Get ready for a little “red dirt” country flavor at the 9:30 Club.
Pat Green joins a triple billing with Randy Rogers and Josh Abbott Band for a special “Texas Independence Day Show” in the nation’s capital Thursday night.
“I am a Texan, but man, you don’t have to give me a reason to come up to the Northeast. I love it up there,” Green told WTOP. “I’ve played 9:30 for the last 20 years [and] The Birchmere, pretty much any venue we could get our hands on. One time I even played at the FedEx Field with Kenny Chesney on a big show 13 years ago.”
Nowadays, he’s running with his fellow Texans in the Randy Rogers Band, known for hits like “Kiss Me in the Dark” and “In My Arms Instead,” and the Josh Abbott Band, known for hits like “She’s Like Texas” and the Kacey Musgraves duet “Oh, Tonight.”
“Like Paul Simon said, ‘Every generation sends a hero up the pop chart,'” Green said. “In 2002-2003, I was close to the top of the country music chart, then it was Randy’s turn, then Josh’s turn, so now I’m the vet. I got the gray in my beard to prove it!”
Born in San Antonio in 1972, he mostly listened to rock music until he got to college at Texas Tech University, where he began playing at small bars around Lubbock.
“I was really into The Doors, Bowie and Springsteen as a kid … I really wasn’t into country music until I got into college,” Green said. “That’s actually the same time I started playing guitar. A girlfriend of mine introduced me to Robert Earl Keen and Jerry Jeff Walker. … When I started playing, those were the kinds of songs I was learning.”
After college, he tried his hat at a few blue-collar jobs just to make a living.
“I tried being a bartender and a waiter for a while … but I don’t like living in an apartment,” Green said. “So I went and got a job working for my stepdad in his oil business. We sold gas to gas stations, basically a gasoline wholesaler, so that worked for about a year.”
Simultaneously, he began producing independent albums with Lloyd Maines and started to get airplay on major Texas radio stations across Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
“My band started getting some pretty good traction,” Green said. “I was showing up late on Mondays for work because I was too tired from the weekend. I was leaving on Thursday and not showing up on Friday, so my dad had enough and I had to move on. There started my life in music.”
In 1998, he got the opportunity to play a July 4 show with Willie Nelson after befriending the legend’s late stage manager, Poodie Locke.
“I bribed Poodie with two or three shows at his bar, which was down in Austin,” Green said. “I said, ‘I’ll play your bar for free for two nights if you get me an opening slot with Willie on his Fourth of July Picnic.’ He did it and that was the first time [Willie] ever laid eyes on me.”
Green sold an astonishing 250,000 albums before he ever signed a major record label, as fans appreciated his “red dirt country” sound compared to other mainstream acts.
“It was a very grassroots thing,” Green said. “There was so much going on in mainstream country music in the ’90s with Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire that was really polished and slick. It was just not really my kind of country music, as I was really Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, etc., which is … more acoustic driven, it’s more earthy.”
“At the end of the ’90s, once Garth Brooks had his peak, people just kind of naturally shift away from something that’s really big into something that’s more down to earth,” Green said. “It was the Dixie Chicks who really had an earthy, acoustic tone.”
Green’s independent hits were repackaged for his first major album “Three Days” (2001), featuring a title track that earned Grammy nominations for Best Country Song and Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
He wrote the tune with “Nobody Wins” artist Radney Foster.
“I just called him and said, ‘Hey, Radney, can I stop by and maybe write a song with you on my way through Nashville?’ I walked in the door and he goes, ‘Man, you look really tired.’ … He sent me down to his little studio in the basement and said, ‘Go sleep on that couch for a minute. When you wake up, write something.'”
When he woke up, he grabbed a guitar and played the first melody that came to mind.
“He goes, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m headed home for three days.’ And he goes, ‘There it is.’ It was that natural.”
Green’s next album, “Wave on Wave” (2003), featured a Grammy-nominated title track that reached No. 3 on the country chart and No. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“That was a 4:00 in the morning song,” Green said. “I was in the back of my bus and that chorus came out first. … I walked up to the front of the bus and I said, ‘Look, I just wrote a great chorus. Whoever wants to sit up and write this with me, it’s going to be a No. 1.’ … That was a quick one. I remember that one being done in less than an hour.”
It’s an understatement to say the song made him a household name.
“It bought my house,” Green joked.
To this day, “Wave on Wave” is still played at Washington Nationals games as military vets wave their caps, just like the Texas Rangers play “I Like Texas” after every win.
“I saw that during the World Series and obviously that makes me smile,” Green said. “There’s a couple of places around the country [that do that]. … In Iowa at Kinnick Stadium for the Hawkeyes, there’s a children’s hospital adjacent to the stadium. The kids come to the window and the entire crowd waves to the kids in the hospital.”
Through it all, Green looks back with nothing but gratitude at his country career.
“We got 15 or 16 songs that got inside the [country] Top 40,” Green said. “I’m still singing on the backs of those songs. I’m not Duran Duran, but I’m still having fun.”
Hear our full conversation below:
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