By Jordyn Smith
Texas Country up-and-comer William Clark Green is steadily on the rise. After two successful albums, a slew of shows, and with musical inspirations in mind, William Clark Green is ready to rock out Chilifest. Green, went to high school right here in College Station, so playing in College Station has taken on some special meaning to Green and his boys. Chilifest will be no different, and Green is looking forward to playing and enjoying Chilifest 2016.
MW: Talk about Your most recent album Ringling Road, what was it like to make an album like this?
WCG: It was nerve wracking… our first album was well received, so our backs were against the wall because we didn’t know if we could make a better record than Rose Queen. Not to say Rose Queen was so ridiculously awesome, but it was definitely well received so the pressure was on with Ringling Road for sure. We feel like Ringling Road is our best record to date, we feel like we did a good job on that record.
MW: We really like the title track, it’s got a different vibe to it, and the music video was awesome to watch. How was doing a video like that different for you?
WCG: Well, it was really the only big production music video we’ve ever done, and it was a blast. Josh Abbott produced it. He came up with story line and was on set. The director was Evan Kaufman; he was pretty badass too. They took care of me–I didn’t really have to do anything except what they told me to do and drank Coors Light all day. We did it in California outside of LA and it was an interesting experience for sure.
MW: You have headlined shows and opened for a bunch of Texas Country greats, who are some of your favorites to open for? What are some of your favorite venues to play?
WCG: Venues are tough because my favorite places to play really depend on the crowd and what the crowd is doing. We can play a terrible place with an amazing crowd and have a blast. Lubbock is home for us, every time we go back there it’s fun. We have fun playing everywhere, there are definitely towns that we wish we wouldn’t play in but College Station playing at Harry’s is always a blast–they take such good care of us. Every place has their own quirks. Harry’s is a place you definitely get hammered at. Corpus is fun because it’s on the beach and we get to go have margaritas before the show on the beach. Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth is fun because it’s just Billy Bob’s. That’s an exhausting show because there are so many people backstage. Everyone has got their kind of quirks.
MW: You’ve worked incredibly hard throughout the course of your career to continue to bring new music to your fans. Your music has really evolved over the years. As a creative person, how do you keep grinding for new inspiration?
WCG: Um, I don’t know. I’m kind of going through that right now, after every release of a record there’s always a grace period of writer’s block. I just try not to force it, and just try to write the best songs I can. Songs come when they wanna come and I’ll work at it when I feel like working at it. There are some songwriters that write every day, and I’m definitely not one of those guys. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just kind of what I do. Songwriting is one thing that I have blessed to myself. It’s a very personal thing for me, the business is very shared and you’re constantly around people. So it just kinda happens when it happens and I write when I want to write and that’s the way it’s going to be or else I wouldn’t even be doing this.
MW: Over the past couple of years, you’ve played all over College Station, so how much fun is it playing Chilifest?
WCG: It’s a blast. I went to high school in College Station, and going to Chilifest as a high school kid was a big no-no because you knew you were just gonna get in trouble. So I never got to go when I was living there. Now being of age, it’s a lot of fun to go to.
For the past few years, Cody Canada, the former front man of Cross Canadian Ragweed, has been on a new project with The Departed. After a couple of albums and some incredible shows across the state of Texas, Cody is going back to the sound that made him and Cross Canadian Ragweed Texas Country Stars. The biggest takeaway from Cody is his authenticity and honesty, clearly reflected in his music and is felt when he speaks. From remembering the past Chilifest shows, to Merle Haggard, to working on a new record, we covered a lot of ground in this exclusive interview.
MW: You are well-known from your days in Cross Canadian Ragweed, we can remember seeing your videos on CMT back in the day. With The Departed, you have really gone back to your roots, how has it been touring and recording with this new band?
CC: It’s been great, we’ve been through several members just because I had a couple who didn’t want to do the old Ragweed tunes and I was like, “Well, you can call them Ragweed tunes all you want, but they’re mine.” So finally I landed two dudes in the band that are more than willing. It’s been easier, they want to play these old tunes, they want to write new ones, it’s whatever we want to do. Like today we said, “Let’s learn 10 Merle Haggard songs and play Merle Haggard all night tonight.” And they’re like “yeah cool.” A lot of people wouldn’t dig on that. It’s been great, it’s been easy. It feels wonderful.
MW: When you listen to music, who are some of your go-to artists?
CC: It’s kind of the same loop, I was always concerned about that and then one day I realized the reason I’m listening to these same tunes over and over because it’s good. Merle Haggard, the Eagles, Steve Miller, Steve Earle. I listen to a lot of Reckless Kelly, they’re our buddies and they’re so damn good. Lynard Skynyrd, Pearl Jam, and Merle Haggard are pretty much the ones that I listen to every day. My guilty pleasure is Sheryl Crow, I think she is such a good songwriter. Every time I say that I feel like someone is laughing at me somewhere but she’s great. She always reminded me of a female Dylan. That’s really about it. Some music is seasonal. When it gets around Halloween and the holiday season I switch off the rock n roll and usually it’s straight forward country and a lot of Frank Sinatra. In January and February it’s kind of a dead zone for me, I try to write as much as I can and not listen. I think if you listen too much you start rippin people off. There’s people who do it on purpose but there’s a lot who do it by accident. You’re so heavily influenced by somebody that this song accidentally sounds like their song.
MW: We definitely understand the loop. For us it’s a lot of The Eagles, George Strait, Eric Church.
CC: You know, George Strait was my first concert, I always go back to him. I listen to a lot more of the older stuff than the later stuff but I realized it wasn’t on purpose, it was just I got busy. I didn’t listen to anything new for years. I do now, but I was just so busy that I didn’t have time. We were writing so much and playing so many shows, 280 shows a year, I didn’t have time to learn something new or even hear something new. All the George Strait from ’80 to ’01 was good stuff.
MW: Rolling Stone said that you’re back with a “bigger, bolder, boomier version” of the sound you’ve been creating for two decades, do you agree with that observation?
CC: I’ve heard that and the back to the roots this and that. When Ragweed split, I had a lot of people saying I wouldn’t be able to do anything without them and I didn’t want to be cocky but I was like, “Man I wrote all these tunes.” It’s not like we were the best band in the world ya know, we weren’t just phenomenal guitar players. We were just playing honest music. When I got The Departed together for the first act of it, I did want to try something different and once I got to stand back and look at it, mind you, I realized it wasn’t me. I was trying to be somebody that I wasn’t and that’s when I went back to “Hey I’m going to start doing all these old tunes again.” I really got back to being myself, I don’t know if it’s a “roots” thing or a boomier sound. Eric and Ross it definitely made those old tunes thicker and heavier and better in my opinion.
MW: We think that authenticity really resonates with fans and has kept them coming back.
CC: I think you have to be honest. I learned that a long long time ago. You have to be honest, that’s where you relate to people through music and you’re going to have those people forever, supporting you. It’s about singing what people are going through. If you’re hurting, then lay it on the line and just open up the window to your soul, place your bets on the table and say, “This is it.” Then other people step forward and think, “That was really bold and brave and this is how I feel so I’m going to support you as long as you’re who you are.” When I started doing a different thing first with The Departed, I lost some fans because they thought I wasn’t being as honest as I used to be and they were right.
MW: Y’all will be on Friday night at Chilifest. Over the years, you’ve become a favorite in College Station, how good does it feel to be back?
CC: Oh yeah, you know it always feels good to go back to like the scene of the crime. We’ve played Chilifest so many times. I remember 2 nights. One night me and Pat Green almost went to jail. It wasn’t really that big of a deal but we grabbed some beer bongs from the confiscated pile and the cops busted us. Then one night we kidnapped George Strait’s kid and drove him all the way back to Gonzalez to see a concert. It wasn’t a kidnapping; he was very willing. It’s just good to be back, I’ve been doing this for 23 years now, which is kind of crazy for me. There was people back then when we started doing it that were kids and now they have kids. Now there’s going to be people way younger than me listening maybe for the first time, then there will be the people that who are listening to it for the 20th time so it feels good. We have a set list already drawn out for that night. I told the guys to make it pretty Ragweed heavy, to let everybody know we’re still doing these tunes.
MW: Hippie Love Punk – we love that name for a country album – was your latest release; we really liked the record, especially “Easy.” Any plans for new music?
CC: I’ve always been in a hurry. I want to do a record a year just because the music business is so fickle, and if you’re gone for two years, there’s so much, especially in this region of music. There are so many acts, if you slow down for a second, you kind of get lost in the mix. So an album a year is what I’ve always planned on. I did two last year, an acoustic record and Hippie Love Punk, so that bought me a little time. We’re getting ready to do a Jeremy Plato, he’s our bass player, and he’s been with me since the beginning of Ragweed. It’s going to be Jeremy Plato and the Departed. We’re doing this for his grandma. I’m about 10 songs deep on an actual record of my own, so I’m probably going to write about 5 more and hopefully, before the year is up, we’ll be in the studio recording. Before the year is up, you’ll have a Jeremy record anyway. I’m trying to take it easy, I don’t want to rush things.
RC from Turnpike
The Turnpike Troubadours, an Oklahoma Red-Dirt band, has slowly risen to the top of the Texas Country Music Scene. The band has become a fan favorite not only in the state of Texas, but all over the United States. Their twang mixed with rock and all thrown in with a fiddle on top has set their sound apart from many of their peers. The approach they have, the fire in their performance, and the honesty in their lyrics have kept fans coming back for more. With their most recent release in September, the Turnpike Troubadours have kept a busy schedule. They will be on stage at 2:00 p.m on Saturday at Chilifest. Below is Maroon Weekly’s exclusive interview with their Bass player RC.
MW: Y’all just released a new record back in September. We read where y’all recorded it at a converted chicken farm in Northern California. Being in that environment, what was the creative process like?
RC: Yeah, about an hour north of San Francisco. We really got a chance to settle in and live out there for a month and work on this record. That’s something we had never really had done before; we’ve always kind of made records between shows, a day or two here when we could get to the studio. So it was pretty neat to relax and settle in and really focus. That was all we did for four weeks, hang out and work on these songs. We lived in a little house together. It’s been a while since we have sat down and done that for that length of time. That was a big deal at first, setting the vibe. It was also the most focused we’ve ever been.
MW: As a group, y’all have played all over the country. What are some of your favorite venues? Are there any you would want to cross off your bucket list?
RC: We’ve been to Red Rocks before, but I would like to headline a show there. Headlining Red Rocks is a big one for me. It’s amazing to just go see the place. We were there setting up and all day long people were there exercising or just coming to see it. That’s kind of a bucket list. Our home Tulsa spots are my favorite venues, Cain’s Ballroom and the Mercury Lounge.
MW: Chilifest is a huge event in the College Station area. What is it like to come and play a show like this?
RC: We played Chilifest a year or two ago when Hank Jr. and Randy Rogers played, so those are our Chilifest memories. It was nuts, the only thing that might even be kind of close to it is Larry Joe Taylor but they’re different. It was crazy, we didn’t know what we were getting into. You just see cop cars and people lined up for miles. We had a blast last time we were there and I don’t expect anything less this time.
MW: A few of your songs will be featured on the new Netflix series “The Ranch.” How did that come about? Do you see it as an opportunity to continue to grow your fanbase?
RC: Definitely an opportunity to grow our fanbase. That’s the good thing about getting any of those type things on TV or movies. I think someone from the show approached our people, I think that’s how it came about. I wish I was buddies with Sam Elliott to pitch him a song!
MW: Who were some of your musical inspirations growing up and, as y’all are making new music, do you draw from those inspirations?
RC: Definitely, I think that’s how you come up with your sound. It’s a sum of all of our parts. For me, Hank Jr. and punk rock bands. Kyle has bluegrass influences. Ryan is old school honky-tonk, pickin, Gary Reed type stuff. For songwriting we like Townes [Van Zant] and Almighty 7’s. I always thought we sounded, especially in the early days, like the Old 97s with a fiddle player. I don’t know if that’s what we were going for but it’s something I liked. But it’s the sum of all the parts. None of us grew up together, so there’s a lot of different music we were into growing up. Everyone brings something different to the sound. We just play the way we play.