Steven Kapp Perry (SKP) chatted with singer/songwriter Bart
Crow (BC) recently during a LIVE edition of BYU Radio’s Highway89 show. (You
can hear the full performance and interview here.) This is a
transcript of most of their conversation.
SKP: This Texas town that you come from Bart, it almost
sounds like someone had to make this name up. It’s just too perfect!...Maypearl,
Texas in Ellis County, Texas. Population at the last census we saw [to be] a
very respectable 934. South of Dallas summers are hot and humid and we
thought, ‘Is this a real place?’ So we enlisted Google Maps and we just want to
say, if you go to Google Maps and you zoom in, there are a lot of pickup trucks
in the driveways of Maypearl.
BC: Yes sir.
SKP: And the fields are not too far away from what you’d
call the city center.
SKP: Even in high school you said your graduating class
you’d been to kindergarten with everybody.
BC: Absolutely. We didn’t even do a preschool, but there was
a daycare, ‘A’ daycare in Maypearl that everyone just went to. So then once we
went to the daycare long enough then that daycare would march us over to
kindergarten and we’d go to school from then on. So most of the people that I’m
still really close with, we went from three to four years old [and] our parents
were all good friends. And I mean, Maypearl’s a respected nine hundred and some
change now, but I know when I graduated high school it was 492…? Almost 500.
SKP: Wow…so it’s like, doubled!
BC: Yeah it’s like, huge! There’s a road and they’re going
to put a loop in before too long.
SKP: What a great place!
BC: Yes sir.
SKP: But how great to know people for that long.
BC: It is! It’s pretty remarkable. I’ve been gone for quite
a while, I went to the service out of high school, and then I went off to
college when I came back, then back to Maypearl having been gone since ’02. And
all my family still lives there and it’s nice to go back and know that it
doesn’t take you an entire week to see everyone, you can kind of knock it out
in about an hour.
SKP: That’s good. Well, we printed up this picture—
BC: Oh no.
SKP: --from Maypearl. It’s the Busy Bee Café on Main Street,
and it’s across from the baseball field. But on the red brick on the side,
painted in these great big white letters, it says “Back of the Bee Live Music.”
BC: That’s it.
SKP: So did you go hear music there? Did you go play music
BC: When I was a kid they had that, and then it went away in
teenage years…And then somewhere around [when] I’d gone off the college, I went
off to college in ’02, they opened the Back of the Bee back up…so they started
having music again. Coincidentally, I’d begun to play music 80 miles away where
I was in school in Stevenville, and so since they had the Back of the Bee up
and going I called Mark Gorman who booked that and he’s like, ‘Well, do you
think you can put some people in there?’ and I’m like, ‘Well I promise if I can’t
I should quit--
BC: ‘--because I’ve only been removed from Maypearl for a
few years and all my best friends and family still live there.’ And so yeah, I
spent a lot of time at the Back of the Bee.
SKP: Well we wanted to ask one more small-town-type
question. You mentioned in some stuff we read that you felt like you had time
to really dream and create partly because of being from a small place. Did
anybody ever say, ‘No, you can’t do that. You’ve got to live in a big city to
do what you want to do.’?
BC: No, no one said ‘you can’t.’ No one said ‘you could,’
either. Maypearl is a farm community. It is a working person, blue-collar,
that’s that. And I’ve taken it upon myself to look in hindsight and with all
due respect to the people I love from there, I just felt like no one dreams. I
mean even I, before, had this tangled thing in my head where I already knew I
was going to marry this girl I dated from Maypearl and we were going to live in
Maypearl and then when I got like a year older I’m like, ‘What on earth am I
thinking?’ And I mean, that’s the mentality. Most of my beautiful friends and
my beautiful family do that. They’ve never left. And I just kind felt like I
always had one foot out the door.
BREAK FOR SONGS: “CITY LIMIT SIGNS” and “COME BACK TOMORROW”
BC: That’s the Busy Bee. “Come Back Tomorrow” is 100% about
the Busy Bee.
SKP: That’s so great. I love having a place in my mind that
you’re singing about.
BC: I was curious if the Google Street Image showed when you
walk out [of] the Bee, or if you’re looking at the front of the Bee, if you’re
able to look 90 degrees to your right and left you would see each end of the
town. There’s no stoplights, there’s no nothing, it’s just a two-lane blacktop
that goes through there. So writing that song, there was a lot of movies filmed
in and around Maypearl, and you just knew growing up in Maypearl when you’re at
the café and somebody from the film crew [was there]. They just dressed
‘cooler,’ had cooler hair than all of us--
BC: --and you just knew who was on the film crew. And I’ve
often felt going back home that’s how I’m perceived, even by people that know
and love me. ‘Cause I walk in and, you know, I just dress and do things a
little differently. And I’ve spent many nights leaving the Busy Bee, walking
across that two-lane blacktop and stopping and looking both ways and just
having a little nerdy moment like, ‘God, what a good place to grow up, what a
great place to get out of.’
SKP: Well you did get out. You started touring and you
started going all over Texas and Oklahoma for years.
BC: Yes sir.
SKP: Touring beyond that [in] Tennessee and Nebraska and now
even to Europe.
BC: Yes. Those are the moments where, coming back from being
rooted in Maypearl, nobody does what I’m doing. I even have multiple moments of
pinching myself. I flew 25 hours to Italy and played a gig that night, and did
10 dates in Italy, then flew to France and played a couple of shows in France.
I’ve done an acoustic tour in Ireland the last couple years. And those are the
moments where I’m like, ‘All because I wrote some songs on a guitar, was too
stubborn to get a real job, and a little bit lazy, and so madly in love with
music, and I just haven’t given up.’ And I look up and it’s 13 years where I’ve
gotten to do some really neat stuff.
SKP: We read that some of those
what-were-supposed-to-be-hour-long gigs in Europe turned into 2 hours, 3 hours.
So some serious fans!
BC: They were incredible. They were absolutely incredible. I
had a little going for me because blond-haired, blue-eyed and from Texas. And
the Italians were just like, “We’ve got to see this cowboy. Where’s your cowboy
BC: But I did an acoustic show on Romini Beach and had over
a thousand people. And I promise you, if one of them said ‘I love this song,’
ten of them said ‘We just need to see the blond-haired guy from Texas.’
BC: So I’m like, ‘Cool, man!’
SKP: Whatever works!
BC: ‘I’m glad you’re here regardless.’
SKP: It seems like you must have been in shock when you
actually got to do the Grand Ole Opry.
BC: Oh my goodness.
SKP: Ryman auditorium. This was something that had sort of
been in your family. Both grandpas had been interested followers.
BC: Oh very much so. My late grandfather grew up in [the]
Depression Era, and they all listened to the Grand Ole Opry. And my grandfather
that’s still I alive, I mean it was just their thing. They just always, [from]
barn dances…so getting to play it was very special because I felt like I took
them with me. For me it was almost, leading up to it, I didn’t know what to
think because it was never on my radar. It was just such an off-hand like, ‘oh
yeah, I’m going to play the Grand Ole Opry one day ha-ha.’
SKP: As in, ‘I’m a dreamer but that’s just sort of beyond—‘
BC: Yeah! It really wasn’t in my collective idea of dreaming
until I got it. Because even when my publicist called and offered it my exact
words were, ‘Oh cool. Yeah.’ And when I hung up the phone I was like, ‘”Yeah
cool?” That’s it?’ so I called her back and I’m just like, ‘Dixie. I have a
tendency to have a pirate mouth and I’m really excited right now and you’re a
lady and we haven’t been working together that long and I don’t know where
“Yeah cool” came from but I’m ecstatic about this. I can’t breathe right now.
And a little bit of me is making sure that we won’t get the call tomorrow like,
“Whoops! Never mind, we found somebody else.”’
BC: So you know, it was magical.
SKP: So you walked out that night on the stage. Were you
able to sort of forget all that and just perform?
BC: I was. I don’t know how or why. But I was in Nashville
the whole week doing press, and I really believe [that] having talked about it
so much it was kind of one of those things where I was at peace. Like, ‘God,
I’m either going to bomb or do great. You know what’s happening, this is all
I’ve got.’ Because we’d talked about it so much we’d talked the jitters away,
then when we got to the Opry we were there so many hours before we played, we
just got to get comfortable with the Opry staff and the band are so amazing and
talented and so welcoming, so all the fears went away. I was even baffled by
it. Because even walking out it was like, ‘What’s up, Opry?’
BC: I didn’t actually say that. I was very polite and very
knowing where I was, but in my head that’s how I felt. And the weeks leading up
to it I was like, ‘Oh my gosh I’m going to pass out on stage. What’s going to
BREAK FOR SONG: “BABY COME BACK HOME”
SKP: You talk a little bit about ‘Searching for who you are’
and I love that you talk about going through pictures and saying ‘oh that’s who
I was then.’ Sort of by what the style was, or if you had a skateboard, or
something like that. Trying to figure out who you were in retrospect, I think
that’s kind of interesting. And then looking ahead.
BC: Very much so. Again, all things go back to Maypearl. I
grew up in a rodeo, hard-working, blue collar family. We lived in the country,
so who gets a skateboard for Christmas? Me! But guess who has a 10x10 porch and
then gravel and dirt?
BC: So then some buddies moved into town that were from
other towns and they had skateboards so we’d go into town and ‘oh I’m
skateboarding’ and then ‘oh I’m back to going to rodeos again.’ ‘Oh it’s
summertime, I don’t want to rodeo I want to hang out with my buds and play
baseball.’ Next thing you know I look up and I’m racing dirt bikes. Just
constant trying to find out who I am.
Even at 39 I still do that. I’m certainly still searching for who I am.
SKP: Some people would say that’s well-rounded. You tried a
bunch of things.
BC: I would say that. I think it’s cool to do that, to not
be so limited and isolated. I come from a father who’s a 9th-grade
dropout self-made multi-millionaire. Married my mother at 16 and blinders-on we
work work work work work and build this drywall corporation. That’s the
mentality that I come from. You don’t bounce around the world playing your
guitar, being broke all the time. So me doing it, I still struggle with ‘Am I
supposed to be getting to do this? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?’
SKP: ‘Am I allowed to be happy with what I love?’
BC: Exactly! It’s a constant struggle between artistry and
reality and family and travelling. And, you know, the storm sometimes keeps me
awake at night but I think that’s who I am, I think that if the road was paved
out for me I’d go a little crazy.
SKP: I was going to ask about this, the 6th
album: The Parade. That we’ve been talking about, that you’ve been playing a
bunch of songs from. Do you feel like you’re in some sort of groove of
album-making? It seems like it must have been intense the first time. ‘Will
this fly, will this not?’ Are you past that? Or do you ever get past [it]?
BC: I don’t. I don’t have the confidence to go in and be
like, ‘Hey Steve! Wow, you’re a producer? I’ve got ten songs, let’s go in and
record them and make an awesome record.’ Mine’s more constantly searching. The
first record? Just dumb college kids, barely had any money, made a $4,000
record that sounded like a $400 record.
SKP: That takes some skill!
BC: We didn’t know what we were doing, ignorance was bliss
and we were just having a good time. The second time I thought I wanted to be more
rock-and-roll so we went down to this big studio in San Antonio and I just live
in Austin, an hour away, but we didn’t even have the money to drive
back-and-forth so we just slept in the studio. Then the third one I was with a
guy and he was like, ‘You’ve got to make your record in Nashville. That’s where
it’s going down!’ and I go make this big record in Nashville and I fly in and I
get my car and it’s in this basement. In a house in east Nashville. So I’m
like, ‘Okay, this isn’t really what I pictured but whatever.’ Then we made the
live record and then we made Dandelion. Dandelion was the first one where I
felt like I was with a group of dudes who brought me in their circle. Session
players that tour in a band. And I didn’t know any of them, they were already
rehearsing the songs when I got to the studio, but they’d been in a band
together, the Pat Green band, for 16 years. This group of five guys. And then I
walk in and they treat me like I’ve been there since day 1. And we make this
great record. We call ourselves the A-Team Plus One.
BC: I reassembled the A-Team Plus One for “Parade,” and what
was different is just constantly trying to out-do what you did yesterday. And
“Parade” actually took 17 months to make without realizing ‘Oh my goodness
we’ve been making a record for 17 months.’ And that was with me still writing.
We’d record 16-hour days for 5 days, and then all the guys would go on the road
with their respective bands and we wouldn’t see each other for months. Then
we’d come back and we’d just hustle for five days and record more music. This
went on like every third or fourth month—
SKP: So you’re still writing during the whole process?
BC: The whole process. Which is cool because look at this
stuff, if we had come through and just knocked [the album] out in two weeks,
these songs, we wouldn’t even have them. Would I have even ever written them? I
don’t know. I was still trying to get material because I was still trying to
outdo the last session of cool songs that we did. And at the same time, after
we got to the end I was just exhausted. Just overstressing, overthinking. I
wasn’t being creative, I was being forced. So now I’ve just begun writing
again. As in, last night.
BC: And I feel great. I feel like I’m on this ‘Writer’s
High.’ I’m also worried to death that I can’t write songs better than the ones
we did on “Parade” so I don’t know what I’m going to do, man.
SKP: Well one song is called “One night With You” and we
have to ask because, suddenly, a saxophone shows up!
BC: I know!
SKP: Not the most rock/folk/country of instruments!
BC: I wish that I could honestly look you in the eye and
say, ‘Yes, I had that one up my sleeve,’ but no my producer Justin Pollard who
produced “Dandelion” and “Parade,” I didn’t know him until that first moment
when he came through the door. When I first got to the studio I walked in and I
was like, ‘Okay, who’s Justin? Who’s that guy that I hate talking on the phone
with because he interrupts me and won’t let me finish my sentences.’
BC: He’s like my best friend/brother now. And he talks kinda
street and he’s like, ‘I’m gonna put a sax right here’ and I just gave him the
most barrel-eye-roll because, with all due respect to saxophone players, I’m
not a fan of the instrument. And he’s like, ‘Bro, trust me.’ And I’m like,
SKP: Those are famous last words for so many situations.
BC: I know and I just said, ‘Okay dude,’ and he said ‘I mean
we can do it your way,’ and I was like, ‘No don’t start this with me, don’t try
to turn this around, just okay.’ And, man, when I heard it I was floored. I was
absolutely floored. It works so beautifully and so perfectly. I have completely
eaten my words and bowed to Justin more than once over that one.
BREAK FOR SONGS: “DEAR MUSIC” and “LIFE COMES AT YOU FAST”
SKP: That song [Life Comes At You Fast] was the most-played
song on the Texas Country Music chart the year it came out. Was that a surprise
to you—that it did so well?
BC: Oh absolutely.
SKP: It shouldn’t have been. It’s a great song.
BC: Well thank you. There’s a lot of good music, though. It
was cool. I was very grateful. I don’t want this to come off like ‘ya
ungrateful toot,’ it wasn’t that. I had no clue, I did not expect that.
SKP: I want to ask about family, and maybe this is a cliché
to ask the guy who’s the ‘walkin’ man’ as James Taylor would say, the guy who’s
out on the road all the time doing over a hundred shows a year, but you seem to
work really hard on staying anchored to home. Even talking to kids, including
those twins, things like Skyping.
BC: I think it’s a great time to be a kid. I mean a young
kid, with FaceTime and Skype and things like that, if you have a working
travelling parent. It’s a cool opportunity. If this is the way it’s got to be,
then you have that means to see them at night, say prayers with them through
Facetime and Skype and stuff.
SKP: And even reading books?
BC: Absolutely. I’ll tell you what I do, if I was going to
brag on anything that I do, I work hard on being a good and cool dad. Full of
discipline, but full of fun. I have a lot of friends who are like, ‘I can’t see
how you can do it, how you can be gone so much,’ and my rebuttal is, ‘Well I
don’t see how you get up at 4:30 in the morning and leave the house by 5:30 and
don’t get home until 6:30 that evening and you have three hours.’ I have all
day with my boys whenever I’m home. And when they’re not in school, especially
the oldest, we’re connected at the hips. We do piano lessons together, we do
BC: All five of us go to the playground and swim together. I
think the biggest, most amazing thing God has ever blessed me with is getting
to be a dad. That’s the one thing I will not fail at. Preeeeetty sketchy on
BC: –but being a dad is the one thing that’s most honored to
SKP: Now I think I heard a lyric about Joshua Trees in that
BC: Yes sir.
SKP: There’s a place that some people love, the Joshua Tree
National Park, you go there all the time. Some people think that there’s
nothing there. But what do you see?
BC: I don’t see, I feel. My wife and I used to go out there,
we’re huge Grant Parsons fans. That was our calling to go out there and stay in
the Joshua Tree. We went one time and it was just so magical. She paints, and
she does poetry, and she draws, I write
songs and be goofy. Those are our things that we do and we go out there [and]
it has a spirit about it. It has a feeling. And if you get it you get it and if
you don’t, well, from my angle that’s unfortunate for you but it’s not for
everyone. I was just out there earlier this month and I was out there shooting
a music video. We shot in LA and shot in the Hollywood hills and shot three
days in Joshua Tree National Park, Joshua Tree Inn, Palm Springs. It’s one of
my place[s]. I can just go out there with pen and paper, it’s just a magical
place for me.
SKP: I have a friend who says it’s the most beautiful place
in the world. And the first time I went I thought he must have been someplace
SKP: And then later it started to grow on me.
BC: I don’t know if even as much as I love it if I would
throw that strong of a statement but I still, yes, I love Joshua Tree and it
was fun to work that into that song.
SKP: I’ve got that one of your grandfathers lived in Buffalo
Springs Lake. The Oasis of Texas for 25 years, did I get that right?
BC: Yes sir you did.
SKP: WE read that you spent your summers out there and that
he played music.
BC: He did.
SKP: What did he do? What did he play?
BC: My grandfather, his name was L. C. Crow, he played
guitar and was in a band or had a band for all of my life until a couple of
years before he passed away.
SKP: So when you were older and picked up the guitar, was
that already in there because of him?
BC: I think a little bit. My dad also was a lead player just
in a ‘weekend warrior’ band, they played some dance halls and VFWs, but that
was short-lived maybe I don’t know [until I was] 4 or 5 years old and then he
quit because he was working too much. But going out those summers and staying with
my grandfather, he would draw chords on a piece of paper and I would play his
guitar and we’d listen to any and everything that Bob Wheels and Lefty Frizzell
and Ernest Tubb, anything they recorded, he had.
BC: Of course, I was wanting to hear, wanting him to teach
me to play some Motley Crue or even some of the rap music I was listening to at
the time and he was just like, ‘Go home.’
BC: But yes so I’d spend summers out there and it was a fun
time. When he passed he actually left me his guitar that I travel and play
SKP: Oh my goodness.
BC: So that’s kind of cool.
SKP: That’s way cool.
Highway 89 is
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Produced in BYU Broadcasting's state-of-the-art
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