Steve Wariner grew up enamored of such guitar players as Chet Atkins and James Burton. With that said, he admits that it's a little different to hear some of the newer artists out of Nashville talking about him the reverence he viewed his influences.
"I'm always knocked out when I hear young guitar players talk about me in that way," said Wariner. "I can't believe they know my records, let alone my guitar playing. They'll always talk about a certain sound, I think it was the pick-ups that I used, and some of the technical stuff. In Brad Paisley's book, he mentioned my name several times. It was very flattering. It's cool to hear players talk about those records, or maybe a guitar solo, because I came to town to be a picker and a songwriter."
On Tuesday, Wariner releases "It Ain't All Bad," his first all-vocal album in eight years, after a pair of instrumental sets.
"I had kind of gotten into guitar mode after the success of the Chet Atkins tribute album," he said. "We were fortunate enough to win a Grammy for that. So, I just stayed in that mode."
He said his fans were starting to ask if he'd be putting out new music anytime soon. "A lot of people started to ask me about putting out a vocal album. I started looking at some of my favorite songs I had written in the past few years, and I realized that I had a pretty good group of songs that I really loved, so that's what we did."
One highlight of the disc is the romantic ballad "Don't Tell Her I'm Not." Of the tune, he said "I wrote that with Karyn Rochelle, who is such a brilliant writer. We didn't have a song going, but I made a joke when she said my wife must think I'm a hero for this or that reason. I looked at her, and said 'Don't tell her I'm really not.' Don't let her know the truth. That's where that song came from. We wrote it on the spot."
He also teams with Tom Shapiro and Bill Anderson for the tender "I Want To Be Like You." It's his first effort with Shapiro, but he has worked with Anderson before, most notably on his 1999 hit "Two Teardrops." He values his relationship with Anderson. "I can't begin to tell you what Bill means to me as a friend, and as a mentor in learning to write. We've written so many songs together. He might be the epitome of the all-time greatest songwriter. Look at the body of work he's done, and it's staggering – all the hits he's written. I want to be a songwriter like him when I grow up," he jokes.
The emotional centerpiece of the album is the touching "A Thousand Winds." He says it definitely has a lot of meaning to him. "When my time comes – and I don't want to think in those terms, but as you get older and you lose your friends, you start to think of your own mortality. I remember Roger Miller's memorial service. Chet and I did 'Amazing Grace,' he played and I sang. But, they showed so many clips of him in his prime with all of his one-liners. It was great, and everybody was laughing. Then, people would get up and speak, and tell stories. You might have a tear in your eye one second, but it would all come back to laughter. That's the way I want to be remembered. When Caryn (his wife) looks up and sees a hawk – she knows I love hawks – or a rainbow, that's me. I'm gonna be everywhere. I'll still be with you."
Wariner will be hitting the road to promote the new music. "We're going to play some dates this fall," he says. "We're playing live a little bit more than we have in a long time. We're really excited to get this music out to the people!"