Texas country star Clint Black first won national attention with his song “Killin’ Time,” but Black has spent little time doing that in the nearly three decades following that No. 1 single.
Black’s combination of singing voice and songwriting propelled him to four consecutive No. 1 hits including 1989’s “Killin’ Time” and his first two albums sold more than 3 million copies each.
Since then, the Beaumont-raised performer has continued that initial success, tallying nearly 40 songs on the country charts, 22 of which were No. 1 singles, including “A Better Man,” “Like The Rain,” “When I Say I Do” and “When My Ship Comes In.”
He’s sold more than 20 million albums, earning four Grammy Award nominations for Best Male Country Vocal Performances. He started and ran his own record label, Equity Music Group. He’s appeared in such film and television productions as “Maverick,” “Flicka 2,” “Still Holding On: The Legend Of Cadillac Jack,” “Nashville Star,” “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Coming Home.”
Most recently, Black, 56, is working on his first stage musical, “Looking for Christmas,” which debuts next month in San Diego, and will perform his Christmas-themed “A Clint Black Christmas,” joined by his wife Lisa Hartman Black, for several dates in December.
Black performs Friday at the Waco Hippodrome and at midweek fewer than 20 tickets were available, nearly all in the balcony section. The Hippodrome also is offering a pre-concert barbecue brisket buffet for an additional $12.
Black was unavailable for a phone interview due to scheduling, but agreed to answer several questions via email.
You’ve had remarkable sustained success as a singer and songwriter for some 30 years. What has changed in your songwriting and your audiences over that time and what do you think has stayed the same?
My process has benefited from technology and my growth as an instrumentalist/producer/engineer, etc… Also, my experiences. I can now create nearly whole demo tracks in a matter of minutes, once I have an arrangement of a song in mind, and then write the lyrics with the song track playing over and over. It’s more inspiring sometimes than just playing it on guitar.
And, having learned so much about music in these last 30 years, I can see many more options musically. As my life experiences have grown in number and my reading list has grown, I’m also able to have new ways of looking at things and deeper feelings about those things.
One thing that hasn’t changed is, I won’t let executives tell me what to record. Never did, never will. And they’ve tried! Hard. I was once told by the head of RCA that his reason for getting me to record “outside songs” was because, “they” — meaning the publishers — “just wanted a little taste.” Direct quote. I could not think of a worse reason to let someone else write my songs for me.
Has your work in film, TV and stage shaped how you write or do music these days?
Everything shapes my writing but I couldn’t put a finger on that area of my influences. I can compare writing to acting as they can be similar in the search for the meaning of a scene or the point of a scene and the point of my song idea. I have to create some fiction but also root it in real feelings.
You’ve played Waco many times. What can fans expect from your Oct. 13 show at the Hippodrome? How do you and your band handle the challenge of deciding which hits to play in a concert of limited time?
We’re going to do a lot of hits, a few album cuts, some favorite “covers” and have some good laughs. Also the band is fantastic and I give them all a chance to show off. So if you like to hear great musicians really play, you’ll enjoy the show.
Any surprises in creating a stage production that you’ve had in preparing “Looking For Christmas”?
Well, I wouldn’t say I was surprised by any of it, but I learned a lot about how it’s done. I knew it would be a learning experience so I went into it ready to learn. That’s the key in doing something new; know what you don’t know and be ready to learn it!
Last year at about this time, you joined Lyle Lovett and Don Henley in a Hurricane Harvey benefit. Any chance, barring another Texas hurricane, that you three might perform together again?
I would love to have that experience over again, but I don’t see it on the horizon. It was a great treat and very rewarding to raise money for my home state. My share of the money raised will go directly to people in Katy, Texas where I spent my formative years and where much help is still needed.
Thanks for your help! We’re looking forward to returning to Waco next weekend!