Billy Joe Shaver

Things don’t get more real or amazing in Texas music, or music of any kind than Billy Joe Shaver. The man has been to hell and back and lived to tell about it. He’s written some of the best songs of the past 35 years and worked with anyone who’s anyone. He’s a true living legend and we at Galleywinter are extremely honored to have him grace us with his presence for an interview. His great sense of humor and wit are ever present in each answer!

1. What’s new and exciting in the world of Billy Joe Shaver?
Too much to mention. I’ve been so busy lately. I’ve got two new records this year; the tribute and The Real Deal. Please buy it this week! I released an autobiography in March, and just finished a big special for CMT. Look for it in November, airing all year. I’ll be in LA in mid-October filming a video for “Live Forever.” God’s blessed me this year.

2. Many of your albums seem to be story albums and paint a vivid picture from track 1 to the last note. Is that intentional? Does Real Deal follow that pattern?
All my songs are true about my life. The Real Deal is mostly an album of love songs written after a recent failed engagement. I got out just in the right time!

3. Name association:
-Waylon Jennings – Great voice.
-Cory Morrow –Energy.
-Randy Rogers – Promising.
-Pat Green – Family.
-Jason Boland – Great talent.
-Todd Snider – Reminds me of me.
-Kent Finlay – Old friend.
-Charlie Robison – Real good friend.
-Robert Earl Keen – Amazing.
-Ray Wylie Hubbard – Old friend and great writer.

4. Many people have compared the Texas music boom of the late 90’s/early 2000’s to what you participated in during the 70’s. Do you see any similarities? What are the differences? How have these younger guys and audiences embraced you?
Nothing can compare to the 70’s movement. The 70’s defined a new genre, Outlaw Country. The Texas movement is really all about artists writing their own type of music. I embrace it, it’s fresh.

5. Robert Duvall produced the documentary “Portrait of Billy Joe”. And you’ve appeared in several motion picture vehicles such as the Apostle and videos for yourself and others including Reckless Kelly. What was it like having the cameras follow you around during the documentary? And any future plans to do more acting?
You can see me in a new movie due for release in January featuring Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson.

6. You re-cut “Live Forever” with Big and Rich. How did you come about working with them?
Big Kenny has always loved Live Forever and my people knew his people and we got it done. Those are some of the most talented guys that I’ve ever been around. It’s at a whole new level – very high paced.

7. Stories behind the following songs, what inspired them, where you wrote them, any funny anecdotes about them:
(laughs) Like I said, all of the songs are true to my life and the stories behind the songs would take longer than a sentence, but I’ll try. (laughs again)

-Black Rose – In short, it’s about a woman, but she made me a true Texan. Use your imagination. (laughs)
-Jesus Christ Is Still the King – Well, he is, right?
-Livin’ a Lovin’ Life – Everyone in love has experience this sort of feeling.
-Sweet Melody – I had this song working for a long time, and finally finished tinkering with it. It’s about a woman.
-Hottest Thing In Town – It’s about the University of Texas women! (laughs)
-Old Chunk of Coal – I wrote it on the way down from a cliff after attempting to jump from it. I wrote it in less than 30 minutes.
-The Real Deal – I am the Real Deal!
-Love is So Sweet – It’s so true!
-When the Word Was Thunderbird – I wish gas was still 25 cents!
-Ain’t No God in Mexico – Still ain’t… (laughs)
-Ride Me Down Easy – My epitaph.

8. Many artists have covered songs from your canon. What are some of your favorites?
Bob Dylan’s Old Five and Dimers, and so many more.

9. Is it true that you don’t actually write most of your songs down, rather you remember them in your head?
I write everything down, but I still remember them.

10. Your son, Eddy, influenced many guitar players with his raw, roadhouse sound. How young was he when he started playing? Did you notice his gift early on?
He was really young when he started, and I knew right away. Hell, he was tuning my guitars before he was 12.

11. Compare/contrast what Nashville was like when you arrived in the late 60’s on a cantaloupe truck with the city/industry there now.
Nashville looks better than it is! (laughs)

12. Favorite touring memory of the following towns:
-Dallas – Sons of Hermann Hall
-Houston = Dan Electros Guitar Bar
-Los Angeles – Club Lingerie
-Austin – Austin City Limits
-Waco – Home
-Lubbock – I love the streets – A, B, C
-New York City – Ol’ Looney’s Bar
-New Braunfels – Gruene Hall

13. You have a big following in Europe. What’s it like touring over there? Do the people sing along? What’s your favorite part about being over there?
The fans in Europe are tremendous. They are so true to my music. And I love the food!

14. Your life has been well documented. It’s had many highs and lows. To what do you attribute your good nature and continued success in life and music?

15. Religious imagery is something that springs up in a number of your songs. Were you raised in a strict Christian upbringing or is that something you embraced in your later years?
I embraced later in my life, and I’m so happy that I did.

16. You call Waco, TX home. What are the pros and cons of being based out of Waco?
It’s a small town where people don’t care who you are. Lots of old friends from childhood.

17. You are currently backed by Diamondback Texas. How’d you hook up with those guys?
My son was a big fan, and I’ve stayed in touch. I wanted a band of grown-men and these guys are the greatest.

18. Rapid fire:
-Favorite restaurant? Gueros in Austin
-Most underrated songwriter currently out there? Todd Snider
-Roger Staubach or Troy Aikman? Aikman
-Aside from your own, what’s your current favorite album? Van Lear Rose – Loretta Lynn and Childish Things – James McMurtry

19. What is your favorite song that you’ve written?
I love all of my songs equally, even the buck-toothed ones. (laughs)

20. You’ve influenced so many, who are your top influences?
Hank Sr., Merle Haggard, and Blind Willie McTell.

Brad Beheler

Raised in Waco, refined in the Hill Country, escaped from DFW. I've worked in just about every facet of the music business for 20 years. I like to write about it all. e-mail Brad Editor-in-Chief

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