BEHIND THE RIDE - Long Hard Ride, The Novel

Hey everyone, Happy New Year !! I hope you’re all doing great and are happy and healthy !! It’s been awhile since I’ve written :) I’ve been in the studio finishing my latest album, “Long Hard Ride,” and I can’t wait to share it with you !! I’m most proud of this recording for so many reasons. And you’re dang sure gonna hear about it :) All of these stories I’ve been writing to you, about the music and my life, have all led to Right Now…to this album. And my greatest hope is that in some way this may be inspiring to someone. As I have been inspired by SO many along the way.

Ok, picking up now where I left off on the last blog. It was 1991 and I had driven up to Nashville on a Sunday, having been invited by the great Dean Dillon to visit during Fan Fair week (the biggest music event of the year in Nashville at the time.) I had gotten a room at Shoneys Inn where Dean said his bus would be in the parking lot on that Monday morning. I couldn’t believe this was happening. But the morning came and I looked out the window and there was Dean and his band, loading their gear onto the bus. So I made my way out to let him know I was there. And I’ll never forget, he just looked at me and nodded and said “get on.” Amazing. So I rode around all week, going to all of his shows and his TV appearances. My eyes were wide open, taking it all in. It was like a dream. I saw so much of the town and the talent and the music :) One night, (at band camp…HA…I had to) I was backstage at one of Deans big outdoor concerts at the fairgrounds and I ran into several musicians that I knew from playing back home. After that, it didn’t feel so big and scary to be there, to see friends I knew, that were doing exactly what I hoped to do. They were playing on the road with different major recording artists and the conversations I was having with everyone were so exciting, fast and furious.

While I was already reeling from all the excitement I was experiencing there, another miracle happened. On one of the days I was there, I went and hung out with Deans keyboard player, Mr. Gordon Dee. He was also a publisher and had an office and wanted to hear some of my songs. So while I was there playing songs, Gordon had to take a phone call.  I was just sitting there noodling around on the guitar when a guy walked in to talk to Gordon and saw that he was on the phone and said he would come back later. So then he looked at me and asked who I was and I told him I was up visiting from Texas. The next thing that he said was unbelievable. He asked me if I would be interested in a gig !! He told me he performed at the Opryland hotel and wanted to know if I would meet with the booking agent who handled all of the acts there, and that the agent was just now looking to put a new group together. I was like “uh, YES !!” So he gave me a card and said to give the agent a call. So I did and I drove over to meet Him. He was super cool and asked me a lot of questions and just talkin shop. And then he asked if I knew any bass players who might also be interested and I said, “yes I do !!” So when I got back to Texas after this mind blowing week, I talked to my long time friend Brett Beavers who was looking to move to Nashville as well. I told him about the agent and that we needed to take a trip up there to meet with him and see what happens. And so we did !! We drove up to Nashville about 2 weeks after I had been up there with Dean. I mean, I’d never really been outside of Texas and now I’m crossing the country like a champ haha !! Anyway, we met with the agent and shot the breeze awhile and then we played him some songs and he DUG it. He Introduced us to a girl he wanted us to join up with to become a trio. Her name was Amber Ridgeway, and she was an amazing talent and had a great voice and could play guitar and sing harmony like a bird !! So we all got together and played songs we all knew to see how our harmonies sounded and how we gelled. It was like a hand in a glove. So natural. It’s amazing when you get around musicians you don’t even know and can just sit down and make magic :) So we rehearsed for about a week and learned about 4 hours of music and went right to work playing all the different stages they had at the hotel :):)

Brett and I had been living in Nashville and playing steady at the Opryland hotel now for about 6 months, around 5 to 6 nights a week and Loving it. It allowed us to get around during the day and meet people and learn the ropes. Knowing how tough it was to break into this town, we knew how Very fortunate we were, not only to get a gig in Nashville, but it was the Opryland Hotel !! Very nice and upbeat and an exciting place to be and we were extremely grateful. (we had just spent 4 years in every bar in Texas and we knew exactly how to be Grateful !) So one day the booking agent that hired us for the Opryland hotel gig had asked me to come by his office and that he had some good news. When I got to his office he began to tell me about a new RCA recording artist by the name of Martina McBride. And how Great she was (she Was and Is) and that her debut album was turning All the heads ( it Did, What a Great Album, what a Voice) and that she was going to have auditions, putting together her road band, to go out and tour. She would be opening up for Garth Brooks for the next year and a half. (biggest tour on the planet at that time, IS ALL…are you kidding me !!) He thought that Brett and I would both have a good shot at getting the gig. So he gave us 2 cassette tapes of 4 songs each from her new album to take home and learn the instrumental and harmony parts. Brett played bass and I played electric and we sang the harmonies and practiced for about a week before going to the audition. All of this was happening so fast and was so exciting !!

It was a cold night and Brett and I had just pulled up to the warehouse where the auditions were being held. We both said a prayer and then we clinked 2 long necks together and said, “Well, here we go brother !!” So we grabbed our guitars and walked up to to the warehouse where there was a line of musicians around the corner. As prepared as we were, the nerves were really beginning to set in. We finally got inside and we’re up next. We plugged in our instruments and met Martina. She was very sweet and beautiful and had a very determined presence about her. She calmed us by making jokes and what not. Then it was time. So the drummer, the great Eric Nelson, (who would later play drums with me from 1997 to around 2005) kicked off the first song and away we flew !! It seems like a blur but we did great. I mean, Brett and I had been playing and singing together for so long, that we just went in there and did what we do. She was Amazing and had such a powerful voice. Even in that live setting, after singing all day, she hit every note so perfect and with such power and passion, it was just like breathing to her. I felt all of our voices blended really well together. When it was over, we met with Martina and her husband John, just to share some background and become a little more acquainted. She did say she loved how we sounded with her and that they would get back to us in about a week. So we left feeling relieved and pretty confident in the way we performed.

That was the longest week Ever !! But I remember talking with Brett and feeling like we did as good a job as we could have. And luckily we went and played our gig at the hotel every night which helped to keep our minds off of it. So later that week, the phone rang. And thanks to caller ID, it said John McBride, and I shouted, (with my inside voice) and answered the phone. John began talking about Everything, except for what I was so anxious to hear !! Yes it made me feel like I didn’t get the gig, but It was also kinda funny, like I was beginning to think he had forgotten what he called me for :) But I was enjoying the conversation to where I even forgot about why he called !! And then he wrapped it all up by sayin, “oh yeah, by the way, you and Brett got the job!” Then he quickly said he would talk soon and rehearsals would start in a week and hung up. And that was it !! I shouted now with a full voice and jumped up and probably did some kind of silly dance, but I was like “wow man…wow. We did it”. I called Brett, we both knew our lives were fixin to change forever. But we were prepared and super excited and had a whole new feeling of confidence and more importantly, we both knew that God had just given us a great gift.

It was nothing short of Rocket to the Moon everyday in every way from that point on. Everything that came about after this was unbelievable. Not only were we playing in front of 20,000 people in arenas all over the country, 5 nights a week, staying out on the road in a bus for 6 weeks at a time, we were writing songs, getting publishing deals, playing on demo sessions and going down to Printers Alley and sitting in with all star bands made up of the hottest road pickers who were playing with the hottest artists in town, who just happened to be home for a few days. Because we all LOVED to play !! The energy was phenomenal. This is how we grew and were inspired and formed invaluable relationships and wrote songs…It was non stop !! We were now in the middle of it all, living the dream, getting our chances and stepping up to the plate and hittin home runs. We were makin it. That whole “one in a million chance” that we might get to the place that EVERYONE who came to that town also hoped to get to…all of a sudden, we were there. And we were Thankful. I mean, just the whole getting there, the way we got there. Years growing up in Texas and then cutting our teeth in the bars with different bands and playing anywhere and everywhere and the vans and trailers and the miles and Waffle Houses and hotels and the cra cra and Whew !!! And meeting Dean Dillon and visiting him in Nashville and while I was there, landing a job at the great Opryland hotel which got us moved up there and we were Really in Nashville Tennessee playing music !! We got around town and went to events (like the Bluebird Cafe to hear the great Radney Foster, only to eventually become great friends and I got to sing on one of his albums) and played so many historic venues and met so many people and got to meet some of our heroes and touring with Martina (who was so gracious and helpful, moving me forward with my career…You’re The Best…SO thankful for those early years) and doing dates with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Vince and Alan Jackson and Tanya Tucker and Marty Stuart and on and on and playing on the Grand Ole Opry with Roy Acuff and Bill Monroe and Tom T. Hall and then playing guitar and recording with my friend Tracy Lawrence for a few years which was a BLAST and TL was so kind to me and did a lot for me, (thank you and love you man) and getting 2 songs cut by my friend Tim McGraw, (you were such a great friend to me in those early days and letting me come open a few weeks on your first Soul to Soul tour…I love ya man) then ‘Getting a Major Record Deal’ with Sony/Columbia and recording 3 albums (Jim Beavers, David Corlew and Byron Boyd…I love you all, always) which produced songs like “That’s How I Got To Memphis” and “One Ride in Vegas” and “Sundown” and “A Bitter End” and “Pearl Snaps” and “Honky Tonk Champagne” (Shane Decker…Mucho Love my friend) and “She’ll Have You Back” and…………

In 1998, I got really sick………..and Everything that was going on just Stopped for almost 2 years. So many things were going on in my life and I was fighting my record label for the freedom to make the music I wanted to make and to let me be Me. Touring and personal life and so much stress had built up that I literally broke down. It was the hardest thing ever, to handle in my life. Not the physical part of the illness but the mental part. The mental part of trying to make sense of it all and feeling cheated and bitter and all those things anyone would naturally feel. And worse than that, I felt I had let a whole lot of people down. The song I had written, “A Bitter End,” was a single on the radio at the time and doing great. I was set to tour with Tim McGraw and the Dixie Chicks. The tour was going to run for 2 months and I just knew this was going to really put us on the map. But the morning I woke up and couldn’t stand up without falling or move my arms, all things concerning music took a back seat to not dying. I thought I could fight it and even tried to go tour. But I was so wrong. I had no control over my voice and couldn’t play or even hold my guitar. And could barely even stand. I stubbornly got on stage in Dallas at a sold out show at the big Starplex opening for Brooks and Dunn and realized I had no business being up there. The last song I sang was “A Bitter End” and I just broke down and cried. Wow, what an emotional night, for Everyone. So, it was over. The party was over. And loneliness and fear set in big time. I was in bed for about 8 months just watching the world go by, like a Ferris wheel…and I wasn’t on it.

I had to come to terms with the fact that this was how it was going to be for me. And to stop being angry and to stop feeling that this was God’s fault or my record labels fault or ANYBODY’S fault…and to just be grateful that I still had my life. And that I needed to get on with how I could be useful exactly how I was Now. And when I sincerely accepted this in my heart, that’s the moment when I miraculously started getting better and getting my coordination and strength back. I was truly learning the lesson of LETTING GO. That I was Not in control of anything. And to be grateful for each moment bc we are not guaranteed the next day. I slowly got better and learned to play and sing and write all over again. Thanks to more LOVE from family and friends and fans than I could ever express my thankfulness, I got up and I struggled and I know I sounded AWFUL but I kept trying and I didn’t give up…I never gave up.

Eventually I moved back to Texas and I wrote a song about WHAT this WHOLE experience meant to me. The song was “Things Are Fixin’ To Get Real Good.” It was my statement to myself. A new perspective on everything. Thankfully I was able to continue to play music and make records and to do what I believe I was made to do. The illness wasn’t a setback, it saved my life. It saved me from myself. I learned to be positive no matter what and that there was a much bigger purpose beyond the “business” of music. I began to meet these amazing people that were responsible for an incredible new music movement in Texas that were blowing up the establishment and getting back to the roots of country, folk and rock and roll music. People like Rick Smith, Roger Creager, Kevin Fowler, Randy Rogers,Pat Green,Larry Joe Taylor and SO many others who became my friends and were unbelievably supportive. They let me share their stages, encouraged me and brought me back to life.  “Things Are Fixin’ To Get Real Good” became more than just a song to me. It became an anthem…a prayer…victory :)

And now, maybe you know a little bit more about what’s behind the lyrics to the song and how this song leads to RIGHT NOW…January 2017…having just finished the album “Long Hard Ride.” This album is a recreation of songs that I wrote and/or recorded from 1996 to now. The best part of the album is that 13 of my friends and amazing artists, some that I mentioned above, are singing with me on each song. It’s unbelievable to me that this really happened. Its about unity and independence…it’s Texas. And this has been one big beautiful collaboration of talented and loving people :) Starting of course with my band, my brothers, Andrew Raley, Kerry Wilson and Steve Rhian…I love you way beyond the notes. All the great musicians who contributed so much to the music, Thank You !! And the talented engineers, especially Bart Rose, Ben Hussey and Josh Serrato, we did it !!  All of the awesome studios that were involved to help make this album possible :)  I have to say a special thanks to my old friends Brett Beavers and Greg Mangum for working it out to record Wade Bowen at your studio in Nashville…that meant a whole lot to me…I love ya. Bobby Arnold, Abbey Road, Howie Edelman and Dave Smith and everyone helping to get this album and the story out there to the universe…come on man…WOOHOO :):) “Long Hard Ride.” It’s finally HERE !!!!!

The album release date is April 24th with a new single off the album, “She’ll Have You Back” featuring Roger Creager set to be released to radio on February 24th !!! Unbelievable…thank You God…thank You for Your Amazing Grace.

Long Hard Ride…what a Ride…and I thank YOU !!! After all these years I can say, that it Was and Is, All about THE RIDE…this crazy wonderful Ride :) God Bless you Everyone…dd</p>