Exclusive Interview: There’s probably no one in Nashville with a better musical pedigree than Shelton Hank Williams, a.k.a. Hank3. But there’s also probably no one that despises the cookie cutter Nashville sound more than Hank3. The grandson of country music legend Hank Williams and the son of Hank Williams Jr. feels as though he’s finally able to spread his musical wings now that he’s out of his contract with Curb records. He’s started his own label and the alt-country star is wasting no time, releasing three new projects. “Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown”, a double-album set of Cajun flavored country, “Attention Deficit Domination”, a heavy metal doom rock collection and 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin’, an unusual blend of heavy metal and actual cattle auctioneering. There’s no doubt Hank3 makes the music he wants now. He sat down to talk with Nashville.com and here’s what he had to say:
Nash: Why did you decide to start your own label?
Hank3: Basically for creative freedom more than anything. If you look at my history I’ve been sat on for the last 15 years. I’ve been with Curb records for about 15 years and they’ve only put out five records on me and if you look at Hank Jr, he probably has about 120 records out through his career. So they were killing me creatively and musically they were holding me back. I wanted to not have that problem anymore. If I want to make a country record I’ll do it, if I want to make a heavy metal record I’ll do it, if I want to make a blues record I’ll do it. That’s the main inspiration.
Nash: Did you ever think of just going with another major label?
Hank3: No. I had the option to but I just didn’t want to. There’s just too much lawyer work. Usually when you’re dealing with the majors you have to deal with four extra lawyers and four other people’s say so. I like getting straight to the point and my motto is get it done sooner than later. That’s a lot harder to do on a major.
Nash: Does it make more financial sense for you to start a label?
Hank3: It depends on what you’re in it for. If you’re in it for just making music, yeah. If you’re in it to play the Nashville game and get a number one song on the radio and make a million dollars off of a song, probably not. It’s kind of a double edge sword. With all of the outlets today, the internet, selling your own merch, you have a lot of ways to run your own show that people didn’t have 20 years ago.
Nash: Do you plan to sign any other artists?
Hank3: No, it’s hard enough just doing my thing. I would never want to take the chance of doing another musician wrong.
Nash: Let’s talk about your three new projects. Why are you releasing four CDs at one time? (Ghost to a Ghost is a two CD set)
Hank3: The main reason is being held back for so long, but for the next two years I’m going to be in touring mode. I’m not going to be in recording mode. And this is the first time in 14 years I’ve actually been able to sell a CD at my own merch booth. That’s another reason I wanted to have all three styles available and in the can. It’ll probably be a couple of years before I make another set of records. In general I’m just a bar band. My best marketing system is to say hello. I shake every hand and sign every autograph. If you got something good or bad to say to me at the end of the night I take it.
Nash: Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown is your new country CD but it has a lot of the Cajun sound in there. Where does that come from?
Hank3: Basically I’ve always been a fan of that style of fiddle playing and the openness that the old Cajun sound had. It didn’t really matter if you were that in tune or not. They were just doing their thing. It’s just been a music, that over the years has calmed me down when ever I might get in an unsettled area. And also in goes hand-in-hand. My dad was born in Louisiana, Hank Williams had that big strong connection down there. To me it’s just a feel good kind of music.
Nash: 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin’ is a very unusual combination of heavy metal woven around actual cattle auctioneering. How did you come up with that?
Hank3: I use to spend my summers in Missouri with my granddad on his cattle farm. Half the time I was working cattle and I’d be going to the auction barns with him. I was always fascinated with the high speeds of these auctioneers. And as time went on I thought that would be a really cool combination. Just being able to line up the tracks with the auctioneers was a lot of fun. More than half the people [auctioneers] I wanted to use were not into it. They’re older men and they just didn’t see my vision. There’s not one cuss word on this record and that’s because some of these guys asked “will there be a cuss words on this record” and I said “if you’re willing to work with me, no there won’t.”
Nash: There’s a song called “Demons Mark” on Attention Deficit Domination, your heavy metal album. Your grandfather and you’re father both had their demons to fight and you’ve had your demons as well. Are those times behind you now?
Hank3: I don’t think it ever ends. It’s always a struggle. If it’s light verses dark or good versus bad it’s always a struggle. I mean I don’t think it ever goes away. You got to take it day by day and do the best that you can and approach it like you might not be here tomorrow.
Nash: Is there anybody special in your life right now?
Hank3: I’m married to the road. It takes a certain kind of person to be use to that. My boy is in college. He’s a grown man now. I got my dogs. Me and my mom are running my business and my merch.
Nash: Has your son ever shown any interest in the music business?
Hank3: He messes around with it. He’s having more fun with it. My best advice for him right now is while you’re in the habit of staying in school, you might as well stay in school as long as you can until you figure out what you really want to do. He’s not taking it real serious right now.
Nash: Does your son feel any pressure to follow in the family foot-steps like you or your dad might have?
Hank3: No, I always played music because I wanted to. My mom and dad didn’t push me to get in it. I think my son knows he has that option but he knows how intense it is because he sees how much work goes into it.
You can catch Hank3 in Nashville on Wednesday July 27th at The End. At the Exit/in on Aug 6th and at The Factory on Aug. 27 for a Happy Tails fundraiser, a no kill animal shelter. For more info on Hank3s tour check out http://www.hank3.com/tour.htm