It’s been a quarter century since Texas hitmaker Clint Black galloped onto the country music charts and into stardom with his debut album “Killin’ Time” that spawned five #1 charted singles – “A Better Man,” “Killin’ Time,” “Nobody’s Home,” “Walkin’ Away,” and “Nothing’s News.” That remains an unprecedented feat from any debut album of any musical genre.
During his musical journey from the triple platinum “Killin’ Time” release to now, Black has collected an abundance of industry awards and accolades, the number of which surpasses the number of hit records he has made over the years.
“Sometimes you gotta shake your head and wonder where the time has gone,” said Black, reflecting on his career and that first landmark album.
The time has been spent releasing 10 more studio albums (plus two “Greatest Hits” packages, two holiday albums and a limited edition EP) and putting nearly two dozen additional #1’s and nearly as many Top 10s on the charts. Time has also been spent enjoying 20-plus years of marriage to fellow performer and wife Lisa Hartman-Black and sharing with her the joys of parenting 13-year-old daughter Lily Pearl.
Black’s latest album “When I Say I Do” (a collection of re-recorded hits and a trio of newly written songs) hit in 2013 via Cracker Barrel Records which has become a favorite home for many veteran country stars, including Dolly Parton, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Kenny Rogers. “A lot of my fans go to Cracker Barrel and eat there, so it was a really good fit,” said Black. “They are a great company to work with; very professional. My dealings with them have been fantastic.”
An album of all new songs is already well underway. After a decade of running his own record label, The Equity Record Company, Black would like to bypass all the red tape that comes with a record deal.
“We’ll probably be doing things more direct online for this next one,” he said. “The gatekeepers are no long standing between artists and their fans. The barriers are down from the way it used to be and I’m really hopeful I can have a direct artist to fan relationship from this point forward.” Black includes a couple of new tunes in his current show.
Black said he and wife Lisa Hartman-Black are planning to record another duet together. Their two previous pairings fared well on radio and the charts – 1999’s “When I Said I Do” (#1) and 2001’s “Easy for Me to Say” (#27).
Although dates on Clint Black’s current 100-city tour are billed as “An Intimate Evening With…,” don’t expect just the man and his guitar up on stage. “I’ll do a little bit by myself, but then the band joins me,” said Black. “I’ve got three guys I’ve been sharing the stage with for almost 30 years with me on drums (Dick Gay), bass (Jake Willieman) and guitars (Hayden Nicholas), and Dwayne Roe has joined us for the first time on tour playing keyboards. When we first started this (tour) we stayed on acoustic guitars the whole show, but we’ve since added in some electric guitars and the keys.”
This tour has Black doing nearly double the dates of recent years. “This is the heaviest touring I’ve done in a while,” said Black, adding how his manager suggested he step back from doing huge arenas, fairs and multi-artist tours in favor of a small theater tour. “Some theaters we’re doing are only 400-seaters and I love the intimacy of it.”
Being the only artist on the bill this time out, gives Black the chance to play more songs than usual. The current show has all the hits people come to hear and some tunes he has not played live in a while. “I try to include something from every album,” he said, with a special emphasis on deeper cuts from “Killin’ Time.”
To commemorate the 25th “Killin’ Time” anniversary, Black plans to create some special things for his YouTube channel and web site (www.ClintBlack.com). Those things may include interviewing musicians and the production folks who worked on that first album with him and maybe some live recordings of songs from it.
On stage, Black likes to set up some of the songs with stories. “Don’t worry, I don’t get all long-winded,” he promised. “My stories are really designed for laughs. Talking to an audience is as much fun for me as singing the songs.”
Black did a stint a while back on the CBS-TV show – “Secret Talents of the Stars” – revealing razor-sharp timing and a real knack for comedy. Black told a story about being at some industry event in Nashville or Los Angeles when a technical problem sidelined his performance. “I had to stand up there with nothing to do but talk to an audience filled with some of the biggest names in the business while they worked on fixing the gear,” he said. “That’s when I went for some laughs. I wouldn’t want to do it full time, but I love comedy and joke writing. I’ve worked some of that into my show over the years.”
Looking back over the 25-year stretch since the release of “Killin’ Time” made him a superstar attraction, Black spoke of the real “high water marks” of his career.
“Getting to write a song with Merle Haggard and other musical heroes like Kenny Loggins, Jimmy Buffet, Edgar Winter, Bruce Hornsby,” cited Black. “To work with artists I respect and artists I never dreamed of even being in the same room with. Awards are wonderful symbols of accomplishment, but creating a song with one of your heroes is even more wonderful.”
“Realizing I’ve transcended my own aspirations as a musician is a personal high water mark,” continued Black. “I practice all the time and I’ve worked hard to push that boulder up a hill so to speak, so to see that paying off as my skill set becomes much better than I ever expected it could, to be playing at a level I thought was out of my reach, gives me a sense of achievement and accomplishment.”
Another notable accomplishment is Black’s hard work and dedication to the International Rett Syndrome Foundation (IRSF), a neurological and developmental disorder that struck home for the artist when he lost a niece to it. Black is the Honorary Chair for the IRSF’s “Research to Reality: Funding Progress” campaign and has links on his website so fans can learn more and help him fund research for a cure.
Black said he's enjoying the closeness to the fans his current theater tour is affording him because when all is said and done, he said the fans matter most.
FYI: An Intimate Evening with Clint Black will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 18 at Star Plaza Theatre, Interstate 65 and U.S. 30, Merrillville. Tickets are $37 and $47. Call (800) 745-3000 or visit starplazatheatre.com.