RDR INTERVIEW: Bart Crow of the Bart Crow Band

WASHINGTON – While there may not be a lot of Texas country musicians playing cities like our Nation’s Capital (save for that Pat Green show I covered here in 2008), your roving Red Dirt Reporter happened to be in “the District” this week when he had a chance to talk to popular Maypearl, Texas native and singer-songwriter Bart Crow.

Writing for The Norman Transcript, your Red Dirt Reporter wrote a piece titled "Bart Crow Band tunes ‘promise of good things to come.’" I’ve liked this guy’s work since "Wear My Ring" was released a few years ago on his debut album Finally, helping establish Crow as a solid act on the Texas/Red Dirt music scene.

Crow, who released his third studio album, Heartworn Tragedy, in October, was driving through Waxahachie, Texas, on his way to nearby Dallas, when he spoke to Red Dirt Report.

First off, Crow is a very friendly and nice person. He has a heart for people and is a terrific songwriter. With each album, Crow’s music gets better and better. Plus, he’s got a great band – which includes guitarist Paul Russell, keyboardist David Fralin, bassist Matt Slagle and drummer Brian Smith.

“I’m very proud of the record,” Crow said above the noise of the road. “I think it turned out really nice. I went through a whole lot of trying times in ’08 . My refuge was to write about it and clear my mind. It’s not all heavy, though. There’s some good ol’ fun stuff. It’s been received really well.”

At this point, RDR starts asking Crow about some of the new songs. What was the story behind the song? How did he feel about it? Was he pleased with the way they turned out? The answers were interesting.

The album title, Heartworn Tragedy, is also one of the more powerful songs on the album. As Crow describes it, he was inspired by a phrase he watched a program where a young kid is murdered over $3. During the police investigation, one of the survivors notes how the tragic impact of the kid’s death made him feel as though his “heart is torn.” The phrase stuck in Crow’s mind.

“I thought, ‘Huh, heartworn tragedy,’” Crow recalls. “I wrote the melody and hashed it out on the guitar, got the bass line down and we collectively came up with the breakdown and half-time and stuff.”

Crow said it took a week to dissect the new song.

“I want to make (the songs) as sonic as they can be,” he said. “One, four, five … some breakdowns and hooks. I have some knowledge of music theory. Some of the guys in the band are educated (musically) and some have learned it through trial and error.”

And the results are impressive.

Crow said when it came to naming the new record, he was torn between “Heartworn Tragedy” and “Surrender.” The former, of course, won out. The latter, though, is the title of another amazing song in that it’s a very personal song about addiction, as experienced by his mother.

“I wrote it when she was in a treatment facility,” Crow said, noting that he wanted to help, although he was taught that it is up to the person to give up their addiction.

“As a loved one, you have to surrender, give up the fight but don’t give up on the person. Still love the person. I wrote it in five or 10 minutes,” he said. “I didn’t put it to music until a month later and I presented it to the band. Slagle, our bass player, said, ‘That’s a pretty wicked line.’ It’s probably the first time I’ve ever gotten a compliment from a member of the band.”

Asked about performing the song live, in front of large audiences, Crow said he was “numb to the idea of it, night after night,” but since it is the “most meaningful song,” he will continue to perform it because it means so much to him.

But not all the songs are heavy.

With “Traded It All For Love,” the inspiration came from a picture my wife has of a homeless man,” he said.”It read: ‘traded it all for love.’ I was staring at it one day and I thought (of my wife, ‘How lucky I am with her. She’s always backed me.

He then joked, “Well, maybe 88 percent.” It should be noted that his wife was riding with him in the car during the interview.

Regarding the new single, “Saying Goodbye,” Crow said he has been listening to a lot of Will Hoge, the Nashville singer-songwriter.

“(Hoge’s) poppy … I liked that groove,” Crow said, adding that the lyrics are pretty straightforward – “Boys and girls … someone chases the opposite sex and then says ‘I’ve done enough, I can’t do this anymore.”

Issues concerning U.S. soldiers are of particular importance to Crow. Having served in the Army in the 1990’s, Crow wrote “Broken” about the soldiers who come back from war shattered and broken, their minds a mess. He believes the government should do more to help these injured men heal.

“I read in Texas Monthly a story about a soldier in the Guard who talked about how when he walked out of a restaurant he was scanning rooftops. It’s all these things. It’s a real situation,” he said. “It’s about getting back home to that loved one and being so broken in the head and not being able to love yourself and someone else.”

“Performing the song in front of soldiers has had an impact, Crow said.

“Performing down at Fort Hood, three different grown men, including a major and a first sergeant came up to me crying, saying thanks for understanding and getting it, telling me they battle this every day.”

Knowing that he can help, if just through his music, Crow said it’s worth it.

“It’s mission accomplished for me. I touched these people, men and women sacrificing their own lives for us,” he said.

Crow said that with the holidays over and a new year kicking off, he is looking forward to getting back home to Austin and spreading the word n PTSD and brain injuries affecting our soldiers.

“I want to raise awareness,” he said.

And believe it or not, Crow and three other band members, including current guitarist Paul Russell, performed in a couple of scenes in an independent film called Desdemona: A Love Story.

A compelling tale about a troubled Mexican migrant, caught up in extraordinary events, the Bart Crow Band appears in a key scene, playing in a redneck bar, with the Mexican walking in expecting the worst.

Crow said it was a great experience and he was so impressed with the work the film crew put into making sure the scenes were done well. The film has done very well on the independent film circuit, winning numerous awards.

“That crew … they’re some talented dudes,” Crow said.

And speaking of “talented dudes,” Crow is quite happy with the members of his band.

“We’re like a gang, a posse,” he said. “We have the guys in the band over a for dinner a lot or we go watch them when they’re playing.”

Crow then admits that the band is more than some side men who perform well, he looks after them.

“I feel more like a father figure,” he said. “I make sure everyone’s safe out on the road.”

So, now that Heartworn Tragedy is out and receiving positive reviews what are the plans for the immediate future?

“We were fortunate to get up into Illinois, Kansas and Nebraska last summer,” Crow said. “My goal is to stretch a little further east, maybe do some acoustic stuff on the East Coast.”

And what about beyond touring? Can folks expect any new music?

“I’ve got enough songs that I feel comfortable doing half an album. And we want to do a live album. Probably not at Billy Bob’s, but something like that,” he said.

He added that a music video may be in the works as well. Time will tell.

Crow, meanwhile, remains upbeat and positive about the future of the Bart Crow Band and is excited about the attention the band is receiving.

 “Anything is possible,” Crow said. “Any opportunity that comes our way, we’re all over it.”

About the author: Andrew Griffin is editor of reddirtreport.com and oklahomawatchdog.org