Catching up with Clint Black

Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black play the Johnny Mercer Theatre

Clint Black considers himself lazy. It’s a rather absurd statement when you consider what he did during the pandemic-fueled year-and-a-half of lockdown. In addition to performing on a regular live stream and launching a line of java called Clint Black Cowboy Coffee available on his website, he pitched and was cleared to host “Talking in Circles with Clint Black,” a television show that is a behind-the scenes conversation with two entertainers talking shop (Travis Tritt and Brad Paisley have already guested). 

All this came on top of releasing 2020’s “Out of Sane,” his thirteenth studio outing. And now with live music venues back up and running, Black’s welcoming his return to the road.

“My booking agent—we renamed him rescheduling agent -- and he did a great job of keeping things moved up just far enough in front of us so they might happen,” he said. “Now I’m as busy as I like to be.”

He has completed a run of “An Evening With” shows in October. Now the New Jersey native is heading out with wife Lisa Hartman Black for the “Mostly Hits & The Mrs.” string of dates that run through February next year. 

As for “Out Of Sane,” this collection of songs finds Black sticking with the tried-and-true, working with longtime collaborator Hayden Nichols. After opening with the bluesy slow-burner “Hell Bent,” Black switches gears into the twangy toe-tapper “My Best Thinkin’” and the sentimental “America (Still In Love With You),” both penned with friend and fellow Nashville veteran Steve Wariner. Elsewhere, Black delivers a solid reading of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin.’” (“It’s still one of the songs I can listen to when I’m overexposed to it and my ears are still happy.”)

Born in Long Branch, NJ, Black and his family moved back to his grandfather’s hometown of Katy, TX when the future country star was less than one. After dropping out of high school and playing bars for about a decade, Black burst out of the gate with his multi-platinum 1989 debut “Killin’ Time.” Along with performers like Steve Earle, k.d. Lang, Dwight Yoakam and Lyle Lovett, the Texan stormed Music Row as an artist who penned his own material. Despite turning out hit-laden follow-ups that included 1990’s “Put Yourself in My Shoes,” 1993’s “No Time to Kill” and 1994’s “One Emotion,” Black faced pressure from then-label RCA to start relying on outside composers for material. After agreeing to change a verse in a song at the request of RCA’s Joe Galante, Black found himself in the president’s office having an uncomfortable conversation about wanting to continue writing his own material. 

“I recorded the new verse, sent it in and [Joe] loved it,” Black recalled. “So I went in and talked to him and told him I wanted to be cooperative, but I didn’t understand the pressure to record outside songs when I have so many songs that I had written. He said they just wanted a little taste and it broke my heart. If he would have said that he didn’t think my songs were that great anymore, I would have felt better. It would have still hurt. But it wasn’t about that. It was about spreading the revenue from my record to share it with the people on Music Row and I thought that was the exact wrong reason to do anything.”

Following the release of 1999’s “D’lectrified,” Black and RCA parted ways. And while Black has ontinued making music and touring, he has expanded into television and film roles. 

Among the shows he’s appeared on are “Secret Talents of the Stars” (“I worked on my jokes and performed in a comedy club”), “Celebrity Duets” (“I sang a song with Cheech”) and “Celebrity Apprentice” (“I’m glad I have it behind me. That up close, up front and personal exposure to ugliness is more than I ever want to see again.”) 

Most recently, he and Hartman Black appeared in last year’s season of “The Masked Singer” as “Snow Owls,” competing as the series’ first duet competitors while riding in a mobile egg. As difficult an experience as it was, Black was happy coming out of the other end of it. 

“It was really challenging in a good way,” he said. “The challenge in a bad way was singing inside that suit. You can’t see—the little lenses you’re looking out of are fogged up after 30 seconds and you’re sweating. If you have to move at all, it’s perilous because it’s inside of that egg. We had inches at a time. But I typically like stuff like that because I don’t see myself as too precious to step into weird things. I sometimes second-guess myself after getting in it. I like being a little afraid of things and I like finding myself in situations where something comes out that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.”

Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black play the Johnny Mercer Theatre Feb. 12, 8 p.m.

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