"I kind of had the idea of doing something that was gonna be a little bit outreaching to the general public," says Knight from his manager's Nashville office. "You know, give me a little boost, a little bump. Something like a hit song, something that might get played on the radio was the original intent."
It took him exactly one attempt. He hated it, scrapped it and essentially went back to the way he's been making music since his self-titled debut in 1998.
"After the first session, I just said, 'That ain't me. I'm gonna do this the way I want to do it,'" says Knight. "That's what I did for the rest of the record. I'm too close to the music, and I can't record a song I don't like or don't believe myself when I'm singing it. I've found that if I try to do that, it don't work. If I lean toward cutting a song that country radio might be interested in, I don't give a shit about it, and I don't have any faith in it."
If there's a hit on "Enough Rope," it will have to happen organically or not at all. For Knight, the natural method of building his audience, through record sales or live performances, has always been the best way.
"Unless I wrote a really great song that everybody else liked and I liked too - that's the way for me to get there," says Knight. "After I put out the second album ("Pretty Good Guy," 2001), I could tell a big difference. I started headlining then, and I started getting decent crowds, and by the time the next record came out, they were better. After 'The Jealous Kind' (2003) came out, I got another bump then, a lot more people at the shows. I'm hoping to do the same thing this time."
Knight's track record would seem to indicate that he'll experience the same spike as with his previous albums, but there is a difference this time that could serve as a potential complication. Knight's first album was on Decca Nashville, and his next two were for Dualtone; that label distribution gave Knight great exposure for his first three albums. When no label deal was forthcoming for "Enough Rope," Knight decided to self-release, and that could have a big impact on the number of people who hear his album.
The fact is that Knight has worked all of his albums as hard as he possibly could, and he certainly won't shy away from the road on behalf of "Enough Rope."
"There's some places where I've had to go a lot," says Knight. "For instance, Atlanta. I'd go down there, just me and my guitar, and 30 people would show up, but I kept going back. Then it got to where I could go down and take a band and draw a couple hundred people so that's still building, but that's kind of the way I've done it."
The other way Knight has done it in his career is to typically take from two to three years between albums, and the three years since "The Jealous Kind" has been absorbed with either his wife and kids, road work or making "Enough Rope." And, as Knight explains, the gaps between his albums haven't always been entirely his doing.
"Between the first and second albums, I had several record deals that fell through for one reason or another," recalls Knight. "Basically it was because the labels I was getting on were shut down in all that business back then. 'The Jealous Kind' came out probably a year and half, two years after. That was fairly quick. This one has just taken a long time because we took a long time making it. We recorded a little bit here and there, and we shopped to some major labels. Other than them wishing they could sign me, we didn't get anything out of it. So that's where a lot of the time went on this. I've never gotten in a big hurry about that stuff...I wouldn't want to go four years. I've been able to tour on 'The Jealous Kind' for three years, and the numbers at the shows didn't go down. People always seemed glad to see us, and I went to a lot of new places and places I hadn't been to in awhile, so it's worked out fine."
After three albums of acoustic-based songs detailing the often darker side of small town life, Knight has shaken up the status quo on "Enough Rope." The 13 tracks rock a bit harder than his previous output, and the lyrical outlook is slightly less bleak; you'd be hard pressed to find anything as hopeful as "Saved By Love" or as pointed a love song as "Cry Lonely" on Knight's albums before now.
"I always went that (rock) direction as much as I could with the songs," Knight says. "I just had these songs that, to me, seemed like they ought to rock a little more. I'm a rock and roll fan, you know, Southern rock, country rock, and I always was, so I just thought I'd do it this time. The next record will probably be solo acoustic. I don't know."