Since Pat Green started building a life in songs, framed with a husky voice that suggests long nights, worn memories and deep passions, and a battered acoustic guitar that was perhaps his most constant companion, the search for that truth has made him the kind of artist that just about all of Texas could see their own truths in. Along the way, he's garnered three Grammy nominations; had a Top 5 Billboard Country Single with "Wave On Wave"; sold out the Houston Astrodome twice; and done the kind of business in his home state superstars yearn for; and has had enough exportability to be certified Gold with Wave On Wave , his second album for New York's Republic/Universal Records.
But beyond the milestones and landmarks, for Pat Green, it's a journey in song. It's a way of excavating the layers and plains of his own heart - and hopefully deepening his understanding of the rest of us along the way.
"I try to write what's next," says the aw shucks everyman poet. "I'll never stop where the evolution is taking me... It's a waste of time to try to write what isn't there. I think a lot of people can relate to how hard it is to be in love with someone and to maintain being in love. Life is an interesting dilemna: I step off the curb and get caught up in my own humanity. That's where the songs come from."
Certainly his evolution as a writer is present on Lucky Ones , his second project with noted roots producer Don Gehman who is known for his diverse musicality that ranges from John Mellencamp to Tracy Chapman's "Give Me A Reason," Bruce Hornsby & the Range to Treat Her Right. With one eye on the horizon and the other cast upon the depths of his own being, Pat Green sought to meet the challenge of upping the ante in terms of connection, yet maintaining the one-on-one truth that's served his music
"Wave On Wave was a very private record, a very inward moment - and this record is very much an opening out. I believe that people are gonna sing the choruses, but they'll figure out what the song's about in the verses, so you wanna give them something to hang on to."
Pat Green's songs are populated with fascinating people. Beyond his own internal wrestling with the classic issues of American literature - love, faith, fidelity, redemption, good times - there's the fading party girl trying to get on with life who's still clinging to the past that's the whirling "Baby Doll," the swaggering if wounded modern day caballero who knows the answer to a heartache lies "Between Texas and Mexico" and the two broken and battered hearts who can't let go of their pride long enough to reach out to each other in "Don't Break My Heart Again," a populist plea for deeper connection that opens with the line "She was standing there, at the edge of out of control/ Hair wild, her eyes filled with the pain..."
"I was thinking about Juliette Lewis when I wrote that line," he admits shyly. "And it went through so many different incarnations this song...but I just knew there was something with that chorus! Originally, I was watching 'Badlands' when we started the first two verses... the part where he says, 'Do you remember that tree that was down there?' and she says, 'Yeah, well, the rain came and washed the roots away...'
"That's the thing... and it's in the bridge: Love is so hard to find. You could be sitting right next to love and not know it or be willing to let it be felt. Man, it's simple - yet, it just knocks you down with the truth of it."
That simplicity can be deceptive. Because if the mystical, larger realities of intimate human dynamics and the somewhat shifting topography of the human heart fascinate Green, he is as much about the rolling good time where the mind isn't as engaged as the soul.
"Well, there's a huge difference between a deep song and on that's got a great big sing along chorus," the maker of "handmade records" concedes. "Deep songs are way more fun to write because you have to think about 'em, but they're not as much fun to perform or for the audience... and that IS part of it, you know!
"I'm a simple guy who understands what's going on, but doesn't have to prove it. I don't know why, but I just go with whatever. I'm completely fine to be whatever this is in any given moment - including a total dork. You know, you don't have to be the guy in the magazine... that's just a picture. It's two-dimensional - and real life has a lot more dimensions than that.
"You know Kinky Friedman wrote this thing about me in Texas Monthly , which was weird in its own way, but the last line of the article really hit me. It said that I'd figured out how to have fun with life without having to figure it out."
Part of Green's ability to straddle the thinking and the feeling, the laughing and the more heartworn is his appreciation for people. The man who's recorded duets with heroes Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker isn't afraid to have fun with songs like the pulse-quickening "I Need You To Be My Girl," which melts the wit of "Pump It Up" Elvis Costello with a sun-drenched breeziness that's as pop as it is wide-eyed, the tumbling surrender to love and life that's "Over & Over" or the old West bravado of "Sweet Revenge" that's Neil Young's country self steeped in pure Peckinpaw and the impossibly droll frankness of "College," written and sung with modern country classicist Brad Paisley.
"Brad's like a museum piece," says Green with measured appreciation. "He's a total anomaly to me.... I don't understand him 'cause I'm nothing like him, yet there's something about the common ground we have in music that makes us a fit. It's strange because he is almost too different from me."
Certainly the wink-and-a-nudge exuberance of "College," which celebrates the no-cares existence that is the on-ramp educational years before adulthood, balances the conservative Paisley with the more wide open Green's perspective. "Hey, life's supposed to be fun... the trick is to balance what's fun with what you should be taking seriously.
"My desire to achieve works well with my desire to be a good person. Right is right, we know that, and it's obvious what good is - so being grounded isn't hard. But you have to have some element of out of control... You have to have those moments of flying by the seat of your pants or you won't appreciate being grounded. And to me, the secret is having the freedom to embrace all of it."
For Green, life is one big trampoline to bounce on. For Lucky Ones , he merged the verve of his road band with the best of the rest of America 's most singular musicians. In addition to the puddle of emotion steel guitar of sometime PG band member Mike Daly - who spends the rest of his time with Hank Williams, Jr., Joe Ely alum/Storyville anchor/Dixie Chicks musical director David Grissom was enlisted to etch these songs with his always searing guitar, John Mellencamp vet/acclaimed artist Lisa Germano created curtains of violin as a backdrop to the emotions and Notorious Cherry Bomb pianist/B-3 player John Hobbs offered mood and shimmer as needed.
"I think my way of doing this is more gradual. Wave On Wave was like the child realizing it can walk... if you can connect with people on a really personal level, that's amazing. Part of that connection comes from the way you color in the songs. You need to make the record work for what you're writing, but you start to realize all the colors there are to draw from. It's a whole other kind of thing - and I think we really were conscious of that this time."
Certainly the shimmering meditation on love's will beyond results "My Little Heaven" offers a new level of nuance, while the classic country of "Long Way To Go" merges what was with what will always be and the almost celestial acoustic pluck of "Temporary Angel" creates a solidity that allows ephemeral to become forever. For Pat Green, it's serving the songs, recognizing the moments, letting what is be and seeking to make himself and the world he lives in a better place.
"I like the idea of 'Live Strong'," says the man who writes as easily with songsmith Rob Thomas as first-cut "Don't Break My Heart Again" co-writer Wade Bowen, gesturing toward the yellow bracelet at his wrist. "I sign my autographs 'Live Loud,' because it means whatever you want it to... but it means whatever that is really do it! Do it with passion.
"Truth is living for me is a hunger coupled with a fascination. I feel like there isn't any place I don't belong... and I feel very comfortable pretty much everywhere with just about anyone. I want this life to be full, and I don't wanna look back and think, 'Gee, I upholstered a lot of chairs.' You know?
"I want it all, but I don't want to keep it. I want to taste everything... I'd like to be able to say 'I've done that...' or 'I've seen that... ' You know what I mean? I want to look back and go, 'I'd love to tell you the things that I've done... but we don't have time.' To me, that's what living is - and that's what I try to get people to take a bite of."
No wonder he calls his latest Lucky Ones . After all, those lucky enough to be washed in this kind of unbridled will to live are getting the best of everything that's out there. When it comes to music, to life, to love, to people, Pat Green wouldn't want to share anything less than how much fun it can be, the lovely fragility of human emotions or the realities of how strong a commitment can make you.
It's what people in Texas - the very same folks who once lined up behind a pig-tailed mystic poet who seceded from the Nashville grind 30 years ago - have known all along.
--- from the official Pat Green website