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Sammy Kershaw admits greed, stays with country

By Tom Netherland, May 2003

Greed can kill the best of careers. No matter the amount of money that flows, a general lust often builds for more. Well, money abounds for many country music entertainers, and even the best can succumb to greed.

But how many singers have you ever heard admit it?

Shania Twain? Ummäno. Garth Brooks? Please. Sammy Kershaw? Read on. With his latest and somewhat ironically titled album, "I Want My Money Back," his first on Audium Records, the Kaplan, La. native reclaims much of what he readily gave up in recent years.

"I just wanted it to be Sammy Kershaw. That's all," Kershaw says by phone from his and wife Lorrie Morgan's Nashville-area home. "I hadn't done that for the last few albums. I wanted this album to be a Sammy Kershaw album. I think we were able to do that."

Kershaw's first album with Audium comes after nearly a decade with major label Mercury Records, the label with whom he enjoyed early '90s success and drew comparisons to George Jones with songs like "Yard Sale," "Third Rate Romance" and "Cadillac Style."

Such new tunes as the clever "Stitches" certainly recall the Kershaw of old.

"Hell, ("Stitches"), that's country music," Kershaw says. "You don't find that anywhere else, in other types of music. In country music, hell, we're telling down to earth stories that everybody's lived before."

Look no further than the album's title cut for additional been-there-done-that fodder. We've all forked over x-amount of dollars for goods that weren't all that good.

"That's just it. I've heard a lot of people say it at one time or another. Millions of 'em say I want my money back for some reason or another," Kershaw says. "That's the good thing about country music. You are saying what people are wanting to say. That's what 'Money Back' was. It was just a song that said what I thought people were wanting to say, being so dissatisfied with things and spending their hard-earned money on things that ain't worth a damn. I feel that way."

As for goods, check out the album's cover. Kershaw collects cars and trucks, and that's his classic red 1952 Willys Jeep on the cover. But not for long.

"I wanted to re-do that thing, but I never had the time," he says. "I'm having an auction over at my farm to get rid of a bunch of stuff that I don't need anymore. I'm probably going to auction it off. Runs like a top, too."

Speaking of running, rumors regarding a possible run for mayor of his native Kaplan, La. are untrue, he says. However, Kershaw has a great deal of interest in politics.

"Oh yeah. One of these days I'll be the governor of Louisiana. Oh yes, man."

Meanwhile, he has a music career to attend to. So imagine Kershaw's pleasant surprise at finding Audium so hospitable and trusting. Bear in mind that artists are not normally given too much room for creative decisions while signed to one of Nashville's several major record labels. Many artists even have little to no say regarding the songs they record.

Kershaw's been there - but not anymore.

"I got lucky, man. Audium seemed excited to have me over there. They needed a hit record. I needed a hit record. Before I started recording the album, I took a couple or three songs into OK 'em for the sessions, and I told 'em that was what I wanted to do."

Such a statement would have been met with circumspect stares from most major label bigwigs. Some would have simply frowned and shown him the door. Not Audium."Before I could play 'em, they said, 'You know what? We're not in the song picking business. You don't have to play 'em for us. Just go out and record a Sammy Kershaw album, and bring it back to us.' That was part of the equation that I was looking for. That's what we did."

So, Kershaw set about recording the album last year. Produced by Richard Landis, the 11-song album includes a pair of songs, "Metropolis" and "Stitches," from the pen of country hopeful Anthony Smith. Also included are songs from such fine songsmiths as Hugh Prestwood ("Gone for Good Goodbye") and Dean Dillon ("I've Never Been Anywhere").

When he completed the disc, Kershaw returned to Audium songs in hand."They totally flipped out. They're doing everything they can to get us back at radio," Kershaw says. "We're doing OK. We're not burning up the charts, but at least we're in the charts. Hell, No. 75 would be a hit for me now. I hadn't seen the chart in so many years, 75 would be great."

Always a solid ballad singer, the album's mix of ballads and Southern rock tinged country hearkens to the sound that the Kaplan, La. native first hit big on the charts back in 1992.

"I always said that back in '92, "Haunted Heart" was the best album I ever did," he says. "I always said we would never be able to top that album. All these years (since) and we were never able to top that album until now. It's just sad to think that it took me four and a half to five years to realize that all I had to do was record a Sammy Kershaw album. I feel like a damn dummy. You can't help but feel kind of stupid."

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