In a stroke of genius, singer/songwriter Radney Foster has managed to write something special for the women in his life – his muse, his wife, his daughter and his ex-wife. As crazy as it sounds, the girls love their songs on “Something I Should Have Said,” (May 13, Devil’s River Records). Well, at least the real girls.
And, if we could summon his muse, I’ll bet she’d agree this is some of the best work of Foster’s rich, long career.
The first cut, “Whose Heart You Wreck,” chronicles the ups and downs between an artist and his inspiration – the muse.
“It’s about my struggle with her,” Foster said during a telephone interview from his Nashville home. “She causes me to be late for a dinner party and to stay up until three in the morning.”
Sometimes you kiss me, baby.
Sometimes, you don’t.
Weave your magic all night long.
Next night you won’t.
Come and go just as you please.
I don’t get no respect.
‘Cuz you don’t really give a damn whose heart you wreck.
“My first wife had a hard time understanding that muse,” he explained. “It was no fault of her own.”
After being together for 10 years and having a son, the couple, who married young, went through what Foster calls a “difficult divorce.” The ex moved to France, taking their son with her.
“It was not the most ideal circumstance to be half a world apart,” the artist said. “He’s now a senior at Middle Tennessee State. He’s a great kid.”
Foster, whose paternal grandmother was Mary Lou Carothers of Sulphur Springs, decided to make peace.
“You don’t ever get any better until you stop making a list of what they did and start making a list of what you did,” he explained.
It was more my fault than yours.
I can say that now for sure.
When I held back,
the poison spread
I should have said.
. . .
Everything I should have said
I’m sorry I hurt you
Let you feel abandoned
Robbed you of your dreams so I could steal mine
I’m not asking for forgiveness
Time heals but it don’t forget
Everything I should have said.
“I sent her the song,” he said. “She loved it. She really loved it. She thanked me for writing it.”
For his daughter, Foster penned “Not in My House,” a hard-driving anthem against radical rhetoric.
“Hate speech is hate speech,” he said.
When his 11-year-old came home from school asking what a slanderous word meant, Foster told her no one uses that word “for any other reasons than to make somebody feel small and bad.”
“Not. In. My. House,” he thought. And, a song was born.
. . .
Tonight I own this stage.
Me and this 6-string machine are going to kill some hate.
‘Cuz you don’t talk to my friends that way.
You don’t talk to my brother that way
And you. Damn. Sure. Don’t talk to my daughter that way
Not in my house. Not from my mouth.
Not on my watch. Not when I’m around.
Words aren’t a weapon just to cut a woman down
Not in my house. Not from my mouth.
I’m going to sing for the souls that get kicked around.
Words shouldn’t be a weapon just to cut you down
Not in my house.
About the same time, Foster’s friend and fellow country star Vince Gill was being picketed by members of the Westboro Baptist Church prior to a concert in Kansas City, Mo. The group mounted a protest because Gill and his first wife divorced. Gill has been married to Christian artist Amy Grant since 2000.
“He confronted them,” Foster explained. “It was awesome. God loves us all. God doesn’t hate anybody.”
So far, the song is getting a great reception from the live audience.
“We’re just getting started with the songs from this record, so we’ve only done it once,” he said. “It went over like gangbusters and got a standing ovation in an acoustic club.”
But the Del Rio native is ready for any possible backlash from the song’s anti-hate speech lyrics.
“If I take flack for it, I don’t care,” he said. “I’m thicker-skinned than that, and I know where I stand.”
When it came to writing something for his wife, Foster was a little gun shy.
“About four-and-a-half or five years ago, I wrote what I thought was the absolute perfect love song,” Foster explained. “I thought she was going to love it. I actually recorded it for her.”
The singer arranged for the kids to be out of the house. He chilled a bottle of white wine and had candles glowing everywhere.
“I played her the song,” he said. “She was, like, ‘that’s nice.’”
Not the reaction he hoped for, but he kept trying. Nothing worked.
“I gave up,” he said with a laugh.
About a year ago, Foster was on a plane when the muse gifted him with an idea for “The Man You Want.”
“I wrote it on the back of the flight attendant’s beverage list,” he said. “The next day, I put it all together. I asked, ‘Hey, baby, wanna hear a new song?’”
I’ve been a cowboy all my life
A rock star once or twice
A preacher and a poet
A son of a bitch and I know it.
Well, I’ve bet on love and horses.
You know jackpots beat divorces
But the luckiest thing that I’ve ever pulled off is
Being the man you want
“She stopped dead in her tracks,” he beamed. “She said she loved it.”
Foster admits to stretching the truth when he tells stories. When he asked his wife what was the difference between this song and all the others, she replied, “Baby, you told the truth.”
. . .
When he finished getting it just right for the females in his personal life, Foster looked to Grammy-winning Kacey Musgraves’ considerable vocal talents to add just the right touch to “California,” one of the most touching ballads to come out of Nashville in recent memory.
It was a beer and a bourbon. A conversation and a kiss
That started a fire
That led to a night of holding each other close
Through tear drops and desires
Two half-broken people heading west
Shared a motel room. Killed a little emptiness.
Morning came too soon
On the way to
. . .
I know a year has come and gone
In fact, you’ve probably moved on, but girl,
your memory won’t go away.
I know that this sounds crazy wrong, but if you hear this song,
October first, meet me in Morrow Bay
Can’t you hear California calling your name?
A siren song once you hear it, nothing's the same.
She’s whispering soft and low – come and hold me close.
Foster was instrumental in getting Musgraves, a native of Golden, to Nashville.
“She was opening for us at a festival,” he explained. “She was about 15 at the time, but she was really good.”
Foster invited Musgraves and her parents on to the bus.
“She handed us a CD,” he said with a laugh. “Normally those things make pretty good coasters, but we actually listened to it. It was really pretty cool, so we kept up with her.”
When she was a contestant on “Nashville Star,” Musgraves visited Foster and his family several times at their home.
“I asked her if she wanted to do background vocals for me and my band,” he said. “She sang with me for about a year.”
Musgraves moved to Austin and tried to break into the music scene, but couldn’t get gigs. So, she turned to her friend.
“I told her, ‘Just because Austin is the town for a lot of people doesn’t mean it has to be the town for you,’” he explained.
Musgraves said she didn’t want to write songs for other people, but Foster insisted she could do her thing in Music City.
“She packed her bags,” he noted. “I think we even put three or four boxes of stuff on the bus the last time we were down there. She moved here. I introduced her to some publishers and wrote a lot with her. She got introduced to Shane McAnally and he helped her blossom.”
In helping Musgraves, Foster was just paying it forward. Friendly advice from frequent co-writer Darrell Brown changed the way Foster writes.
“Twenty of these songs can be hits tomorrow afternoon,” Brown once told Foster. “But, if it doesn’t have something really intensely personal to do with you, I don’t want to hear it.”
The advice was harsh and hard to take, Foster noted.
“He really helped me to mine [dig into] my feelings,” Foster admitted. “It changed a lot for me. I used to try to keep a little bit of a curtain between me and the audience. There’s no curtain on this one.”
For more information and Foster's Texas tour dates, visit www.radneyfoster.com
To hear Foster sing “Everything I Should Have Said,” visit http://youtu.be/hBqWbXyAYGo
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