being in that room made me play different!
Anything you would like to say to your UK fans?
I would like to say thank you for a warm welcome to me and my band, the fans made it feel like it mattered and we are so excited to be invited back. I appreciate the love you all showed me.