By Jeffrey B. Remz, December 1998
eryl Dodd should have been on top of the world a few years ago. After all, his debut album was being released. The future was bright.
One problem, though, was no single really broke to infiltrate the airwaves.
But despite this day and age where record labels rapidly show their latest phenom the door when the cash registers don't ring, Dodd was given the green light for a follow-up.
So far so good.
Listeners, however, will notice a lyrical difference between the two, and that's indicative of how Dodd's world fell apart in some respects around the time of the debut.
Most of the 10 songs on the new release deal with heartache and break-up, something which the Texan knows all too well. His marriage, which lasted 3 1/2 years, was falling apart just as his debut was released. The pain carried through to the sophomore effort.
And Dodd, 34, went through a tremendous amount of introspection during his ordeal. "I was very confused to say the least," Dodd says.
"I tend to say it was the best and worst times of my life," Dodd says. "I think ultimately people want to be happy. I found happiness and peace, and I make decisions based on maintaining that in my life. I grew up in a way where you have to sacrifice, to constantly give and give and not do anything for myself. Maybe it's a way of pleasing God"
Whereas the self-titled debut contained a number of story songs (the title track "One Ride in Vegas" "and "13 MWZ"), the new disc squarely focuses on affairs of the heart.
"The first album was all a real tough time for me in my personal life as well as my career getting started," says Dodd during a two-hour interview from his Nashville home.
While some artists thrive on self-promotion, count Dodd out. He admits to having been green about the music business - interviews, promotional tours to radio stations - before getting into it.
"I like to keep the dream about it, that's almost kid like, but the realities of radio tours and in a lot of ways proving yourself over and over, which is necessary, but hard whenever you're that close to the music. When you're music is something where you almost become a robot, that's hard...Everyone goes through that a little bit"
"It affected me a lot," says Dodd of earlier travails. "When all this happened with the first album, I wondered how much I would even enjoy being an artist...It definitely affected how much I was helping promote the first album"
Dodd just plain did not enjoy the grind of selling his music and self.
"The label knew I was sort of pulling out of the game so to speak," he says. "When they understood, people were sympathetic to that. (I was told,) 'You're one of the real deals out there who just likes to perform your music, and let life happen.'"
"Music is so so important to me that it is never that I want to sell a million albums and buy a big house," says Dodd. "The timing for me (now) is so much better. I've grown up a lot more. I've had an education about the business"
Dodd fully wants to earn his stripes. "I'm good at what I do," he says with confidence, not egotism. "That takes me to where I need to be. I don't want to be made a star. I want to do what I do, and hopefully enough people will eventually hear it. I want Deryl Dodd fans. I don't necessarily want the whole world to be introduced to me and forced to like (me)"
Dodd readily acknowledges the darkness on the album. "There are overtones of dark feelings, maybe some sad (songs)"
The current single, "A Bitter End," co-written by Dodd, is filled with emotion about the collapse of a relationship.
The closing "Somewhere Down the Road," a late addition to the album, "reflects that unsettledness that I constantly feel, always looking out the window and dreaming and looking ahead. It's that fairy tale in your mind, It's not necessarily reality, but in some ways I can't help but feel that way"
Yet, the song also is filled with a sense of optimism about what might be ahead.
"It reflects what was going on with my life at the time, actually during the first album," Dodd says. "That was the other side of coming into the label and then growing up as a person. and going through - I hate saying the word because I don't take it likely - divorce. It was a really tough time where I had to understand a whole lot of tough things about myself. I felt a whole lot of guilt about everything I was doing. No one can feel good about that"
"Without sounding selfish, I needed to be happy too. I needed to be a lot more honest about myself with my feelings. If I was where I am now, that may not have ever happened. There were some things we may we say we regret. I'm thankful for the hard times because they taught me so much"
"We are friends, and we have a child together, and that was the really hard time too," Dodd says. "It seems selfish to pursue a career in the midst of all this, but music what I am and I have to pursue this. This is the best thing I can give my son." His son, Keaton, is five.
"It's a very big dream, and it can be very hard, but the rewards are so much greater," says Dodd of music.
Dodd wrote 6 of 10 songs. While other writers set up sessions with others, Dodd says he has a "small group of people that I trust and am close enough to that we know each other. For now, that works for me. There are a lot of people in the business who might want to write with you. I don't want to water down everything and write songs. I don't want to write a song to meet a quota. Everything I write, I want it to be worth something and not something to fill an album with. I'm not churning them out like license plates. That's why it make take longer for me to do albums"
Music has been in Dodd's blood from a very young age. He started playing in elementary school. At Baylor, the member of the Class of 1987 played a bunch of parties with his band.
After a short stint working for Southwest Airlines, Dodd opted for music full time. He played around Texas, sometimes hanging with Garth Brooks and his band, and eventually made it to Nashville. He played at the Opryland Hotel.
The Brooks connection came in handy because one of Brooks' band members, steel player Steve McClure, recommended Dodd to Martina McBride as a guitarist for her 1992 tour opening for Brooks.
He was with her for about a year and Tracy Lawrence 18 months.
Dodd's goal was to go out on his own, but he was not in any rush. That just isn't his style at all. A friend hooked him up with Blake Chancey, eventually leading to a deal with Sony in 1995. Chancey, now a Sony executive, co-produced both albums with Chip Young.
Dodd's debut dropped in 1996. The new disc was slated to be released in June, but two singles failed to put him on the radio. Dodd returned to the studio to record a few more songs.
Dodd has no qualms at all. "Both of these albums represent me a T," Dodd says.
"I don't write stuff to fill radio," says Dodd.
"Different people have different measures of success. I'm hopefully one of those who slow builds and over time"
"I'm comfortable taking my time."