By Jeffrey B. Remz, December 2004
he ultra long country singer Darryl Worley makes no secret that he had no interest in simply repeating himself the fourth time around.
Yeah, he's had hit singles and one super huge, career song, "Have You Forgotten?," but that's all in the past. And the rural Tennessee native seems more than happy to leave his past behind, even though he remains quite proud of his accomplishments.
"We had a lot of things in mind when we went into the studio to do the album," says Worley in a friendly, 90-minute conversation from his Nashville apartment the day after Thanksgiving. "One of the things was just to raise the bar, raise the standards some."
"We had to let the dust settle from the "Have You Forgotten?' phase," Worley says. "It was a huge blessing for us, but it almost became an obstacle to get around. When you have a hit of that magnitude, it just stays around for awhile, and it's hard to have the next hit."
And in this day and age where you are only as good as your next hit, that next hit is mighty important.
But having a megahit also proved important in thinking about putting together what became Worley's self-titled disc, out in early November.
"Part of our goal was to make everybody's head turn around away from that and go 'wow, they've done something so new, something different. That was part of what motivated us."
Worley, 40, cited changes in sound and production along with subject matter, far more darker than previous efforts, with a tinge of optimism and hope as well.
Worley says his new music is sonically different than its predecessors.
"It's a bigger, bolder sound. The vocal is a little more out there in your face."
"It sounds live compared to the highly polished slickness of the others. Don't get me wrong. I believe all of our albums have been good, have been of quality. To me, this is going to be different."
In fact, the vocals do sound more heartfelt and dig deeper into the material.
Worley always has fashioned himself as a traditionalist, who does not want to cave into current flavors, and he sticks to his guns once again.
Worley also delves into heavy subject matter. "We dealt with some issues that are strong, that people wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole."
Perhaps none more so than "Wake Up America," a song from Chris Stapleton, Rogers and Worley about the drug problem in small town America.
The song is presented from the standpoint of a small town talking - "Wake up America, I got a problem/Venom flowing through my veins/I see families torn to pieces/By crystal meth and crack cocaine/And some of those sworn to provide us with protection/Just turn their backs and cut a deal with the infection."
"I say the majority of the people would say that's dark and depressing, which troubles me a little because we don't necessarily write a song that's dark and depressing because it's hip or cool," he says.
"If I heard the song, honest to God, my first feeling would be that's informative. To me, that's the awareness factor. I want people to go, 'God, that's heavy.' I want them to say is that really happening, and the answer is yes. Once again it's about the truth. And I think that it is heavy, but I also think that's something people need to be aware of."
"My personal life, my family has been affected by this, and I've been wanting to say something about it in one way or another," says Worley without wanting to go into details.
"If I sit around and never open up about things that I see, what does that say about who I am?" Worley asks.
The hit "Awful Beautiful Life," co-written by Worley with Harley Allen, concerns life's ups and downs from partying Saturday night to going to church Sunday morning to watching football and praying for a cousin soldier in Iraq.
"You can't really smile until you shed some tears/I could die today, or I might live on for years/ I love this crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic/Awful beautiful life," Worley sings.
Allen has been a songwriter around Nashville for a long time.
"We had our writing date set," says Worley of meeting with Allen to pen songs. "We've been trying to get together. We sat down about 10 years ago. Both of us were really distracted at the time. He had other things going on, and so did I. We didn't last past noon. We always talked about getting together. This time, I went to Harley's home. He had been (working) with this little melody and feel. I thought this is weird because the night before I was working on the same feel. I thought this was similar to what we were working on 10 years ago," he says with a laugh.
"The majority of people out there are exactly (like) I am, my family and friends. We are so real. I laugh and say sometimes say we put the fun in dysfunctional. It's kind of a joke. It's kind of not. That's what makes us real...You see every side of them. We don't candy coat it."