Exclusive Interview with Shooter Jennings About XXX

Shooter Jennings’ talk of forming a new genre of music called XXX has been all the talk of this website and others, and a few days ago he offered up an exclusive an extensive interview with Jashie P of Outlaw Radio Chicago about the XXX idea, about his latest and controversial album (to some) Black Ribbons, his feelings on country music and if he has “turned his back on it,” and about his long-standing, one-sided feud with Hank Williams III.

You can listen to the interview in its entirety below in two parts, and for those that would rather read it, the most important points you can find transcribed below as well.

Part 1 – Black Ribbons album, feelings on country

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Part 2 – XXX and Hank III

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Outlaw Radio: What everybody’s been talking about is Black Ribbons, on of the craziest releases of the year. It threw everybody off guard. It is confusing to some people.

Shooter: I was in a place musically where I wanted to do something adventurous and fun. I could have made it a country-esque album, but the idea was much bigger than just doing another record. I knew to stay true to the concept it was going to be a “left field” album and that it would receive mixed reviews. But I felt in my heart that if I did not do something that was exciting to me and fun, then I wasn’t really being true to what music is all about. I absolutely love the country sound of (my) records, and by no means was this record me like “Oh, I going to do these records from now on.”

Outlaw Radio: A lot of people are saying you turned your back on country. You started out with Stargunn, a rock band, and then people say you did country just for the money, and then it didn’t pan out so you went back to rock which is what you always loved and you never had the heart for the country.

Shooter: It’s like an unbelievable book that is being written about me. With Stargunn, we used to do Robert Earl Keen and Charlie Robison, Supersuckers songs, so we were more Southern than we get credit for, like there’s that picture. We were in Nashville and I had this girlfriend and we were just starting out, like, at that point in time, and we took that one fucking picture because we thought we were all cool getting drunk, taking a crazy picture and that thing has haunted me forever. When I started doing country, I didn’t think that country was going to embrace it. We literally put together some songs that I’d been writing over the years, some of which were Stargunn songs and did the first record. And Nashville kind of embraced it, and they put it out and it was kind of a shock. The first two records is when we were in the best place we could have possibly been. It was going really well.

It wasn’t until we started doing The Wolf where really, Leroy (Powell) was drifting, he was in his own place. I love Leroy, but at that point he just checked out, and I was trying to hold this band together and it was the most sad time period. A lot of the songs on The Wolf, even though it is people’s least favorite record, were really songs about me trying to keep it together. Here we were in a good place, and it was all imploding because Leroy was just so negative. And he’ll admit that. The minute that record came out, the head of Universal South changed, and there was this guy there that was a big league producer that had done all these cheeseball Nashville records. They didn’t know what to do with us, and the minute we hit the road I said we were dragging a dead wolf around. It was a dead record. We had no support.

And these people will write the dialogue for whatever is happening and they will have another chapter for whatever else I do next, but I do know it has always been a very pure thing. There’s never been a dragon being chased. I’m just not like that.

Outlaw Radio: Where is the best place to get the album (Black Ribbons)?

Shooter: It’s being re-released on February 8th. The thing is like Target, and a couple of other places like Best Buy did not want to carry it because–if this is not the stupidest thing ever–they are basically pressuring artists and labels to cut albums that are ten songs or under so that they can sell them for $9.99 and compete with iTunes. They feel like they can’t do that with a 15-song record because they want to sell .99 cents a song. We’re not doing that, but with doing a ten song version, which is a bastardization of the record and I’ll be the first to say that, but their selling point to me on this is that if we do this, we can get it into Target and then we’ll have a thing inside the record to point people to where they can get the rest of it. That’s why they did this “bullet” version of it.

Outlaw Radio: It’s been brought to our attention that you and Adam Sheets are trying to start, I don’t know if you want to call it a new genre called XXX. How about you explain the idea of it and how it all came about.

Shooter: I had this idea about 5 years ago. I really felt like artists like myself, Hank III, Scott Biram, I just felt like there was this really unfair thing. Nothing there will get exposed in the mainstream format unless you have kind of one shitty pop song on the album. In the rock format or the rap format, whatever is the edgiest, newest, and freshest makes it. They were progressive mediums, and with country music it never felt that way, you have to have a cheesy ballad or something to even get any exposure, which seems to me as bending the artist to something that they’re not to get it to work, which always seems unfair to me. So back then I kind of made up this thing, and where the XXX came from.

When we were thinking of a name, the reason I went with XXX is, even though I know there’s a million reasons that it’s not a good idea was that A, it doesn’t mention anything that associates it with another genre, like country, or Southern, or bluegrass. The moonshine thing is kind of the pun of it. Really it’s more of the southern culture of that than it is the alcohol. So I wrote to Adam Sheets, me and him have become good friends, and he really was knowledgeable in a lot of this. I reached out to him to get a more well-rounded list of what this could be. I am not ultimately right about this. The overall importance of it is trying to find a way to, trying to find a single flag that all these people can fly under. Because once you put that concept out there, I think it starts to really open up the possibilities for a lot of these artists. Everybody out there is hurting because they don’t have this exposure.

Everybody is out there fighting their own little wars out there, and I feel like we’re all on one side of the battlefield. And if we were all to unite on one side that it would be just so much better for us and everybody. I’m not considered the most underground dude in the world or anything. I had some radio coverage off the first album, but they outcast me immediately. I feel like all of these artists, all have songs that are phenomenally, that are really catchy, and really interesting and definitive. And I feel like there’s a giant audience of people that don’t know it exists, and if they did, they would never turn on country radio again.

Outlaw Radio: What do you think all these names are going to do? What is this petition, what exactly are you trying to get with having people sign up? I mean you’re over a thousand now.

Shooter: My dream would be to get that number to the 40-50,000 name range, because armed with something like that, we can say “Hey, here are 50,000 people who believe in this cause.” This is not aimed at one person. The more people that sign on saying “I believe in this,” that’s an example written in stone that can be given to a festival company, a radio station to do a weekend show. As much as CMT and GAC are the pop mainstream enemy, if they were to see enough of a value to put up like a 120 minute show that covered all this stuff. Having a petition is kind of like a weapon in a way.

Outlaw Radio: I can’t let you go without asking you about Hank III.

Shooter: The whole thing was so weird. First off I didn’t rip him off. I wasn’t aware of that song of his. The whole Put The O Back In Country came about as a joke, and I had no idea he was about this record out that had this song on it. When that came it, it was weird because I’d only met him twice in my life, once for about 30 seconds, and once for about 4 minutes. The other time was when I was like 12-years-old and I played ‘Monster Truck Madness’ with him on the computer, on the internet, like on dial-up. He whipped my ass. He was very nice when I met him. And I didn’t understand because I liked his music. I never understood why we weren’t on the same team. We could have done so much. It’s sad because all these years later, I mean neither one of us are rich, he’s probably as broke as I am. I don’t think we did as much damage as we could have done together. If we had been touring together, I think we would have built one hell of a joint fan base. I always tried to never engage in it because I never agreed. I liked his music.

It was funny because he would say in an article like “We’re not commercial assholes, if we were we would be like Shooter Jennings,” and I’d be “I’m not selling out, what are you talking about? I’m definitely not selling a lot of records. I’m not driving around in an expensive car, you know what I mean? Like were both hurting dude. Dierks Bentley is selling out, not me.” I would like to bury that hatchet. I mean if it was up to me, I would say if we ever get this XXX up and running, let’s bury the hatchet right there. I’m not holding a grudge against him. I’m absolutely of the mind that if there’s ever been a time that guys like him and me need to work together, it’s like now. Music is getting worse. It’s selling worse. We’re in a very fragile time, and artists like us, I feel if we were to bond together, it would be a really strong thing.

Outlaw Radio: You have always taken the high road, and I think people respect you for that. The reason I brought that up with Shelton the last time I had him on the show is because I saw an interview with you on YouTube, you were backstage at the Warped Tour, and you gave him a shout out. I think you said “Check out Justin Townes Earle and Hank III.” After everything, you respect him for the music he’s making.

Shooter: Of course, and I respect him for the things he’s doing in music. Like I see his influence all over the place, I see how he’s helped other artists. There’s been a lot of areas where Shelton has done a very good job.

I was in Nashville for a like a day, it’s been about two years ago. And I was standing outside of a restaurant, I was eating with my mom and with ‘bama (his daughter) and Drea (de Matteo), a couple of friends and we were about to leave town. And I’m standing outside and somebody honks and says “Shooter!” I have terrible eyesight but I’m looking across the street and there’s this big truck and some guy waving, and I was like “Oh Hey!” And he’s like “Long time enemy!” and then revs his truck and pulls off and it was Hank, it was Shelton. I was like “Alright, that was kinda weird.”

Outlaw Radio: Give people one good reason to sign up at www.givememyxxx.com.

Shooter: If you go to givememyxxx.com and you look at that list, and if you’re listening to this you’re going to like a lot of the music on there. The one good reason is because this music is so much better than most of the music that gets exposure out there, and its like these bands deserve to have their names out there, to have there music out there. And you signing this petition is sayin “I believe in these artists, they they deserve to be heard by more people than they’re being heard by.” That to me is what it’s about.