By Jeffrey B. Remz, July 2002
eather Myles is talking from her favorite place - the road. And she apparently can move pretty fast also, covering three states during a cell phone interview as she is making her way from her Florida home to one in Nashville via a pit stop in Mississippi.
If only the career of the California honky tonker and traditional country singer moved as quickly.
Myles could not exactly be accused of being prolific when it comes to releasing music. Her latest, "Sweet Talk & Good Lies" (Rounder) comes four years after her fine CD, "Heartaches & Honky Tonks." Overall, Myles only has released a grand total of 4 albums in a decade.
Myles, friendly and talkative throughout, is the first one to admit, she wish the timing were different. "This last record took a lot longer than it should have," says Myles, while approaching the Florida/Alabama border after a stay at her condo on the Gulf Coast in Belle Air, Fla. "But this one, there were studio problems. The continuity of a record has to be to my liking. I want to make sure it's all right. All those songs on there are my babies. The album is my family. I want to make sure it's the best that it can be.
"All my albums in the past were a walk in the park. The last one, we went in there and did it in two weeks. They were always smooth sailing. This record was a test in every aspect. It was very very difficult and to the point where I said, 'do I still want to continue in the music business?' Everything on this album I had to fight tooth and nail for. I'm really glad because there were times I wanted to throw in the towel.
But don't think Myles is the disgruntled musician blaming her record label. Far from it.
Yes, she's had some differences of opinion (she wanted the new CD to be interactive, which led to debate with Rounder, and a different back cover of her album - a ripped jeans photo of her tush side was put inside instead), but "Rounder's really never given me any problems as far as the production of my albums. The reason I'm on Rounder is that I have complete creative control. Very few record companies give complete creative control, and Rounder does that.
Instead, the problems for Myles included getting time at the studio she wanted - Mad Dog where Myles always has recorded - and then the exact room she required to record the album.
On the personal side, there were management problems. "I"ve had big time management problems," she says.
She split with her long-time manager, though they have remained on good terms. Myles says she felt her former manager took her career about as far as he could.
"That was a big deal for me," she says of the change. "It was really very very trying. I wasn't leaving my manager because we didn't get along.
Booking agency issues also crept into the mix.
And then there was the issue of getting the musicians she wanted. Many have spent time with Dwight Yoakam, meaning they were on the road last year.
Yoakam himself proved difficult to get to sing backing vocals on "Little Chapel," a song about hitting the road for Vegas and marital bliss.
"Either he was on the road or I was on the road," Myles says of Yoakam. "I had to wait a year. I wanted to be there while he did it. He was very busy, and I was too.
"I wrote that with him in mind," Myles says of the song. "There was a (question) because of timing. Rounder really wanted to get this record out. It almost didn't happen. We almost released this record without that song on there. They said, 'just put it on there. You've already recorded it. You don't have to have Dwight on there'. I said, 'it's either Dwight or no song.'
Yoakam and Myles finally recorded the song at Mad Dog in March. "We actually recorded together. I sang it, and then Dwight finally came in the studio, and then we recorded again.
Myles, who shares a similar musical bent with Yoakam, says she was "pretty much anticipating this for a year and a half. In some ways, I was kind of nervous. In some ways, maybe it would have been better had he had not been there...I know Rounder would love to release that as a single, but we have to get permission from Dwight.
Myles says she was excited about the album. "I think I was a little bolder. I'm not as afraid to try different things. On this record, I was a lot more experimental in terms of material and production. Doing 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix'. Covering most songs people wouldn't think a Heather Myles would record. I put strings on this record, which is kind of taboo for a real traditional honky tonker. I thought if Buddy Holly can experiment, why can't Heather Myles? The producer in Heather Myles really came out on this album. I was very much involved in the co-production." (She co-produced with Michael Dumas, who worked in different capacities for Yoakam).
The Riverside, Cal. native certainly doesn't eschew her hallmark honky tonk sound, but she goes beyond that.