By Jeffrey B. Remz, June 2005
obby Pinson wasn't three times lucky. Try four times.
As a result of the RCA label group finally giving the green light to sign the singer with a slew of songwriting credits under his name, Pinson finally had his name on the front of the CD instead of buried somewhere in the songwriting credits.
"I was right in the middle of me having no luck," says Pinson during a telephone from Las Vegas one day before the album's mid-May launch. "RCA walked up to (the plate). They said they're looking for something real and raw. They'd known me as a songwriter. It's a real hard transition to make. Most of the times, you get written off that way, having that background."
The Texan recalls the gritty Steve Earle in the rougher hewn songs with his somewhat raspy voice and Jim Lauderdale on the more laid back songs. Touches of Springsteen also creep into the mix.
Pinson's songs are slice of life pieces, some with a spiritual or even religious bent. Football, cars, girls, and guys like "Billy Joe Taylor" are part of the mix. These are not frothy songs of love, but songs of life, love and innocence lost and found.
Pinson, 32, certainly can't be accused of being an overnight success. He's been in Nashville since 1996.
He can thank Gretchen Wilson for his recent good fortune, albeit indirectly. Joe Scaife, who produced Wilson's "Here for the Party" debut, also produced Pinson. In music, the golden touch applies to those who are hot, so after selling millions, Scaife got Pinson signed to RCA after being asked by the label who else he was working with.
Scaife had heard Pinson around Nashville because had been playing singer/songwriter showcases in Music City starting in 2002. They met before Wilson shot to superstardom.
But once Pinson and RCA worked out a deal, it wasn't hurry up and wait, which would not be unusual in Nashville.
After signing at the end of 2004, "We fast tracked this whole thing," says Pinson. "Two weeks later, I was in the studio. The single (his top 20 hit "Don't Ask Me How I Know") came out in March...It was really fast."
"We were having lunch in this town for three years before cutting this record," says Pinson.
Pinson says his goal in making the album "was to pick my best songs and put them on there and reach the world through lyrics. I wanted to have great music, great accompaniment through music, but I wanted to have the words get through to people."
Pinson indicates he feels fortunate the wind has blown in a different direction in Nashville.
"These songs wouldn't have gotten a whiff five years ago, and I know that because I was trying five years ago."
"The same songs that I was trying to get a deal with then, no dice. I think it's because the world is more (ready) to hear it and wants a little more of a place to land."
"Guys like me don't have any business in a format of a lighter stuff (songs). With the kind of changing of the guard and with some of this edgier stuff coming in, it afforded me the chance to make this record."
Pinson had a hand in writing 11 of the 12 songs on the album.
"It wasn't a thing of hey I've got to have my songs," he says. "We don't need to go elsewhere. It was hard enough getting 11. We don't come into do songs by committee. I picked 15 songs and took them to my manager and my producer. (I said) this is my order. If there any of the last three (or four) that should be higher, tell me."
As it turned out, Scaife and the manager agreed with Pinson.
The song process isn't an easy one because writers tend to want to give songs to high profile artists because it means more money in their pocketbooks since the amount of money a writer makes is dependent on how well an album sells.
"As a new artist, it's hard to get those career songs pitched to you," Pinson says.
The quiet "Shadows of the Heartland" describes small town life, mixing themes of farming, religion and football.
"That's a love song to me as much as anything. It doesn't have to be the panhandle of Texas. It can be the middle of New York. I take my ideas and my life and put them to my music, but it's just paint for someone else to pain their own picture."
A companion piece, "Nothin' Ever Happens In This Town," is a country rocker where the title about says it all.
In fact, that was what life was like to some extent for Pinson. Born in Tulsa, Okla., he lived in towns like Alice, Phillips, Clarendon, Miami and Panhandle, 22 miles outside of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, moving around because his father was a high school football coach.
"I don't regret that," he says of the nomadic lifestyle. "I went to four different high schools. I think a lot of that moving has a lot to do with who I am as a person. The one thing I'll say about moving is my sister and I were best friends every time we stopped off a U-Haul truck. You try to figure out in three months or less who's cool, who do you do date, who do you fight?"