Clint Black is back. The multi-million selling country mega-star recently released On Purpose, his first full-length album of new songs in a decade and he’s doing it on his own terms.
“To me, it’s only a ‘comeback’ in that I’m putting out something new,” says the award-winning singer-songwriter. “As someone who has never stopped working, I don’t see me as having gone away, as I tour extensively, write and produce for television, films as well as other artists."
During his hiatus Black was courted by the major labels. All of them wanted him to sing other writers’ songs, but Black insisted on writing his own, as well as to being his own producer.
“I really don’t want to conform to what other people think I should be doing with my music,” he says, bearing no ill will to major music corporations. “Instead, I’ll take my chances just being me. So I ended up just walking away from those opportunities. Our journey took us to Thirty Tigers Records, where I really feel I can be myself.”
Thirty Tigers also distributes music by such independent spirits as Marty Stuart, Shooter Jennings, Jason Isbell, Lucinda Williams, The Eli Young Band, Pat Green, Aaron Watson, The Avett Brothers, Chase Rice, Billy Joe Shaver, Sturgill Simpson, Bruce Robison, Jessi Colter, etc.
Black’s On Purpose compiles a strikingly diverse group of his self-produced songs. His ballads “Only One Way to Live,” “Stay Gone,” “Breathing Air” and “The Last Day” have never cut deeper, while his spirited “Beer” and “Better and Worse” are among the most upbeat songs he has ever crafted. “Time For That,” “Doing It Now For Love” and “Summertime Song” are catchy examples of how groove-soaked his music can be.
The lilting “You Still Get to Me” marks Black’s third duet with his wife, actress Lisa Hartman Black. “Calling It News” is a wry, topical statement. “The Trouble” is colored by Australian slang.
These new songs continue a stellar career. To date, Clint Black has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide and racked up 57 charted singles, 31 top-10 hits and 22 number-one smashes. Recordings such as “A Better Man,” “Killin’ Time,” “Like the Rain,” “When I Said I Do" and “Nothin’ But the Taillights” have led to honors from from the Country Music Association, The Academy of Country Music, The Grammys®, and the American Music Awards, as well as membership in the cast of the Grand Ole Opry.
Raised in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, Clint Black is the youngest of four brothers. He began performing with brother, Kevin at the family’s backyard barbecues. After high school, he worked construction for a year and spent 10 years on the local nightclub circuit. He auditioned for a Nashville recording contract in 1988. The following year, he led a movement of young talent that transformed country music into a multi-million dollar industry in the 1990s.
“I don’t really feel like I was leading a change in country music,” he remarks. “It just felt like big success to me. I would hear things like, ‘So-and-so is going to record, and they’re using their own band because you did.’ Or, ‘So-and-so wants to write more of their own songs, because you did.’ But I don’t feel like I changed anything, other than contributing my work to the big picture. That’s my humble assessment of it. It’s hard to look at myself and see the impact I’ve had. I do know that my songs have touched a lot of people.”
He married fellow Houstonian and actress Lisa Hartman in 1991, their daughter Lily Pearl was born in 2001, and the family subsequently relocated from Los Angeles to Nashville.
Black took on new challenges in addition to producing records, touring and writing songs by becoming an actor and a video director. He has founded several song publishing companies. He has been a musician recording and playing live with Kenny Loggins, Toto, Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffett and others. His vocal collaborators have included Martina McBride, Wynonna, Roy Rogers, The Pointer Sisters, Waylon Jennings, Bruce Hornsby, Eric Idle and Steve Wariner. Among his songwriting partners have been Wariner, Merle Haggard, Michael McDonald, Marty Stuart, Bill Anderson and Jimmy Buffett.
In 2004 he scaled the top of the charts by trading lines with Buffett, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney on the Hank Williams classic “Hey Good Looking.” He contributed “The Great Mississippi Flood" to the 2005 post-Katrina charity album Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now. He released albums in 2004, 2005 and 2007, but his interest in releasing new music waned when his record label closed its doors in 2008.
“We had great success at Equity breaking Little Big Town as a platinum act, but after the group decided to leave us for a bigger company, Equity closed its doors. Since then, I had interest from major companies to sign deals, but declined.”
Clint Black has hardly been idle since then. He’s written and produced songs for Hasbro’s children’s shows, competed for his charity on Celebrity Apprentice, and in 2010 and 2012 starred in the films Flicka 2 and Flicka: Country Pride, the latter with his wife and daughter.
In 2013 the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain began marketing an album of Black’s hits, which continues to sell strongly. In early 2015 he collaborated with Joe Nichols on a Superstar Duets NBC-TV special for the Academy of Country Music.
In the past, Black has produced records for artists such as Buddy Jewell and Carolina Rain. His love of finding and recording new talent led to his latest venture, Chideo’s online “Clint Black Dream Recording Session Contest,” the winner of which will be produced by the star. The aim of this endeavor is to bring attention to Chideo.com and to raise funds to find a cure for Rett Syndrome, a neuro-disorder afflicting up to ten thousand children each year. Black is the honorary chair for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation’s “Research to Reality: Funding Process,” and his 2015 contest has led to his own primetime TV special, highlighting the charity and the finalists.
“I love producing and being in the studio. That joy drove the Chideo contest. About a year ago, I came up with the idea for the talent contest for their website and they figured out how they could make it work. As a way to give opportunity to new artists while bringing attention to this devastating disorder, it has far exceeded my greatest hopes. We never know which event will get us past the threshold of discovering a cure for Rett Syndrome, so we push hard for donations and opportunities like these!”
In the midst of this, Clint Black has been crafting On Purpose. During his years away from releasing records, he says he has accumulated a large backlog of songs. “For almost every album I have made, I had two or three albums worth of material written,” he comments. “I’ve always had an abundance of songs. Probably 30 to choose from for the ten that I would need to make the best album. For this one, I probably had more like 40 songs to narrow down.”
The new album is dedicated to his father, who died in late 2012.
“My dad was a huge country fan and is the first reason I listen to country music. He is probably the reason I’m a songwriter today. He was my introduction to ‘who’s behind the music.’ I grew up wanting to be the writer behind the song. That really all started with him.
“To him, country music was a sacred thing. From time to time, I imagine him out there just beyond the spotlight, listening. So I dedicate this album to him, wishing we could share one more release together but alas, the clock ran out. I’ll just live with the faith that somehow, he’s able to hear it.”