Sometimes you’ll do an interview with an artist and you know that it’s going to be hard work, this is never the case with Texan artists. William Clark Green is one of the biggest names in the Texas country music scene, with four studio albums, a live album and an upcoming new LP, Hebert Island, to his name. With his signature blend of rock ‘n’ roll with country music, Clark Green is recognised as one of the best live acts in the Lonestar State.
We were lucky enough to get to chat with him in the week before the release of his record, an interview where he shared his nerves ahead of the release, talked about his needs to change, the country music scene and much much more.
It’s exciting times for you, ‘Hebert Island’ comes out next week. How excited are you to get the album out there?
I wouldn’t say excited. I’m just so ready, we worked so hard on this for so long, I’m exhausted! I want to re-route already! It was supposed to be out in April, we had to delay it because of some mixing issues, so we’ve been kind of fighting tooth and nail to get this son of a bitch out! I’m most fired up because I believe that this is my best record and I’m excited for people to hear it, I’m more anxious than anything. I really want people to like it, whenever you put your heart and soul into something it’s really difficult, I might love it but that doesn’t mean everyone else will! The only thing that I can do is what I’d want to do and listen to and hope it translates. I’m definitely anxious! I hope that people think it’s my best record, every record that we’ve come out with it’s been the general consensus that every record is our best record, so I’m hoping that this will follow suit. We’ll see, I’m more anxious than anything, for sure!
Well I’ve had the album for a couple of weeks and am really loving it. It’s interesting that you’re confident this is your best album, how do you think that your sound has developed since ‘Ringling Road’?
No, I mean the band has been the same. We changed producers. I just think it’s maturity, man. I think that I’m writing more about the future and not dwelling on the past. I think that comes across more mature and optimistic. I think it’s a true reflection of who I am and what I’m going through in life or what I’ve noticed. I think the older I get, the more I see the reality of actual situations and maybe less face value. I think that my writing has got more into the heart of the matter. It’s been a slow progression, I don’t think it’s a big 180 turn on anything we’ve been doing but I do think this record is different than our last record. I think from 29 to 32 I’ve figured a lot out about myself and what the world is all about.
I know what you mean by it being more optimistic, looking back at ‘Ringling Road’, two of my favourite songs on that record were ‘Sympathy’ and ‘Sticks and Stones’. They have that angst of being in your twenties…
Yeah, a little cocky! Hit You Where It Hurts kind of has that flair, that’s kind of my wheelhouse, writing angry tunes. This record I really tried to branch out into a different type of songs. When I wrote Ringling Road, I was literally exhausted and I took six or eight months off writing because I didn’t care anymore! I just felt completely complacent, every song I wrote, I just really fucking hated! I was like “this sucks! I can write this song all day long!” I really spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to go about this new record differently. I wrote with some different people and a bunch on my own, I don’t know where it kind of happen but after Ringling Road I just didn’t want to write the same damn songs again. It’s such a fine balance being a songwriter. It’s never been about the money, it’s always been about the songs, that’s always been what I care about. Playing shows is fun but the best part is writing songs and seeing them come to life in the studio, that’s why I’ve never done an outside cut, I don’t consider myself a performer, I’m a songwriter that performs my songs. If I had to perform other people’s songs I wouldn’t do it. If I’m not happy in the songwriting realm, it’s not going to work (laughs). I don’t really care about that side of things, I love touring, it’s fun but songwriting is the heartbeat of it all. If someone approached me with a song and said “hey, if you cut this song, you’ll be a superstar” I wouldn’t do it!
It seems like that’s a very Texan attitude, it’s all about the songs whereas in other parts of the country there seems to be more of a chase to become a superstar?
I think this whole thing is something that I’ve created for myself. It’s an entire business that I’ve created by putting pen to paper, that’s how simple it is. To me, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I’d hate to look back at the end of my career on an album full of songs I didn’t write and regret it. At least I can blame myself if a record sucks! It’s my writing! I feel like, as long as I’m involved, I don’t think it will suck. I’m tooting my own horn, it’s just dissecting and really thinking about it. I think the fan base recognises it too, when guys like me stop writing songs and have other people do it, I think that’s when the careers start going down. Like I said, I’m a songwriter and that’s it. If I stop doing that, this would be the worst business ever to be in (laughs).
I wanted to talk a little about the title of the album, Hebert Island, where did that come from? And are you getting sick of people pronouncing it wrong yet? (It’s pronounced ‘a-bear’)
It’s like jumping in the shower and bitching about being wet! I knew it was going to happen! I’m not gonna do that and say “I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t speak Creole!” I think it’s cool for people to pronounce it correctly, I want my fans to because I think it’s cool for people to do that! It’s my dad’s mother’s maiden name, Hebert, and they were French and came to Louisiana and then they settled in Abbeville, Louisiana and moved to Texas, just outside of Beaumont, because the US government was selling this property. They bought this thing for dirt cheap, it was pretty much this swamp and they bought 40,000 acres for a penny an acre back in 1869. I think it was actually half a cent an acre. This family ranch has been in my family since 1869 and it’s all bayou and marsh. Hebert Island is where I built a cabin, I say a cabin, I pretty much dragged a shipping container out to this hill in the middle of the marsh and called it Hebert Island because that’s the name of our family. It’s literally just a five or six foot pad where, when it rains, it turns into an island because it’s the only dry land there. Right now, when it’s dry, you can drive to it no problem but when it rains you have to take a boat because it floods around the entire thing 360. That’s literally where it came from, a place in the middle of nowhere that I have a shipping container! It’s a family name!
Talking about the album, you’ve been playing a lot of shows and touring. Are there any tunes on the record that have been resonating with the crowds and you’ve been enjoying playing live?
Oh yeah! We start every show with Hebert Island, we’re doing Hit You Where It Hurts, which is the single. It’s been weird because we’ve been getting requests, we were in Colorado last week and someone requested Goner, which is one of my favourite songs on the record! I was shocked! She Loves Horses gets requested a lot too, so there’s a lot of promise! Before Ringling Road came out people were requesting that, when Rose Queen came out people were requesting She Likes The Beatles, so I feel like it’s a good sign and it shows the excitement. I think She Loves Horses is gonna be a big song for us.
That was one that I thought straight away “I need to hear this live!”
Yeah, I think it would be a cool song for George Strait to do. I feel like it’s kind of a George Strait song, not that he knows who I am or gives a fuck! We’ve never done a traditional country song before on a record and I feel like that song is. It’s got our little rocking twist to it but that’s what I really wanted to do on this record, kind of branch out to different areas and do stuff that we’ve never really done before. It’s kind of a serious country song and that was fun to do! I hope to do a lot more of them.
Have you got a particular favourite on the album at the moment?
Goner. Mother is the one with the most emotional attachment. They’re all special. Drunk Again is literally who I am right now in life, you know? That’s my story to a tee. I think Poor is a good one. When I’m in the car I love hearing Wings. I think it’s different to anything we’ve done, it’s really unique and I love the way that it’s put together. I’d say Wings is my favourite to listen to.
I love it. That big ending could fill a stadium…
(Laughs) It’s pretty wide, you know? I just love the way it came out. It’s just a different song, I’ve never done one like that and that’s what’s so fun about it, you know? Like I said earlier, I can’t do the same damn thing every record, it’s dangerous to do that because… when I hear a Chris Knight record, I’m a huge Chris Knight fan and when I hear a Chris Knight record I wanna hear a Chris Knight record! I don’t want anything to change! From a fans standpoint I understand not wanting records to change but for me as an artist I literally can’t do the same damn thing. I can’t. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing yet. I don’t even know if we’ve figured out what we’re doing yet. I don’t know! I feel like we have a better idea but, like I say, I’m anxious because I know we dialled some different things on this record. I hope it’s not as noticeable to them as it is to me, does that make sense?
Absolutely. I think it still has the heart of what you’re all about. Moving on to the UK, are you aware of anyone listening to your music here or a fan base?
No, other than just Spotify numbers. I was talking with Wade Bowen and, I love travelling, I’m not married and I don’t have kids, I’m literally like telling my booking agent and manager “I’ll do anything!” I’d absolutely love to come over there and test the waters, whether full band or acoustic, I’m all in! At the end of the day, it’s finding the time of year we can do it where we can afford to not play the bigger shows over here. I’m not worried about not making money over there but losing the money I’m making here. We’ve got 15 mouths to feed in our camp. I’d absolutely love to though!
It’s interesting that you mention Wade Bowen, as he’s been over here a few times. Aaron Watson is also getting quite a following now too. You guys are songwriters and that’s what we love over here. I have no doubt that you could get a great crowd in London with just an acoustic guitar. We’re not exclusively about the Nashville mainstream over here, there’s a real variety of tastes and we’re generally open to so many styles.
The bar scene is exploding right now and I think people are getting sick and tired of being fed bullshit songs! (laughs) They’re seeing the forest for the trees, they’re aware, they hear the same damn words in every song, just packaged different! They’re noticing it! So they’re not listening and are literally turning to our scene, which is really cool! None of the artists sound the same, mainstream artists all sound the same, they’re just packaged a little different! Everybody in our scene is doing their own thing and nobody is copying. When someone gets huge, nobody copies each other, we just stick to what we do! Our scene is real. I’m not saying it’s better, it’s just more real and more authentic. I just think that people are sick and tired of being fed bullshit lyrics and that’s literally what they’re getting right now! It’s just going to keep growing and growing the worse it gets over there.
Sure. You’ve got things like the Texas Music Takeover that comes over here every year too. Aaron Watson is doing full band tours. It’s similar to what’s happening in the States, people want that variety…
For sure. We were talking about it last week. I’d just love to come. I’ll have to talk to Watson when he finishes his tour and see how it went and what his recommendations are. I think there’s a void and I think we’re filling it. This scene is not old, it literally started, go back to Guy Clark and Willie and Waylon, I don’t consider it that old. I think our scene started with Robert Earl Keen and Pat Green, that’s the era when the more defined Texas scene started. That was 98, 99, maybe 2000 when it started. It’s brand new. There’s no record labels infiltrating it, the radio is not bought, it’s all independent so it’s really up to the artists and their small teams that they build. I really hope it stays that way. I think once the record labels realise there’s money to be made they’ll start coming in and taking over, that would just absolutely destroy the scene.
From talking to you guys on the Texas scene, it feels like you’ll never let that happen!
Yeah, it’s kind of a bizarre time right now. Radio’s kind of getting taken over. In my opinion, Spotify is protecting this scene internationally and just outside Texas. We would travel to Chicago, Indiana or wherever, we’d show up to a town and the only people that came to our shows were people that were from Texas and were transplanted! They maybe brought a couple of friends from the area but now when we play shows, there are grassroots fans developed from Spotify and from the area we’re playing. I just think it’s so accessible now, you don’t have to be from a radius to hear it, you just have to be on the internet and I think that’s a huge step forward for our scene! I think it’s helped out because nobody can contain us! They used to block us on national radio, and I get it, but they can’t do that now!
Well you guys really are taking the bull by the horns. Like I say, I wish you the best of luck with Hebert Island, I think it’s a great record!
Thanks man! Like I say, I’m just anxious now!