Country

The Oak Ridge Boys Share Video for Cover of Brandy Clark's 'Pray to Jesus': Premiere

The Oak Ridge Boys, "Pray to Jesus"
Courtesy Photo

The Oak Ridge Boys, "Pray to Jesus"

Nestled in all the growth and hipster areas of Nashville is The Pie Wagon, an old-fashioned meat and three just a couple blocks from Music Row. On any given day, you just might find some of the town’s most legendary voices or hottest producers eating lunch – or exchanging musical ideas.

Such was the case one day last spring with Country Music Hall of Fame members The Oak Ridge Boys and highly-respected producer Dave Cobb.

“We worked with Dave back in 2010 with The Boys Are Back, and since being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, we really wanted to do something special,” says The Oak Ridge Boys tenor singer Joe Bonsall. “We mulled it around and thought ‘How can we do a special kind of project?' We wanted to do something meaningful. So, we went to Dave, and he said ‘We’re family. I’d love to be a part of it.’ So we ended up having a lunch meeting at the Pie Wagon. He looked at us and said ‘What was it about the early rock and roll years – back in the '50s – that excited us and got us really going? In all honesty, a lot of that sound came out of Gospel. Let’s go back and visit that. Let’s make it fresh. But let’s make it retro. Let’s do a project that has a basis in old Gospel, but I’m not talking about the Gospel stuff you guys have been doing for years, I’m thinking we go way back. So we went out of the Pie Wagon thinking ‘What a great idea.’ We weren’t going to start recording until early fall, but Dave got so excited that he cleared some space in early June, and called us and told us to get down to RCA Studio A, and what came out was 17th Avenue Revival.”

That album will be released on Lightning Rod Records on March 16, and Billboard is excited to bring you the exclusive premiere of the Oaks’ latest video, “Pray To Jesus,” a song that music fans might remember as being originally recorded by its co-writer, Brandy Clark, for her critically-acclaimed 2013 debut album 12 Stories. Bonsall says he’s been a fan of hers – and the song - since they shared a stage together last year.

“I loved ‘Pray To Jesus’ from the time that I heard it. We worked with Brandy on a couple of big festivals last summer, and she was doing it on stage. It’s such a great song, and every line is so well-written. She is such an incredible writer and performer. I remember watching her from the side of the stage and listening to her show, and she’s just magic with words. They all flow together, and every line in the song is viable. There’s no throwaway lines. Everything is good.”

Working with Cobb is quite the artistic endeavor, and Bonsall says the secret to what makes it work is that the group will follow the lead of their producer, even when it might seem radically different from their usual approach. “Dave Cobb marches to the beat of a different drummer. We met when we worked on Shooter Jennings’ ‘Slow Train’ (a track from Jennings’ 2007 disc The Wolf). Dave was producing, and we had a blast. We got to know him really well and started to talk creatively. He said ‘Man, I’ve got some ideas. You guys might think I’m nuts, but I’m hearing you do "Seven Nation Army," and I’m hearing Richard vocalize Jack White’s guitar parts. I know you guys probably think that’s crazy.' We said ‘Yeah, we do. You’re crazy. So are we. Let’s do it.’"

That willingness to evolve is a key ingredient in what has kept the group a vital presence both in the studio and on the road after over forty years together. Already, the group has over one hundred and fifty dates on the books – including a full slate of Christmas shows for the holiday season. The fans keep coming back for more – and Bonsall marvels at the fact that they’re not coming alone.

“We were doing a show the other night, and there was this row of young girls. We’re singing ‘Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight,’ and ‘Y’all Come Back Saloon’ back to back, and these girls were singing every word. I stopped the show in the middle of the song and said ‘You’ve got to excuse me, but I have to talk to the second row.’ I asked them ‘You girls weren’t even born when these songs came out. How do you know every word?’ One of them yells out ‘My grandpa loved The Oak Ridge Boys. My daddy loved the Oak Ridge Boys. I love the Oak Ridge Boys, and my kids love the Oak Ridge Boys.’ That’s a microcosm of why we’re still here today. We’ve been passed down like an old shirt. It’s amazing to me. It makes us an American group. We’re American boys.”