A Few Thoughts From Country Legend Johnny Rodriguez
Rodriguez Records With Indie Label Sunbird Records
Johnny Rodriguez has made his mark on Country Music – 26 albums, dozens of hits, all kinds of awards during the heyday of his recording career in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. In 1996, he recorded the critically acclaimed album, “You Can Say That Again,” on Hightone Records. Then, in 2001, Johnny went back to the studio, this time with independent label Sunbird Records, based in Nashville. In early 2001, Sunbird Records released the single, “I Don’t Know How To Love You,” a rendition of the timeless ballad, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him,” written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and Tim Rice, for the play, “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” Sunbird President Nelson Larkin produced the single for Rodriguez, which is recorded in both English and Spanish and has been receiving airplay on stations throughout the South West. I spent a few minutes with Rodriguez to find out what he’s been up to:
[The Aspiring Songwriter] I’ve heard your new single, “I Don’t Know How To Love You.” It’s lovely. How did you come about choosing that song, which actually came originally from the show, “Jesus Christ, Superstar”?
Johnny Rodriguez I actually didn’t choose it. My producer brought the song to my attention. I hadn’t even thought about it. He asked me if I knew about the song, and I told him the only song I know of that title was from “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” He said, “That’s the one.” I said, “What has that song to do with me? (Laughing!).” He said, “I just hear you singing it, for some reason.” He knows my voice very well. He worked with me when Billy Sherrill was producing me. So, I decided to try it. He gave me a tape of the song, and I took it home to learn it. While I was learning it, I decided to translate it into Spanish. We’d already had some other songs recorded, but they liked this song. I didn’t realize that it would be a single, but that’s what it turned out to be. You know, I couldn’t hear it as a Country song from hearing it from the play, but the way he produced it, it works.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] And, it is a beautiful song, Johnny. The lyric and melody are so pretty. And your voice just sails over it.
Johnny Rodriguez Thanks, Anne. The song really says a lot.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] So, tell us about your new CD in the works on Sunbird Records.
Johnny Rodriguez All the songs are brand new stuff. One of the songs I really like on there is called “Cold Fire” by Aaron Barker. He’s written songs for George Strait and other people like that. I wrote one called “These Excuses.” It’s about a guy who uses his problems as an excuse to go drink or drug. That’s what this song is about.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] How do you choose your songs?
Johnny Rodriguez What I try to do is record songs that I wouldn’t mind singing for the rest of my life, like I wound up singing “Pass Me By.” That’s the attitude that I took toward the project. One thing that I do not want to get involved with is picking out the singles that we come out with, because I have no idea what in the world people are listening to out there, or what they like, or nothin’. I came to that conclusion, to just go into the studio, record the songs, and then let somebody else figure it out.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] How did you get hooked up with Nelson Larkin and Sunbird Records, Johnny?
Johnny Rodriguez Well, Nelson sent me a friend of his who had some real good talks with me, and helped me through … [some hard times]. So, even though I didn’t like it at the time, I knew Nelson was my friend. I said, “Well, like it or not, this guy is really sincere. He doesn’t care whether I like what he’s saying or not. That’s a sign of a friend.” So I said, “I’ll stick with Nelson.” He’s always been honest with me, and he doesn’t budge, either. Still that way today. He probably helped me to save my life.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Well, Johnny, you complimented his friendship with putting out some great songs. That’s a good thing.
Johnny Rodriguez That’s the least I can do.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] It’s neat to see people like Nelson and others starting up Indie labels again in Nashville, and bringing back great artist who can’t get heard on the majors or on radio.
Johnny Rodriguez I believe that main reason is because people like yourself are still interested in us, and you don’t let other people overshadow us. We appreciate that.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Johnny, you’re a songwriter as well as an artist. If an aspiring songwriter had the chance to pitch one song to you, what would have to be in it to capture you attention?
Johnny Rodriguez I’ll go back to what Willie Nelson told me once. I asked, “Willie, how do you put these songs together?” Willie said, “All you gotta do is be honest and make it rhyme.” I had to think about it. Being honest is one thing, it’s hard enough. If you can get through that, it’s one thing. Then, making it rhyme is another thing. Of course, there is the music part of it. But, what I would like to be able to look for, most of all, is how it feels. If I can tell that what the songs says is coming from the heart, without reservation, then I say, “This guy is laying his heart out there.” That’s what I look for.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Well, 26 albums later, I guess you know what you’re looking for.
Johnny Rodriguez I try.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Johnny, you’ve had quite a ride in your career. Some very big ups and some very big downs. You’ve been on the top of the charts, you’ve been out of the music scene all together, and you now are working on a new CD on an Indie label. How would you describe success now?
Johnny Rodriguez I guess it would be … being able to follow it up again and again. That would be success. If I had a hit this year, I’d want to do it better next time.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Will you be doing some touring?
Johnny Rodriguez I hadn’t being doing much touring in the past three or four years, but I’ve been getting pretty busy lately. And now I’m getting excited about it again. I got burned out there for a while. Now, it’s just like starting over again.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Johnny, do you have any parting thoughts for our readers?
Johnny Rodriguez Yes. I’ve got a new daughter now. She’s only four years old. She’s so cute. Her name is Aubrey.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Congratulations! Thanks so much, Johnny, for visiting with the me today. I’ve enjoyed talking to Country Legend and recording artist once again, Johnny Rodriguez.
Johnny Rodriguez Thank you!
Keep up with Johnny on his website at www.geocities.com/nashville/4884/.