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Dwight Yoakam goes his own way

By Jeffrey B. Remz, July 2003

After 17 years and dozens of hits, it was time for a change for Dwight Yoakam. The honky tonk star decided this time was right to go his own way.

And ultimately that meant "Population Me," his 17th album out in late June and as always produced by long-time sidekick Pete Anderson, was no longer going to bear the Warner Brothers name. Instead, Yoakam opted to put out the 10-song album on his own label, Electrodisc, with Nashville label Audium Records distributing the music.

"I just felt that at this point in my life and in career, it was more interesting and freeing kind of proposition," says Yoakam in a cell telephone interview from Los Angeles where he lives.

"Not only on a business level, but also on a creative and emotional level. I don't know that it will remain that way, but right now I'm happy with it. It's not completely alone. As the tour title suggests, (Yoakam toured earlier this year under the "Almost Alone" title and heads out again this summer as " Almost Alone...and then some") I have a partner involved in this, and a man who runs the label was a former VP at Warner."

Yoakam is referring to Nick Hunter, the head of Audium and probably the main reason why he inked a deal with the Koch Entertainment subsidiary.

Yoakam does not express any misgivings or disappointments with how he was treated by Warner.

"I'd been there 17 years," he says, adding, "It wasn't an issue of not wanting to be there. I guess, yeah, it was a moment of change. It was more just the fact of that."

Yoakam said the move from Warner "just evolved kind of (during) a period of November to March, April (2002)."

Yoakam said he wanted to have a firm decision in place by May.

With his latest musical project almost at hand, Yoakam says he did not walk into the recording studio with particular goals in mind.

"I don't put goals on my music," he says. "I'm only looking to find satisfaction in what I'm doing musically. That's what I'm looking to do. Ultimately, I achieved a full and complete satisfaction with the music effort, when I finally finished mixing the entire album and mastering it."

"That's when I felt I could exhale," says Yoakam.

During the process of conceiving songs for the disc, Yoakam says the title track came to him first.

"I've been writing songs. I didn't sit down and write a collection of songs for the next record. I've continued for the last (number of) years to have an ongoing stream of consciousness journal. I have an audiotape I keep (with me). I keep little scraps of title ideas and thesis statements."

The title of the disc came to Yoakam in a conversation he had about "what was going on with the concluding of my record deal with Warner and Reprise at the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002 because we were entertaining offers from other major labels to do the next series of records."

"It was in February of 2002 that I was having those kinds of discussions with managers and so forth. I remember after a conversation with (two people), 'I think I'm going to call the next album where I do it, 'Population Me." That's the title of my record."

"A week after saying it aloud and allowing it to germinate, I realized I would write the song as a title and a thesis statements. The title is for me are a thesis statement of what the song is." In some ways, the song seems to be about the need to care about and watch out for one's self first.

"This place will tell you lies/With each passing shadow that goes by/But there's only one or two, at most just three/More likely none that I still see."

Yoakam says the song for him "now in retrospect (is) identifying a moment of retrospection I was having in an immediate sense, the transitional moment in my life professionally coming from 16, 17 years when we finished off the box set ("Reprise Please Baby: The Warner Brother Years," a very nice four-CD boxed set released in 2002 with three sides of mainly previously released material and a fourth disc of all unreleased songs), I was feeling I guess through that sense of retrospection, a sense of isolation and a kind of solitude, not actually solitude, but solitary existence and even more so when I decided I would do it on an indie label. That spring, I decided I would do that."

Without going into detail, Yoakam indicates the songs that ended up on "Population Me" came from a personal side. "Not in a specific of literal sense, I began to complete the songs later," he says. "I know I was being influenced by other changes in my life at the end of 2002, the first third of 2003, on a personal level. There were transitions and changes in my life."

"That's not to do with a goal, but to do with totally the wellspring from which the album came, the circumstances which surrounded the album - my life - which always dictates musically to me" the direction of the album, Yoakam says.

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