(LSM June/July 2010/vol. 3 – issue 4)

1. So many artists seem to lean in one direction or the other when it comes to the subject matter they write about. How does the same man not only write, but perform, polar opposite music such as “My Son” and “Ultimate Deceiver” with such conviction and believability? — Liz Carlton

Great question! I have always said that I don’t write for a genre. I write for the inspiration, and songs mirror moods up and down, fiction and nonfiction. I believe in the art I am blessed to create. I don’t know any other way to sing but with conviction. I’m honestly afraid that if I don’t push the limits that one day I may wake up and find that I can’t find new words, melodies or inspiration. I’m an “all in” kind of guy. That’s why I don’t gamble at casinos … just with my career.

2. You’ve jammed with lots of well-known guitar players. Who would you like to share a stage with that you haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet or perform with? — Mona Davis

I’d like to do a duet with Alison Krauss and Lee Ann Womack. Not asking much, am I? I’d like to share the stage with Jeff Bridges, not because of Crazy Heart, but because I have become a fan of the roles he chooses in movies, period, and he’s a musician to boot. I think we could write a good song. I’d enjoy opening for Willie Nelson. I’d like to do more shows with Robert Keen. I’d like to have an orchestra onstage with me some day.

3. What is a “pea pie”? You sing about it in the bonus track you wrote for your daughter, Mahala Grace. I’ve just always wondered what it means or why it is of significance to you? — Jessica Keister

“Pea pie” is peek-a-boo. Not sure why we played pea pie instead of peek-a-boo growing up, but we did. Having kids allows you to live your childhood all over again. That’s an honor to me! It was written in anticipation of her arrival upon this planet.

4. What is your thought process in regards to taking songs off your set list in order to make room for the new ones? — Miranda Fancher

Some songs simply play their way out. Some songs don’t fit the set anymore. Some songs are reserved for special occasions. Some songs just have to be played. There are staples that we are obligated to play because the fans want to hear them when they come to a show, and they are the reason we get to live this dream. There is no formula. You have to feel it and change your show as often as possible.

5. If you weren’t making a living as a singer-songwriter, what would you be doing? — Lori Wright

I love to entertain, create, cook, hunt, fish, and to have fresh garden vegetables and grass-fed beef in the freezer. So if music wasn’t in the cards? I’d like to have a signature cattle operation, a farmer’s market, a small restaurant and a vineyard. Dream big, I say.

6. I’ve heard that you are the family chef. What is Brandon Rhyder’s signature dish? — Jamie Meek 

I’m a meat and potatoes man. I often create recipes, and in an effort to master what I had in mind, I burn myself out on the recipe by the time I get it where I want it. But it always comes back around: Grilled garlic-peppercorn pork tenderloin, stuffed with spinach and gorgonzola cheese, garlic mashed potatoes and fresh green beans.

7. What has been your most memorable, best and/or worst, experience while on the road touring? — James Hallmark

It’s hard to single out one specific moment. There have been definite ups and downs. I simply like to say I step into a different movie every night I take the stage. It’s not boring. each night a new place, a new crowd and new expectations.

8. Where and when do you get most of your inspiration? I listen to your last album and cant help but think, “Man id like to just sit, talk and have a beer with this guy!” Your music is so easy to relate to! — Raegan Lowry

Inspiration doesn’t own a clock or a place. I wake up with melodies in my head. I play my guitar every day to discover more. I write often and rarely does it simply fall on paper. I don’t think the song has to be complicated. Life is complicated enough.

9. Which CD are you most  proud of? — Dayla Hall

Can I name two? Conviction and Head Above Water. I have found that when I try and fit somewhere, try to do what others think I should do, I fail miserably. When I turned 30 I literally woke up and looked in the mirror and said, “OK, this is what you got. This is what you are. This is what you do. Deal with it.” As long as I continue to get better and grow and learn, I feel comfortable in my skin in doing my own thing. Both of these records represent my — no pun intended — conviction.

10. Where do you do most of the writing for your songs? — David Garcia

There is no one specific place, but the back of the bus has recently been my refuge.

11.  Is “I Can’t Hang On” based on a true story? — Loretta McBee

Yes it is. My brother was engaged to a girl who I was convinced would break his heart. She eventually did and I went to his place to help him when he was packing a U-Haul truck to move back to east Texas. He rented the largest truck they had and the funny thing is he simply didn’t own very much at that time. We kind of just threw it all in there like a couple of 20-something-year-olds would do. We consumed a massive quantity of beer, burned the stuff he didn’t want to take back, including a dog house and a plastic swimming pool for his dogs. We began writing “I Can’t Hang On” that night, but never finished it. A few months later I was experiencing writer’s block and was skimming through all the things I had begun in an effort to find a spark and found this gem. I finished it and called my brother and played it for him over the phone. It’s the only song I have written with my brother.

12. What is the story behind the song, “Mr. Soldier”? Everyone who hears that song ends up with tears in there eyes. — Bobby S.

I wrote it about a friend of mine who lived across the street from me in South Austin. He was in the Marine reserves and was called to active duty. We invited his family over for the all-American send-off dinner. Burgers and homemade ice cream. After they left I was mowing the yard and I was watching him pack all his gear to leave early next day. It then hit me that soon he would be in a war avoiding bullets and mortar fire and IEDs. I quit mowing and went inside. I had no intention of writing about it that night, but I awoke from a dream in which I could see a soldier hunkered down in a bunker but I couldn’t see his face. Just his silhouette. I got up and wrote this prayer in the form of a song in honor of him and all soldiers who defend our freedom past and present.

13. Who or what is your biggest inspiration when writing your music?
— Amber McLaughlin

It is simply the inspiration itself. It can be a line someone said. It can be a newfound melody on the guitar. It can be my kids. It can be anything. The key to my success when writing is to not ignore those moments when they present themselves. They don’t happen often enough to simply shelve them in anticipation of another opportunity.

14. What’s your favorite type of food? — Nicttolett Hall

Home cooked! A friend of mine once told me that I’m the only person who has sat at his table and ate everything he’s ever cooked. I smiled and told him what my mom told me when I was 7 or 8 and was going to stay on a ranch with some friends from church. She simply told me to not be a picky eater, to try everything served to me and always say I liked it. As time passed I’ve figured out that there’s not much I don’t like. It’s all about having an open mind. However, I don’t eat livers or gizzards; times just aren’t that tough and filters are not on my list!

15.Why are you called “Dooter”? — Momma Dawg

Ha! It’s “duder.” While I feel I am “dude-approved” material, there will never be more than one “Dude.” The band put “duder” on my wireless pack. If you’re still lost, you haven’t seen The Big Lebowski.

16. As you know, many athletes engage in odd, quirky and sometimes just plain weird activities before going out to compete. Some of these behaviors include eating the same type of food on game days to wearing the same T-shirt or shorts under the  uniform for good luck. Do you have any “pre-game rituals” you go through before you perform onstage? — Dayla Hall

Yes. I stretch, I try to warm up my voice, I relieve myself, I get my guys together and say a few words … show time!

17. You wrote all of the songs on your new album. Do you have a favorite one and why? — Heather Nixon

Favorite? Not really. There are songs that will have better radio success. There are songs that are more autobiographical. There are songs where I’m stretching my limitations and finding new places. I’m sure we got it right on this one. My band was spectacular. Walt [Wilkins, producer] was amazing, and Pat [Manske] is a killer engineer. The Zone was heaven on earth. It truly was the easiest thing I’ve ever done when it comes to making records. Now we have to top it. That motivates me.

18. What and where is your favorite place or town to perform? — Hannah Love

I love them all. No nonsense! Each venue, festival, honky-tonk, bar, dancehall, road house, amphitheater, stadium (not many of those) I have played — they all are part of this crazy beautiful life I get to live. I am a blessed man.

19. I think it is great that you used your band in the recording of Head Above Water.  How was it working with them in the studio?
— Kelly Atchley 

I knew going in that this band was what I wanted and needed to complete this collection of art. Each of these guys bring a force by which I am able to sing and play with ease. Eclectic. Eccentric. Original. Charlie Richards on electric and lap steel is complimentary. The edges are rough yet subtle enough to suit me. Ron D’Argenio on keys and organ brings inflection and the occasional acid trip. Cody Banks on drums and percussion is a frontman’s dream. And James Hertless on bass and harmony vocals is the complete package. I could never imagine having the ability to assemble such great musicians that I not only call my road dogs, but also my family. I look forward to recording many more songs with them.

20. Who was the most influential person in getting you into this business?
— Todd Attaway

In the late-90s, when I began learning guitar, I met three guys who have turned out to be my best of friends. We are all close to each other. Ricky is my philosopher, a modern day Augustus McCrae. Bob’s my “say what I need to hear” phone call and newfound wino. And Dave, the music man. He can listen to a CD for the first time and tell me who’s playing steel because he knows their approach. All three pick guitar and write occasionally. One day Ricky pulled me aside and verbatim said, “Look, we like to play around the campfire, but you have something different. Maybe you should try and do more with this thing you have.” And honestly, that was the first time I thought … “Maybe?”

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