A Conversation With Ricky Skaggs< < Back to
Besides the cultivation of a career that spans more than five decades, Skaggs also is a 14-time Grammy Award winner boasting 12 consecutive Grammy nominated albums. The man has had 12 number one hits, including 1981’s “Waiting For The Sun To Shine,” which was his first chart-topping single. Skaggs has worked with the likes of Bill Monroe, Emmylou Harris, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and many more.
About a week before his Marietta performance, Skaggs spoke with WOUB’s Emily Votaw about finally releasing the album he had been wanting to record with his wife, Sharon White, for decades; his relationship with late country legend Chet Atkins and how he feels about the country western music that blares out of truck radios all over America in 2016.
WOUB: I really wanted to start off by asking you about the recording and subsequent release of Hearts Like Ours, with your wife Sharon White in 2014. Could you tell me a bit about that?
Ricky Skaggs: Sharon and I we were named singing duo of the year in 1987, and we had wanted to do a full CD back then, but she was on a different label than I was: she was on Warner Brothers and I was on CBS on the Epic label; real competing labels. So no one wanted to share their artists and they couldn’t figure out which label we would put a collaborative record on. It was kind of a business mess and it was kind of hurtful. But, you know, as hurtful in a way as it was, I think it was God’s wisdom that we waited all these years and did it in 2013 and 2014. Because where we were in our marriage then and where we are now is just light years away. We’re so much stronger and so much more in love as a couple and we know each other so much better and I feel like we both sing better than we did back then. I mean, goodness, when you know someone and you’ve been married to them for 35 years, you really know so much about them. That was one of the main reasons we wanted to put this record out when we did. Obviously we’re not getting any younger, but we just felt like it was the right time for it. It’s a beautiful bunch of songs and I loved the musical arrangements and hearing the steel guitar with Sharon’s voice like it was in the early ‘80s when I was producing her country songs. It was a beautiful thing.
WOUB: It really is such a tender record, very sweet. You’ve done so much over the course of your career, and people have said an awful lot of things about the impact of your contribution to country music. I know that in the late ‘80s Chet Atkins actually credited you with “saving country music.” I was wondering: what is your reaction to that sentiment?
RS: Well, I usually tell people that I think that Chet was not on his meds the day that he said that. Might have missed his medications that morning. Nah, I loved Chet and he really loved me for the fact that as a young artist I was really paying tribute to the old music of artists like Bill Monroe and The Stanley Brothers, yet with my years with Emmylou Harris I was modern, too. I had knowledge of the “now,” and wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries a little bit, all while still being able to pay tribute to the music of the past and a lot of artists at the time were not doing that. It was all about them and what they were doing. But I really feel like when we humble ourselves and pay honor and tribute to our fathers and the elders of the music, you just can’t go wrong with that. I think that God loves it, but I think people respect it. There’s a respect for me and not just for the abilities that I have musically but just the fact that it’s really embedded in my heart to honor the elders of the music and really show them great respect.
RS: It’s not my kind of country, and it’s not the kind of country that I was doing when I was younger; but I’m sure the same could be said about me in 1981 when I started having number one country hits. Someone could have said, ‘well, that’s not my kind of country, that’s not what I came to Nashville to do.’ I try real hard not to dog all these young kids. You know, I’m for them, I want to celebrate them, I want to encourage them. It’s different now, and I think having the sort of technology that we have now days really allows people to pull in music so easily and so quickly. People can listen to all kinds of music; kids who listen to country music now days, they’re listening to everything. It’s very rare that you find a country fan, someone who is under 25, who only listens to their favorite artist. They’re listening to not just country but a lot of different acts and artists. When I was growing up I might have been listening to a lot of different artists, but they were of somewhat the same ilk. Whether it be country music or bluegrass, it was something akin to each other. Now days, it’s much different, but, here again, that’s okay. It certainly brings different influences into the music.
WOUB: When you’re in proximity to some of those modern top country artists, do you find yourself giving them advice?
RS: Well, I don’t just go up to people without them asking and point my finger at them and tell them what they need to be doing. You know, if they ask for advice and they show respect and show that they would listen, I am glad to share any advice I can or any experiences I’ve had that may be helpful to them. For so many of the artists today, they really feel like they’ve got it all together so I don’t get asked a lot. But those artists are nice and respectful, that’s for sure. And that’s a good thing to know. I’ve met a lot of really, really awesome young artists. There are some good kids out there.
WOUB: I wanted to make sure that I asked you about coming to the People’s Bank Theatre late next week. Are you currently on tour, or is that something that starts later this week for you?
RS: Well, we tour pretty much all year as far as that goes, I say that we’re available for touring we’ll do some shows this weekend and we’ll do some shows next week as well I know we’ll be coming into Marietta on Friday. We’ll be ready for ya.
WOUB: And then I was just kind of curious: what’s up next for you? Anything in the works?
RS: Currently I just finished producing Hillary Scott & the Scott Family’s Love Remains. Hillary sings with Lady Antebellum and she’s fantastic singer and a fantastic lady and I love her very much. She and her family are wonderful. They’re all excited about that and we worked a long time on it, about eight months, with her schedule and my schedule being crazy, but that’s kind of the last project that I’ve been working on. I need to be thinking about a Ricky Skaggs project and I’m not sure exactly what that’s going to be quite yet; but it is on the burner, but it’s kind of on the back burner, it’s not pulled out the front burner just yet.
For tickets and more information on Skaggs’ July 29 performance in Marietta, visit peoplesbanktheatre.com.