A Couple of Questions with Radney Foster
ALSO: Radney Foster was featured in our The Best Albums You've (Probably) Never Heard feature.
For those just learning about See What You Want To See now, can you give a nutshell summary of your career prior to its release?
I was in a cow-punk band called Foster & Lloyd. Cow-punk was a poor nomenclature, but there were lots of us out there who loved the Clash as much as we loved Buck Owens…and in Bill Lloyd’s case as well as mine, that sort of extended into the Beatles and the Everly Brothers. We were on RCA Records and we had several hits in mainstream country, and we also had hits in the college radio world. After that, I made two solo records…unequivocally mainstream country records…for Arista Records, the best of which is Del Rio, Texas, 1959. And, needless to say, they’re not really anything like See What You Want To See, other than the same guy singing and writing the songs…although there is a country element to that record. It’s just down in the dirt somewhere.
Do you recall any anecdotes from the recording of the album?
Actually, it was the first time I had let go of the reins. I had co-produced or produced every record I had ever made up until that time, and I felt like, with the direction that was headed and the songs I was writing and what I was doing, if I co-produced it with someone else, I would not go far enough or push myself far enough. So I picked Darrell Brown, and that was really great. At one point, I remember we were in the initial tracking of something – we were tracking with just bass drums, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar – and it essentially sounded like Depeche Mode. And I was, like, “Oh, my God!” And I think I called him in there and said that. I said, “I’m not sure I can handle this! This is a little farther than I wanted to go…!” Not that there’s anything wrong with those guys, but it’s not really where I wanted to be. And unbeknownst to me, my microphone was still on…and the guitar player said, “Uh, do you want me to unplug and leave?” But, oddly enough, I trusted him at that point, and as we started to add players and whole lots of other things, it started sounding more and more like me…and less like Depeche Mode! I can’t imagine anyone listening to that record at all and finding anything that would have anything to do with those guys…
Did you expect it to have a better commercial reception than it did?
I was hoping for it…and I think Arista was as well, as a matter of fact. They were very excited. I was caught in the downsizing which took place when Clive Davis was forced into retirement. We were the most-added record at triple-A radio the first week we went with the single…and the day after, we didn’t have a label! And so that was then recreated into three guys who were just given the thought of, “We have all of these masters; is there anything you can do to make back some of this money?” And they said, “Yeah, we think we can make some money with that Radney Foster record.” So it came out, and it was a fairly good-sized hit…and a kick in the pants for me in my home territory of the Southwest and just a handful of places elsewhere…but that experience is really what drove me to being an independent. I didn’t want to get caught making something where someone could say, “Well, you can’t put that out,” not because of anything I’d done musically, but because some guy was having an argument with a German corporation somewhere.
Are you pleased to find that it still maintains enough of a following to make its way into this piece?
Yeah, it always astounds me; I’m always thrilled. I actually bought the last 3,000 copies; I think there are maybe a handful, a couple hundred left for sale on the website, and it is available on iTunes, which is nice to see. I’m always really pleased and astounded at how many musicians, be it from the rock world or the country world, come up to me and say, “That’s, like, my favorite record,” or how much they like it. It’s always nice to hear that kind of silly talk. (Laughs)
What are you doing now?
Still making music, just doing it independently…and also producing records for quite a few other people, be they independent or on major labels. And they’re all over the map, from pop/folk singer-songwriters to basically rock bands with a fiddle player, like the Randy Rogers Band, who are from Texas and are on Mercury.
Check out Radney Foster's official site for more info.