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Shooter Jennings rides the "electric rodeo"

By Jeffrey B. Remz, May 2006

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Jennings grew up in Nashville, although he lived the music lifestyle until he started school. That meant life on the road with his folks doing concerts.

Once he started school, he would take off in the summer to travel on their road show. "I'd travel quite a bit with them especially if they went overseas."

While for some kids it may seem odd to be doing that, Jennings did not really know any other lifestyle.

"It's hard to explain because you don't know the difference when you were young. Everybody else is doing it. It's around you, so it's normal. It's great. It set me up for a life that set me up for a life of where I'm at in this business. It's definitely different and a gypsy style mentality. At the same time, I feel very fortunate to have had the experience that I had to give me the foresight I have now."

"I was about 13 or 14 and really starting to write my own stuff," says Jennings when asked when he knew he wanted a music career. "I was into all kinds of different music at the time."

He cited Trent Reznor, Mr. Nine Inch Nails himself, as a particular influence with his hit album, "The Downward Spiral." Jennings was struck by the fact that Reznor did the 1994 album on his own.

"This was the first time I was ever able to witness this guy make music himself," he says. "If he could do that, I could do that. That's what I started doing. I started doing my own tracks...On a computer, which eventually turned into a bigger studio in Nashville."

Jennings soon formed the rock band Stargunn in Nashville where they lasted for three years and continued for several more years once they moved to La La land.

"I was a lot younger, and it was a lot more rock to it. It was a lot more of a fusion of Guns N' Roses and Skynyrd. I think it was a very much immature version of where my head is now. It was still aiming for the same place."

The band called it quits March 31, 2003. "It was just because I felt it had run its course. We all did. We had reached the glass ceiling. One of the guys in the band had quit. After the manager (left), it all fell apart. It was just a mess. It was much needed to happen."

Jennings says he sort of knew where he wanted to take his music.

"I did, and I didn't then. I had an idea of where I wanted my music to go. I met Brian our drummer. We played a show on June 27, the first show as Shooter Jennings. I had already written 'Daddy's Farm' (the song appears on his debut). I met Leroy a little later, and then I met Ted, and I knew it was the band I needed."

And instead of a rock sound, Jennings opted to return to his musical roots.

As to whether record company folks would be turned on or off by his pedigree, Jennings says it was a plus. "It helped. They were curious to see what I was going to sound like."

He hooked up with Universal South Records, the home of folks like Marty Stuart, Joe Nichols and Lee Roy Parnell.

Jennings enjoyed a semi-hit last year with "4th of July," a bouncy rootsy/country which featured a snippet of George Jones singing is classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

He also has been a road warrior, playing often and seemingly everywhere.

In reading his song lyrics, that could be considered somewhat of a surprise since on his debut and especially "Electric Rodeo," he wrote about the loneliness of the road lifestyle and the desire to be home.

"I love the life on the road. I love my life where it is, but there is a lot of isolation in it. That's kind of also where the concept of the record came about too...I knew that that was the entire flavor for the whole record...I wanted to make a kind of half record where the first five songs were basically about being isolated and going back to a simpler life, and then it just gets loopy after that...alright, we got real serious in the beginning, and now we're going to get very lighthearted about it."

"That's the flavor of the record how much the road and the new life that we were on was affecting us in our personal lives and how we're learning how to balance it and deal with it - that's the kind of concept of 'Electric Rodeo' is. We're in this thing, we're in this traveling road show that's becoming successful, and it's trying to keep a balance. 'The Song is Still Slipping Away' is all about that. It's is the anchor for all of those songs. How do you balance the things that are real in your life and sort through them with the things that aren't. How do you stay real, but stay moving forward? It's a hard balance sometimes."

There seems to be some sort of ying and yang with Jennings - he acknowledges the peripatetic lifestyle as being somewhat difficult, but he also says, "I love playing our music...I love traveling and seeing all the different faces. Connect with people. I've gotten to connect with a lot of my family and friends more than I did before because we've been traveling more."

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