20 Questions with Texas Country Star James Lann
James Lann played Wild West Lubbock on July 16th. I had the opportunity to catch up with James before the show and see how 2011 and the road was treating him. The interview, while unconventional, was the funnest this writer has had the privilege of doing over the past few years. Here is the interview, in its entirety, with James Lann.
99.5 the Bear: 2010 and 2011 have been fantastic years for you. Just how great has the first half of 2011 been?
James Lann: It’s been great. We’ve had our 4th #1 single, third one off this new record called Honky Tonk Kung Fu. It’s started off really well and hopefully it continues to push on.
99.5 The Bear: You beat me to the punch there. It’s 5 top 5 and four #1’s. How does that feel for you?
James Lann: It’s nice that someone knows. No, it’s really cool and we’re humbled by it and we use it as a tool. We don’t brag about having #1 songs, it’s not like that. We just try to get another song out there and hope everyone likes it.
99.5 The Bear: With the big success, are you itching to get back into the studio?
James Lann: Yeah, it does. We are trying to do some writing right now and line up more writing sessions so we have more time to write the record. Hopefully though in the fall we’ll get the record cut and in the spring or summer get it out.
99.5 The Bear: What are the differences in FORD and Honky Tonk Kung Fu?
James Lann: We released that song before we had the record done. It did well and we went back and finished the record. There were a lot of things I was learning. It was how to record and that kind of stuff. It was my first full length cd and it was an interesting experience. Then to record Honky Tonk Kung Fu, I knew more of the direction I wanted to do. We cut it in Tyler and we’re closer now to what I want as the sound to where I was on the first record. It’s just a just a learning experience. I’m hoping the next record will be even more where we want it to be.
99.5 The Bear: What’s the background story on “Halfway to Houston” and how you selected it?
James Lann: I believe in cutting other people’s songs. I have a lot of friends that are songwriters but not singers and entertainers. I write but we also record other people’s songs. If we don’t do that then they starve and there is no way in heck I’m going to pass up a great song. If I get a good song come across my desk then I’m a total moron if I don’t record it. I don’t know how it’s worked out this way but it seems every other single for us goes one I wrote, one a buddy a wrote, one I wrote, one a buddy wrote.
99.5 The Bear: How do you go about selecting your songs?
James Lann: When selecting songs I put them into three different categories. I have my A tracks, my B tracks and C tracks. A is all the songs I like and think are cool and want to record. B are songs I really like but don’t know if it’s the right time to record that one and then C is just songs that won’t make the cut or aren’t close to ready to do. Then some tracks I just completely throw out. We’ve only got 12 to 15 songs that can be put on a record so we have to just get to done to there and get the tracks we think need to be on that record.
99.5 The Bear: What’s one of your favorite tracks you’ve done, either yours or someone else’s?
James Lann: One of my favorite tracks was one I wrote for my wife called “Every Kiss Goodnight.” I like it a lot and it’s a really cool tune. There was another song that Chuck Allen Floyd wrote called She’s Water that a really cool tune. Another song we actually got through Chuck was a song he had in his catalog that George Strait had on hold and Alan Jackson had on hold before that. The track got loose and I got ahold of it and recorded it. They’re all my babies though.
99.5 The Bear: A lot of Texas country guys aren’t cowboys but you are right?
James Lann: You know, I was born and raised on cattle ranches but it’s been a little while since I’ve been in the saddle. My dad has a ranch and I have ran cattle all my life so I was born and raised doing that kind of stuff and it was just part of the process.
99.5 The Bear: Can you talk a little bit more about the new record and where you’re at with it?
James Lann: We’re really just in the beginning phases. We’ve written a couple of tunes and I might do one tonight that may end up on the record. I wrote Every Kiss Goodnight in the studio while we were recording so, until the final cut; I never know what will end up on it. You just never know.
*At this point in the interview James was called to the stage for sound check. James did “Face in the Mirror,” “Honky Tonk Kung Fu” and “Makin Payment.” He then sat down his guitar and came back to finish the interview.
99.5 The Bear: What’s it about playing Lubbock that you like so much?
James Lann: A lot of my friends went to school at Tech and the new drummer’s dad lives here. We like playing everywhere so I don’t single out one place and say that’s my favorite place to play. It’s just all about the crowd. We could love the city but it’s the crowd that really makes it. It’s just weird; it just works its way out.
99.5 The Bear: What are the biggest differences in Nashville to Texas Country?
James Lann: I think the biggest difference is the independent artists. Nashville artists on big labels have their creative control taken away from them. Not all of it though, because I know Randy [Rogers] still have a lot of creative control over their work, which is cool. I believe that as you go on with your career, here in Texas, we have an ability to do what we want to do and not worry about what other people think and just cater to the crowd. It’s a political game between Nashville and Texas.
99.5 The Bear: Why is everyone trying to get into Texas Country?
James Lann: It’s just because of that freedom but I think you have to worry about saturation. You have to worry about the charts and your airplay because of it. Nashville has that rotation of artists and radio air play but with the Texas Country there are a lot of stations and a lot of places to be heard. You have a huge difference in population in Nashville to Texas. You have 100 reporting stations across the country for Billboard and 100 stations that report to just the Texas Music Chart. That’s in Texas and Oklahoma alone. Everyone wants to be Texas Country but you just can’t worry about the charts, it just about what you want to do.
99.5 The Bear: So with airplay becoming tougher, how big does social media come in for you?
James Lann: It’s important. Am I any good at it, I don’t know. The social media deal is the real way to connect with your fans.
99.5 The Bear: Who are some of your bigger musical influences?
James Lann: Growing up I wanted to listen to what everyone before me was listening when they were young. So I went out and bought a record player. A lot of my influences came from old, old stuff. Older stuff like Sons of the Pioneers, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were some of my early ones. But then there’s George Jones, Eddie Rabbit, Dan Seals and Merle Haggard, those guys were influences. If you hear anything one time, it influences you. To be able to name an exact person...Chris Ledoux, he really changed me. We’re working towards that. We’re working on new shows and I’m a big believer in a big show, not just the music. I want great music, great band and a show. When people come to see you they don’t say that guitar player played the right notes. They say wow did you see this or see that. It’s has to be visual and the music.
99.5 The Bear: At any point in their music career, who would you have liked to collaborated with?
James Lann: I would have loved to have done something with Eddie Rabbit, that guy was cool. So many people have been awesome, Dan Seals. Anything with him or Ledoux would have been great. Both guys are gone but it would have been cool.
99.5 The Bear: Who are you digging now days in Texas Country and just music in general?
James Lann: I like Wade Bowen a lot. I love his stuff and I’ve always loved his stuff. You really put me on the spot man. For a long time I was really big into Ryan James but I don’t think he’s playing anymore. Walt Wilkins is really killer. Drew Womack has one of the most killer cd’s I’ve ever hear. That self-titled one was one of the most killer records I’ve ever heard.
99.5 The Bear: Anything on your iPod that might surprise some people?
James Lann: Oh lord. I listen to everything. I think I have all of my wife’s music on there too so that really screwed it up. Anything from Bruce Hornsby to Carl Douglass to Jim Brickman will be on their. Jim Brickman is a killer piano player.
*James then pulls out his iPhone and goes through his recently played on iTunes.
Let’s see there is Blake Shelton, Zac Brown, Jason Derulo, Kevin Fowler, Bruce Hornsby and that’s the most recent played songs. I think this thing was playing all night and I didn’t hear it.
99.5 The Bear: What’s some of the best advice you’ve got over your career?
James Lann: The three best pieces of advice I ever got were: show up on time, learn your material and don’t be a douche. That’s the rules I live by and that’s the three rules I have for my guys in the band.
99.5 The Bear: Favorite things about the road?
James Lann: It’s the people. It’s being able to meet them and get their stories about music and how they’ve used music in their life. That’s kind of the big thing for me.
99.5 The Bear: What should we expect for the last half of 2011?
James Lann: Hopefully we’ll have another song out on the radio here pretty soon. We talked collaborations earlier and we have a duet song on the record and we have a couple of guys that we are looking at recording it with. We may try to put that out. We have plans for the new record, the band and just a whole lot of craziness.
James Lann has had four straight #1 singles on the Texas Music Chart. He's also had 5 top 5 singles on the chart as well. His two albums, FORD and Honky Tonk Kung Fu, are must have albums for your music collection. Find more of James Lann online.