Marty Stuart Talks New Album Inspiration, Premieres 'Way Out West' Video

Marty Stuart
Alysse Gafkjen

Marty Stuart

Marty Stuart has always an affinity for all things West. There’s a pretty good chance that those feelings were in place before he was even born, as his mother named him after Marty Robbins – who made the old West come to life in such epic ballads as “Big Iron” and “El Paso.”

“I guess you could say that my mom set the standard at kind of an unattainable place,” Stuart quips to Billboard of being named after Robbins. “The first picture of me that I know of was me in the crib wearing a pair of cowboy boots,” he recalls.

He continues, “My mom also took picture of me when I was five with my first guitar. I look at that picture, and then a picture of me now, and nothing has changed – same clothes, same guitar, just another year. The West has always been this place that was a whole other world to me. Growing up in Mississippi, the first record I ever had was The Fabulous Johnny Cash. There was a song on it called ‘Don’t Take Your Guns To Town.’ I did that song as a pantomime at show and tell in first grade. I just have always been a fan of that culture. Then, the first song I ever played on guitar was ‘I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail.’ All of a sudden, all of the Bakersfield stuff started to get me, and then I started to research, and just about everything that I loved came from the West.”

That love and respect can be heard and felt all over Way Out West, his 18th studio album. Set for release on March 10, the album has been described as a love letter of sorts from Stuart to the American West. Stuart says that even though there are many differences between his birthplace of Philadelphia, Mississippi, and the “Land of milk and honey,” there are also some similarities.

“Connie [Smith, Stuart’s wife] and I went to see Jerry Lee Lewis play in the Delta, and the Mississippi Delta reminds me so much of the San Joaquin in the aspect that there is absolutely nothing there, but there is absolutely everything there," he says. "There’s a lot of spirits and ghosts in both places, and so many sounds of music that are in the breeze out there. It’s a magical place, for sure.”

Speaking of magical places, Stuart recorded parts of Way Out West at the historic Capitol Studios in Hollywood. He says that the experience was exactly what he hoped it would be – and then some.

“I had worked there one time before. I had produced a track on Beck, but had never recorded there for myself. We were in Studio A – Bob Dylan had Studio B commandeered across the hall. A is where ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ was cut, and all of the Glen Campbell classics," Stuart explains. "There was just a sensibility about that room, and I had longed to record there. I was right. There’s Capitol Studios, and there’s everywhere else. It’s the finest cathedral of sound that I have ever been a part of. You can almost see those songs in the air there. It is truly a magical place.”

Stuart worked with Mike Campbell – of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fame – on the album, making for a perfect musical match. “We first hooked up back in the 90’s. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – and me – we were Johnny Cash’s band for the second American Recordings album, Unchained. We became guitar buddies on that project. We wrote a song for a record I did called 'The Pilgrim' back in 1999, and I had a feeling about this record when I was writing it. I knew it was not a Nashville record, as far as making it. I wanted to walk out of the studio and see palm trees, and that California light. I knew that it needed those California sensibilities about it. I couldn’t think of anybody that I love and respect more as a musician and person than Mike Campbell. He’s just the guy. He accepted the challenge, and I was happy about that.”

Way Out West is the first Stuart album to feature the talents of bassist Chris Scruggs, who replaced Paul Martin in the Fabulous Superlatives lineup. “I didn’t know how we would replace Paul. I don’t think any of us did. We had a meeting at my house, and I told Kenny, ‘One of the people that I could think of to ask was Chris Scruggs.’ Kenny called Chris to see if he could think of anybody that might be a Superlative, and he said ‘How about me?’ He’s brought this new life and incredible musical sensibility – he’s just one of the most talented human beings in the world.” Martin’s electric bass can be heard on one track, “Quicksand.”

A song that gets a cover treatment on Way Out West is “Air Mail Special.” Though Benny Goodman recorded the original version in 1941, another version loomed on Stuart’s mind. “I learned it from Jim and Jesse and the Virginia Boys," he says. "They had a Starday recording on that back in the late 50s or early 60s. I’ve always just loved that song.”

One track that has already garnered some notice from the set is “Whole Lotta Highway (With A Million Miles To Go),” which he said he wrote as a tribute to America’s truck drivers. He says the song turned out exactly like he wanted it to. “Connie and I were coming home from Mississippi, and we were on I-40, and I asked Connie to play that song. She held the phone up, and as we were passing by trucks when the song was playing, I thought it was pretty cool. That song works. It tells the truth, and I love songs like that.”

Billboard is excited to bring you the premiere of the stunning video for the title track of the album. Stuart says one thing about it that has an effect on him is the clip’s striking imagery.

“As a photographer, God’s light in Southern California is something unlike I’ve ever seen on planet Earth. There’s a beauty about it, especially in the afternoon that is so pretty," he says. "When you stick the Mojave Desert into the picture, something entirely different happens. Of course, Joshua Tree has its’ own magic about it, but California and that desert setting – there’s no place like it. It’s so unique."

He adds, "If I go into the Mississippi Delta at pitch black midnight and put on a Robert Johnson record, it’s hard to sit in the car because it’s pretty powerful. If you go into the Mojave Desert at midnight, and you play one of those old songs that came out of that world, it’s really hard to contain myself because it’s so powerful out there. Between meteor showers, the natural beauty of the land, the rattlesnakes, the rocks, the cactus, and all of those things – it’s a powerful place.”

Take a look at the video for "Way Out West" as well as Stuart's tour dates below.

Feb 10 -- New Braunfels, TX @ Brauntex Performing Arts Theatre*
Feb 11 -- Bossier City, LA @ Margaritaville Resort Casino*
Feb 17 -- Sioux City, IA @ Anthem at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Feb 18 -- Deadwood, SD @ Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center
Feb 21 -- Aspen, CO @ Belly Up
Feb 23 -- Sun Valley, ID @ Sun Valley Opera House
Feb 24 -- Lewiston, ID @ Clearwater River Casino
Feb 25 -- Wendover, NV @ Peppermill Concert Hall
Feb 27 -- Los Angeles, CA @ Grammy Museum (solo acoustic) 
March 1 -- New York, NY @ Housing Works (solo acoustic) 
March 10 -- Dublin, Ireland @ C2C Festival @ 3Arena
March 11 -- Glasgow, Scotland @ C2C Festival @ Clyde Auditorium
March 12 -- London, England @ C2C Festival @ O2 Arena
March 17 -- French Lick, IN @ French Lick Resort Event Center
March 18 -- Stoughton, WI @ Stoughton Opera House
March 19 -- Eau Claire, WI @ State Theatre
March 23 -- Newport, KY @ The Southgate House
March 24 -- Nashville, TN @ Ryman +
March 25 -- Nashville, TN @ Ryman +
April 29 -- Alexandria, VA @ The Birchmere
April 30 -- Wilkesboro, NC @ Merlefest
May 28 -- Cumberland, MD @ DelFest
Jun 17 -- Hunter Mountain, NY @ Mountain Jam
Jun 23 -- Bremen, GA @ Mill Theatre

* with special guest Connie Smith
+  supporting Steve Miller Band
(More Dates To Be Announced)


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