As if the world needed more drama, a little bit more was stirred up last week down in Texas when two artists took the perspective of two different sides of the coin when it comes to measuring success in music. After some quotes from Granger Smith (a.k.a Earl Dibbles Jr.) about the Texas scene being “the minor leagues; that’s really what it is” surfaced, Wade Bowen responded to Granger with a simple, “Love my life! Cheers to the minor leagues!!”
Though neither artist specifically criticized the other, they were pitted against each other as rivals, while fans rushed to take sides and numerous players and personalities in the Texas scene decided to respond, fueling the war of words.
Saving Country Music headquarters received a call Tuesday afternoon (7-19), and was informed that Wade Bowen and Granger Smith had just engaged in a good, healthy phone conversation, and that Wade Bowen wanted to clear the air on the matter. Here’s the transcript:
You and Granger Smith just had a conversation?
Yeah, we did. I really don’t know him that well aside from playing a few shows together here and there, and he really didn’t know me either. I think if we had known each other it probably would have been handled on a private level. This is the first time either of us have really experienced anything like this in our careers. We had a good talk, and cleared the air somewhat.
When you tweeted out, “Love my life! Cheers to the minor leagues!” I thought it was in good taste. You encapsulated your perspective of how you felt about his quotes without attacking anybody. But obviously people love to make mountains out of molehills.
Everything I do I try to keep tasteful and respectful. Anybody who knows me knows I’m very respectful. I though the [Granger Smith interview] was really good except for one small paragraph that kind of set me off. I thought, “Well if that’s the way someone feels, I just would like to point out that I love my friends, and my job.” And if we’re going to call it the minor leagues, I would like to point out that I love what I do. It’s funny how I’ve said many things over my 18-year career, and this is the one thing that gets blown so far out of proportion. The last few days have been crazy on my end, because what came out of the comments was people’s assumptions of what they thought I meant, and maybe even assumptions of what Granger thinks. Then you have the battle of online comments. Social media is great for many things, but people can say whatever they want to. It’s a made up feud between Granger and I, when prior to this we hardly knew each other. I do think his comments were a poor choice of words. I think he and I have had different careers when it comes to Texas, and we spoke of that. He’s proud of his Texas roots and what he did here, but once he got out it was a little more successful for him.
I’ve experienced a lot of success in the Texas music scene. I tried, like many of us have, to break out, and take what we do to the rest of the world. I’ve been on a major label, yet I’ve mainly been an independent artist my whole life so I’ve seen both sides of it. I’m proud of where I come from, but along with all Texas artists, we fight that battle once we get outside of the scene here and do West Coast and East Coast tours, and make business trips to Nashville. We fight that Texas stereotype that we’re only successful here. So I was just insulted as a guy that’s been fighting for not only our scene, but a guy that’s been fighting in my career to break out and get out to the rest of the country.
You were saying how you try to be respectful to everybody, and I hear that same thing about Granger.
I’ve heard nothing but great things about Granger, and he was kind enough to say that to me as well. That’s actually how he started the conversation, and I thought that was very classy of him. I don’t think his quote came across the way he wanted it to. It was a poor choice of words from a good, decent guy who really has worked hard and is really proud of Texas and where he comes from. I didn’t say anything bad about his music or anything. I just wish people would stop thinking that I did.
You mentioned that at one point you were on a major label, and you went to Nashville like so many of the headliners in the Texas scene have. How was your experience? Were you happy you had the experience?
I’m very happy I had the experience. I’m happy I had the opportunity. It was a crazy, crazy time. I think so much of this career depends on timing more than talent. I have respect for everyone at Sony that I worked with. It was just really bad timing over there. They had just lost [Joe] Galante, and it was a complete change of regime. It was a revolving door there. The moment I would get close to someone they would get rid of them or they would leave. So it was really bad timing, but overall I found a lot of people on the major label side that wanted me to succeed. I think you have to really work when you’re on a major label to decide the good from the bad advice. But I think everyone that works there has every intention of trying to help you and your career. I learned a lot from it. If I had an opportunity to be with another label again, major or independent, if the deal is right, I would gladly do it because I feel like I’m a strong enough musician to know when to let my guard down, and also know when to put my foot down. I understand where Granger is coming from with a lot of this stuff because I’ve seen both sides.
What really affected me the most about Granger’s statements was that I don’t think Texas is a testing ground. I think Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Robert Earl Keen, and even Waylon and Willie back in the day have proven that Texas has never been a testing ground. From the artists, to the songwriters, to the record stores, to the charts, to the radio stations, everybody plays a part in how we can build a foundation that lasts a lifetime. I’m always trying to make decisions based off of a 50 year career, and not a two year career. I don’t make decisions based off of money. I try to make decision based off of what I think is going to last the longest, so that I can play and write songs, and do what I love.
Texas is a launching pad for people. Even if you don’t get as successful in Texas as you want to be, you still are building something whether you know it or not. You’re building a foundation of fans that I believe are the best there are. But it’s really important to realize that when we go to the East Coast or the West Coast, they don’t want to hear “Texas Texas Texas!” all the time. They just want to hear great music. I hate to alienate anybody from this scene. I like to welcome everybody in. And I felt like the statements made by Granger were just going to push us back even further, and some people might go back to thinking this is a minor league deal, and it’s not. It’s a launching pad.
Do you consider yourself a Texas country artist? Or do you consider yourself a songwriter who happens to be from Texas?
I’m an artist from Texas. I’m a songwriter from Texas. And I love that fact. I’ve done nothing but worked my ass off for 18 years within the Texas region to make that a focal point of my career. But at the same time, I really think it’s important that we don’t just alienate ourselves from the rest of the world. I’m going over to the UK to play for the first time in November. I’ll proudly say I’m from Texas and here’s my music. But I also don’t think we have to strictly say, “Well he’s a part of the Texas music scene.” Texas music is Willie and Waylon, it’s ZZ Top and Stevie Ray. I play shows with Kevin Fowler, and our music is the complete opposite of each other. That’s such a strength of Texas. To me it’s about the fans. The people here really love what we do, and they get behind it enough to start companies and stores and music venues.
We’re very lucky that if you don’t want to leave Texas and you just want to play and provide for your family, you can do that and never leave the borders. And then there are artists that do want to leave the borders and take what they do in Texas and play the rest of the country and other parts of the world. I think it’s also important that we stick to the independent side of this conversation and say yeah, we’re indie artists, just the same as Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. We’re just out there working our asses off trying to make new believers when we walk out on stage and release records. I don’t think there is a minor league anymore, not that there ever was. The majors are the ones that are in the minors.
I had built up such an indie career prior to signing with Sony, I remember fighting every single day with radio people and other media about it being Texas this, and Texas that. Yes, I’m from Texas, but can you find a way to embrace that and not just pigeon hole me into one sound? There are lots of artists that would love to break out of the whole Texas thing, but it has nothing to do with wanting to alienate the Texas scene at all. Don’t hold that against us because we’ve worked hard at what we’ve built. Give us a chance on the radio and see if your listeners like it. I think there’s a lot of Texas music that’s very universal. At the same time we have a lot of artists from outside of Texas, independent and major label artists that will come to us to get a chance to play in front of these crowds.
I have been fighting this really hard for at least the last five years, probably longer, to get written about and recognized for the music that we play, and not where we’re from. That post the other night was part of my fight to say, “Hey look, I’m fighting for our scene, I’m fighting for all of us. Don’t pigeon hole us. Give us a chance. Listen to the music. You might actually really love it.”
I think there’s just so much talent and so many great people in this scene, and so many of us support each other. And I think I’m just trying to stick up for the independent artists in general. There’s nothing minor league about music. It’s too difficult of a career career choice and a very hard life.
A couple of years ago, I’m not exactly sure where it was, maybe Facebook, but I saw a Halloween picture of you with your family at your house. It seemed like a pretty innocuous photo of you and your family. But what it made me realize was that here’s an independent Texas artist, and he’s got a family, a house, he’s got kids and a beautiful wife. He’s making it in music, he’s able to do what he wants to do, play the songs he wants to play, and make a good living at it. That possibility is out there for Texas artists if they have talent and play their cards right.
Success is relative. It’s all relative to what you feel success is. That’s probably the reason I had such a big issue with what was said because none of it matters. If success is getting a major label deal, then go for it. If you wake up every day and are happy, and you feel like working your ass of and good things are happening, then that to me is successful. Even if you’re riding around in a van, or just still opening gigs. Success is so relative to your expectations.
After leaving Sony and getting out of the whole major thing, I have since found so much happiness and so much comfort in making records that I’m so proud of and that I probably never would have gotten to do on a major. I can go into the Hold My Beer stuff that Randy [Rogers] and I never got to do because we were both on major labels, and that turned so many heads, and shows so much of the love and friendship that we have. And then I did the gospel record that I was never going to release and made for my mom, but I ended up releasing it because I can. I love my life, and the whole point of my words was to say “Hey, if that’s the minors, I’ll take it.” It’s more of a positive statement. It was never meant to be a negative statement towards anybody. I’m so happy and content with my life. I think that really just what I wanted to get across to everyone.