Ever wonder why certain artists seem to have been around forever? Talent has a lot to do with it, but having the right attitude is perhaps more important. Grammy-winning singer George Strait can certainly attribute his longevity to continuing to make great records, touring regularly, giving his fans what want, as well as his humble demeanor and professionalism. It’s no wonder he’s one of the most beloved stars in country music.
And unlike many country legends, Strait hasn’t had multiple divorces, arrests, trips to rehab or a personal life that’s all over the tabloids. (Strait married his high-school sweetheart, Norma, in 1971, and they’re still married today.) Strait’s 2009 album “Twang” found him dabbling in different musical styles other than pure country. The album also features Strait’s Spanish-language debut with “El Rey,” the first song he has sung entirely in Spanish. Strait sat down to talk about making the “Twang” album in this interview.
Why do you think you’ve lasted so long in this business?
Even though I’ve been doing it for so long, I still feel fresh. Even when I walk out on stage, I still feel pretty much the same as I’ve always felt.
What was the songwriting process like for “Twang”?
“Twang,” for example, the title of the record, didn’t come about until after the record was done. It’s such an obvious title for it. If twang isn’t what I do, I don’t know what is. All the songs are different. I think that all my albums are different enough where I don’t feel like I did this the last time. Sure, it’s country music. I’m not trying to change that, but each song is different.
George Strait at a college football game in Austin, Texas, in September 2009
What can you say about “Living for the Night,” the first single from “Twang”?
I had the idea for “Living for the Night” for a long, long time, but I just never got around to sitting down and trying to write it.
You wrote “Living for the Night” with your son, Bubba, and noted songwriter Dean Dillon. What was that like?
My son had toyed with the idea of writing and trying to write a little bit, so that kind of gave me the bug to write also. So we started writing a few things together and just kind of got into it again. I knew Dean was a great songwriter. It was me and Bubba I was worried about. I had a great time writing for this album, and I’m going to probably continue to write from now on.
“The Breath You Take” is one of the standout cuts on “Twang.” Dean Dillon co-wrote it with his daughter Jessie Jo. What’s the story behind that song?
It’s well-written song, great song. The fact that Dean wrote it with his daughter is cool. With him and his daughter, and songs on there [written by] me and my son, it’s strange that it happened that way.
George Strait at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in June 2009
Can you talk about “El Rey,” the first song you’ve sung entirely in Spanish?
I love the song “El Rey.” And for years, I never knew what the song was totally about. It was something new for me. I’d never sung a song in Spanish before. Then I got the translation and saw what a really cool song it was.
“Twang” is the third consecutive album you’ve recorded in Key West, Florida. What is it about Key West that keeps you coming back?
It’s very laid-back. I think the ocean there is good for my voice. We work hard when we’re in the studio, but then when we take our breaks, we walk outside and look around. It’s Key West. You know, it’s great! As long as it keeps working out the way it has, I’ll continue to go down there.
George Strait with his Artist of the Decade award at the Academy of Country Music Artist of the Decade All-Star Concert in Las Vegas, April 2009
You’ve recorded so many albums. Why is “Twang” so unique for you?
Just the fact that there are so many different areas in the record, so many different songs, from Zydeco to mariachi to uptempo … And the fact that I wrote some of the songs with my son. All of those different things, the difference between them made it come together so much, if that makes any sense.
What do you want to accomplish in your future records?
I just continue to look for different material, great material, as good as I can find, and try to go in there and do as good a job as I can do in making it a record. That’s all you can expect. That’s all that you can do.
What do you think your legacy will be?
I have no idea what my legacy will be. I have to let someone else decide that.
For more info: George Strait website
Photo credits: AP