Interview With Randy Owen
Former Singer & Songwriter of Alabama
Randy Owen is the former singer and songwriter with the most successful country
band of all time, Alabama. Randy is embarking on a solo career and is recording his first solo album now that Alabama has retired from the road. He is releasing his first single, “Braid My Hair,” on January 21st, with the proceeds to benefit St. Jude Childrens' Research Hospital. Visit Randy Owen at http://www.randyowen.com/ and visit Alabama at http://www.thealabamaband.com . Doak Turner spoke to Randy Owen in December 2007 at the Dale Morris Agency headquarters.
[Doak Turner] You have about 40 songs credited on Alabama albums - about 18 of them
co-written with Teddy Gentry, a couple with Jeff Cook, Greg Fowler and
various other songwriters.
Randy Owen I have never counted how many songs that got cut on our albums.
[Doak Turner] Did you write a lot of songs on the buses back in the day?
Randy Owen Back in the early days, there were a lot of people on the buses and it was hard to write on them. We flew a lot and it was hard to write on the airplanes - up and down and all that goes with being on those airplanes
(laughs). We got so busy when we became "Popular" and didn't write as much
as I would have liked to back then.
[Doak Turner] Did you set appointments to co-write back then?
Randy Owen A lot of the songwriting was spontaneous writing. I just did not set a time to co-write.
[Doak Turner] Did you ever write a song that you knew was a hit song at the time?
Randy Owen (Laughs) Na - I never wrote one I knew was a hit song!
[Doak Turner] What is your process for writing a song and has it changed over the years?
Randy Owen I wish I had a formula - like the great writers - but that is not me. I wish I could!
[Doak Turner] What about the great song, "Feels So Right," one of the songs on the new CD, The Last Stand, that is only available at Cracker Barrel. Do you remember writing that one?
Randy Owen I was 17 and wrote the song one afternoon about my sweetheart. I had
never known anyone that was as beautiful as that girl. A couple years later
I played it for a girl from West Virginia back when we were playing at The
Bowery in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I was thinking about changing the
2nds verse and when I played the song - she told me not to re-write that 2nd
verse- so I didn't change it.
I played at the Bowery one night and people
seemed to like it. When Alabama became bigger, I played it for Harold Shedd
(our producer) in the studio at The Music Mill in Nashville. We cut the song
and I didn't play my original licks, but the musicians made it sound so
good. I sang the song that night and people in the studio felt really good
about "Feels So Right."
When we were doing the 2nd June Jam in Fort Payne, Alabama, I was singing that song - looked across the lights - and the light beam was in the face of the girl that I wrote the song for years earlier. We smiled at each other - it was a special moment!
After the song was a big hit, Francis Preston of BMI called me and asked if
I needed money. She said she could advance me some money as I told her I
wanted a home for me and my wife. Francis told me I could build a real nice
house! As you go into the gates of that home, "Feels So Right" is right
there on the gates!
On the new CD The Last Stand, it is a different arrangement, the way I
originally recorded the song when I wrote it. The song was important to me.
Because I would sing it a little different than on the record when we were on
the road, [it] make it more personal to the audience, one on one with each
person. A lot of people told me over the years that several babies were born
because of that song. A lady told me one time that she and her man were
listening too long to that song one night and a baby named Joey was born
nine months later as a result!
[Doak Turner] How long between the time that you wrote "Feels So Right" and you cut it on an album?
Randy Owen It was 10 or 12 years later for the song to be cut after I wrote it. Hold on to those great songs!
[Doak Turner] Now, who are you co-writing with for your new CD that is coming out, produced by John Rich?
Randy Owen I've been writing with John Rich and his crew, Shannon Lawson, James Otto, and Vicki McGhee, The Muzic Mafia folks. I love those people – takes me back to the Myrtle Beach days. The Muzic Mafia is what I stepped into in
Myrtle Beach in 1973 - all the varieties of music and people - and they all
loved music of all kinds - Rock, Country, Southern Rock. Mickey Spillane the
famed author used to hang out with us - he would buy us beers when we didn't
have a lot of money. We'd go to his house in Murrell's Inlet, just below
Myrtle Beach, and we'd have an oyster fry and shrimp and a bunch of great
food an many Sunday afternoons. I saw him a couple years ago before he
passed way and he said he was working on another book at the time.
[Doak Turner] What songwriter that is no longer with us would you have loved to written song with if it would have been possible?
Randy Owen (pause) HANK - The king of them all!
[Doak Turner] What would that have been like to write with Hank Williams – ya wonder?
Randy Owen I just know I admire the lyrics – [the] simple way that he got across the rhyme schemes, and all that still floors me. How this man could write
these songs? It is like - how can you write that perfect, deep, true and be
so honest - Hank was the best! There are so many great writers - but he
would be the one to write with if I could.
[Doak Turner] Did you write with many of the songwriters on Music Row back in the day?
Randy Owen I didn't have a chance to as we were so busy on the road - a couple hundred shows a year and all the interviews, radio stations, people wanting to talk with us - just didn't have the time to write much on The Row.
[Doak Turner] Tell me about the song "My Home’s in Alabama." You closed every show with that song and it always gave me chills to watch Alabama do that song!
Randy Owen Teddy Gentry and I were writing that song - one of us wrote about the state and one of us wrote about the band. I don't remember which one of us was writing about what, but we worked it out! When we went to record it in the studio, I finished the second verse (recites the lyrics).
When we wrote the song "My Home’s in Alabama,” all we had was the first
verse. We sang at the Bowery one night - played just the verse and the
chorus of the song. There was a big guy that walked up to the stage and
said, "That's the best southern rock song ever written.” All those
Southern Rock songs - Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker Band, Skynard - all
of them, and that big guy told us that about our song - wow- that gave us a
boost of energy! I just could not believe he said that to us!
[Doak Turner] Do you have any advice for songwriters?
Randy Owen If it were me … you want to be a commercial songwriter and make a lot of money? If you get a cut, you are going to be known for the songs you write. [There are] two approaches to songwriting, the
way I see it. I chose to write songs that felt they were unique to me and
thank God, Alabama came along. Those songs may not have been recorded by
anyone else. Hank Jr. recorded, "Tennessee River," and that was a blessing
and an honor to have him cut that song. I think that if you want to be a
commercial songwriter- come to Nashville, follow and watch the great writers
and learn how to eventually write with them!
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