Interview with Marty Stuart

In June this year, (1999) Marty Stuart released his new album The Pilgrim, a story told in music about a tragedy which took place in the town where Marty lived as a child. It has gained rave reviews in the country music press and I reviewed it myself in our July edition.

The story tells of a man named Norman who Marty knew. Norman married Rita, the local beauty queen, but after a while Rita becomes tired of Norman’s jealousies and possessiveness and started a friendship with a man she works with at the local hospital, The Pilgrim. He doesn’t know that Rita is married and begged her to marry him. Norman feels the chill at home and has his suspicions, that Rita is about to leave him. He writes a letter to Rita, picks up his gun and goes to look for her. He finds her sitting in the break room at the hospital, holding hands with the Pilgrim. Norman is in a rage and making threats and finally Rita has to tell the Pilgrim who Norman is. Norman looks at the Pilgrim and with dead eyes saying, "I just wanted to meet the man that tore up my home and let him see what it’s done". Norman kissed Rita, told her he loved her more than life itself and handed her the letter, before pointing the gun at his own head and pulling the trigger. Rita left town and the Pilgrim is crucified by the small town gossips and ran away, hitchhiking across America. He finally comes to his senses and realises he needs Rita and she probably needs him. He goes back to find her and now they live happily together, with a family.

The full story is told in the liner notes of the album. I recently had the opportunity of an interview with Marty Stuart and here are my questions and the answers from Marty: -

First I would like to say how much I enjoyed listening to Marty’s new album The Pilgrim. It epitomises what country music is all about, a story of life told in music.

1. You say that the album is based on a true story of a man you knew as a young boy. Why did you feel a need to make the album based on this story?

"I’ve always loved stories, songs, or movies, or books that made you think about them for a while, after you were introduced to them. This story was buried deep inside me. At dinner one evening some of us were swapping stories. This one surfaced from my childhood. It was a spooky tale with a happy ending. Some where in the distant it reminded me of one of my favourite songs; ‘Long Black Veil’. It impressed me as a song then it kept growing."

"I felt after several years of making albums, that tried to innovate, keep up and play by the rules of the system, that it was time to go for broke, ignore the rules and do what truly was lurking around in my heart and so the result is the Pilgrim."

2. When did you start work on the project and how long did it take to complete.

"I started the project in the fall of 1996 at Sun Studio’s in Memphis. From there it was a 3-1/2 year journey."

3. Several top-flight artistes guest on the album. How did the selection of these artistes come about and did you find it easy to recruit these artistes to take part in the project.

"The more involved I became in creating this work, the more I saw it as some sort of an opera. I wanted new and veteran classics to lend their magic to the album. It was all very predictable, one of the cool things about living in Nashville and coming in off the road at Christmas, is that usually we’re bored and often trying something different to do than we’ve done all year."

4. You were Nashville’s Ambassador for Tourism a few years ago and co-hosted our own first Great British Country Music Awards in March 1995. Can you tell me a little about holding this position?

"I love representing Nashville, I was drawn to the city very early on. It’s a town that takes its heritage seriously. The music is what I love. I hope the British Awards are coming along. I was proud to be a part of your first one."

5. I believe you now hold another prestigious position; can you also tell me something about that?

"The president of the Country Music Foundation. When you come to Nashville, go visit the Country Hall of Fame and you’ll understand why I’m proud to be associated with it." (This is Marty’s third term as president).

6. Has there been a particular album of your own, that you consider to be the most satisfying to have released.

"I loved Tempted. However The Pilgrim is one of those projects I’d always like to be remembered for."

7. What do you consider as your most satisfying achievement today?

"Connie Smith’s latest album, it’s state of the art Country Music." (Connie is now married to Marty)

8. Are their any other ambitions, which you would still like to achieve?

"I still have to have a No 1 song. I could use a stone cold hit right now. And if I could play the steel guitar."

9. A few months ago you produced a great album for Connie. She has released some great material during her career. Are we likely to see anything new from her in the near future?

"We’re talking about that right now."

10. I think I am right in saying that the last time you performed in the UK was in April 95 on the New American Tour, with Emmylou, Trisha and Rodney Crowell. Are we likely to see you tour over here in the near future. It surely would be great to see you again.

"It’s time to come to Europe, I miss the audience. I want to be a part of the music world there. The Pilgrim, I feel gives me reason to come visit. Trying to sort something for early 2000."

Behind every great man there is a great woman, say hello to Connie. Thanks for your time.

"Connie sends her love to all of you as well."

Interviewed by Graham Lees

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