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Album: Not Crazy Tonight
Song: Not Crazy Tonight

Great music from R.G. Stark

By Rick Cornell, October 2008

Current Home: Austin
Age: 40

Musical Influences: Like most folks the list of influences could go on for pages, and changes daily, but I'll give it a shot. Hank Williams, Mickey Newbury, The Church of Christ Hymnal, Lucinda Williams, The Byrds, Buddy Holly, Cookie and The Cupcakes, Wynn Stewart, Los Lobos, Gary Stewart, The Krayolas, Billy Joe Shaver, T-Bone Burnett...

Artist Bio: R.G. Stark came to Austin from the Texas prairie to play trombone in the Longhorn marching band, but he stayed to breathe deeply of the city's rarefied singer/songwriter air. After putting in time as a forklift operator by day and as a solo artist and band leader by night in whatever South Texas beer joints would have him, Stark has exhaled with his own take on southern singing/songwriting, what The Austin Chronicle's Christopher Gray calls "bayou poetry." "Not Crazy Tonight" is Stark's first solo release after three records leading the critically acclaimed Blue Diamond Shine.

CST's Take: Texas-born roots rock with just the right amount of atmosphere. If Jimmy Webb hadn't written Galveston, R.G. Stark eventually would get around to doing so.

Country Standard Time: Not sure I'm reading the song Not Crazy Tonight right, but my reading raises a question nonetheless: what's scarier or can drive you more crazy, not being in love or being in love but being away from the person?
R.G. Stark: I think this is an interesting take on the song, and I always like it when people have their own interpretation of a lyric. I think the protagonist in the song is in a dark place mentally and emotionally and is thankful that he has another person to help him get through the darkness, if only temporarily.

CST: Having the title track being the closer on a record isn't all that common. Why did you feel that Not Crazy Tonight should be the last song on the record? How important do you think the order of the songs is, and do you spend a lot of time agonizing over that?
RGS: I'm pretty geeky about sequencing and timing between songs because I grew up in the album era, and I love records that have a great flow from song to song. I had actually figured out the album sequence before I decided on the album title, and I thought the title Not Crazy Tonight had a nice hook to it, and fit the whole record pretty well. Also, I figured it would encourage people to go ahead and listen all the way to the end.

CST: You do a great job setting scenes throughout the record with whistling rainstorms and wind blowing through you "like a disease." How important to you are the details, and how tough a part of the songwriting process is getting those details right?
RGS: I believe that description and detail are essential in trying to develop a sense of place in a song, whether geographical, emotional, philosophical, or a combination of the above. Using imagery and detail is one of my favorite things about writing.

CST: I've described your work as "sounding like Dan Penn if he split his time between Texas and New Orleans." Describing their own songs is way down on artists' lists of things they like to do, but....Do you think that description is in the ballpark?
RGS: I'm flattered that you mention Dan Penn, because he is one of my favorite songwriters of all time and a great singer as well. I love the southern soul sounds from Memphis down to New Orleans, and the swamp-pop music of southwest Louisiana. I think "Not Crazy Tonight" was influenced quite a bit by those sounds, but also has a heavy Texas, honky tonk country influence as well.

CST: What's your favorite thing that you've read about you or the album?
RGS: "R.G. makes me wish I was living in Texas again sitting in an ice house with a beer wrapped in old yellow pages (the original pre-koozie beer cooler) listening to Stark and company." That was from Hal Bogerd at Hickory Wind.

CST: You also lead the band Blue Diamond Shine. How does a Blue Diamond Shine record differ from a record with R.G. Stark's name on the cover?
RGS: Well, the main difference is the personnel. Three of the core members of Blue Diamond Shine were not involved with the R.G. record, including pedal steel player Larry Tracy who moved to California. Not having pedal steel on most of the songs is a big difference.

CST: How much of an effect on your music does being based in Austin have?
RGS: Austin is a great music town, no question about it. There are many great artists performing every night of the week here, and we also have some excellent radio programs. Probably the best thing about being here is having the opportunity to work with other great musicians and learn from them. Geographically Austin is in an ideal location for experiencing music and other cultures as well. We are only one hour from San Antonio, three hours from Mexico, six hours from Lafayette, eight hours from New Orleans, and there are dancehalls, honky-tonks and beer joints nearby in every direction.

More info on R.G. Stark

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