In an excerpt from the biography on his profile, it describes Razzy Bailey as “an exciting performer, and a songwriter/producer worthy in rank among the all-time classic American songwriters and producers, someone whose brilliant songs transcend the borders of music. He is one of country music's most eloquent and enduring poets, and one of pop and southern rock music's most gifted artists. He also has the qualities that any rhythm and blues ratios worth his blood, sweat, and tears must have: compassion, urgency, unrestricted vision, and a soulful heartbeat.” I don’t think I could have described this man any better. I had an amazing chat with this man during CMA Music Festival this year and took the opportunity to learn about what makes him most happy and discovered a mutual passion we share.
Bev: Have you been enjoying the CMA Music Fan Festival?
Razzy: I sure have. It is the first one I have been at in a few years. It is a lot different than it was, it is a lot better. We were just talking about how hot it used to be. You would just get out there and melt. It is much more comfortable.
Bev: What have you been doing the past year or so?
Razzy: I have had a recording studio for ten years now and I have been doing a lot of things in there. I have been doing a lot of writing and producing, working on my own things. We have been working on this new album for about two years off and on, not every day. We have been making decisions about what songs we want to put on there. I have been doing some dates, writing some songs, the regular old “Razzy” thing.
Bev: Are you producing other artists or just producing your own projects?
Razzy: I produce some people as well.
Bev: Any names you want to drop
Razzy: No. I haven’t produced anybody with names lately. In the beginning I did some of the early stuff on the guys that did “Your Daddy’s Money”…Ricochet.
Bev: Do you have a studio in your home or a studio that you use elsewhere?
Razzy: I have a studio that was originally a house and we turned it into a studio. My studio is in Goodlettsville, 225 Cartwright. The whole thing is a studio.
Bev: Have you gotten into the MySpace, Twitter and all?
Razzy: Yes, we are on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.
Bev: Do you twitter yourself or do you someone else do it for you?
Razzy: I have someone else doing most of it because I am just learning how.
Bev: You come from a completely different era. How do you see all this technology with Twitter, Facebook and so on affecting the music world?
Razzy: I love it. I love the technology they have and I think it is a whole new opportunity for independent artists. There are a lot of people that wouldn’t sign with a major label if they could, because they are doing so well on the internet selling their products.
Bev: Are you a promoter of one or the other; would you prefer to be on a label or would you prefer to be independent?
Razzy: At this point in my life and what I am doing musically, I prefer to be on my own label because the majors tell you what to do and they kill your creativity in a lot of cases. They have a preset idea of what they are going to develop you into. I would resent that a lot at my age. I like to do what I feel good about, what I feel natural with and what I feel like I can communicate to the audience.
Bev: What do you enjoy doing in your time off?
Razzy: I like photography. I like to get out and ride through the country or ride the town. Hypothetically, if we were talking about New Orleans, I would try to get some local scenes that would represent New Orleans. Just some things that are native to that region. I like to photograph crazy things. I went on a spin there for a while that I was photographing doors, all types of old and rusty doors and things on barns. I like to do candid shots because people can pose for the camera, but that is their camera face.
I went to visit my wife’s father, he passed away but he was in the nursing home at the time. We went on Sunday and they had a guy come in and preach. There was a row of old ladies just sitting in a row in chairs by themselves and they all had on these crazy colored socks and shoes and things like that. I just took a shot of the row of their feet and it is such a cool shot.
Bev: That is so cool, that is the kind of stuff I like, things that no one else would notice.
Razzy: If I may, I would like to tell one more photograph story. I got interested in photography in the early 1980s and started taking pictures and it seemed like my songwriting improved. I made the statement to my wife at the time and said “it doesn’t make sense but it seems to me like since I got interested in pictures, I can write songs better.” Sure enough, there is a correlation there. What it is, is the concept. You study the concept of what you want to get in the camera and you get in the habit of that. Then when you write a song, you know how to keep that concept.
Bev: I agree 100%. It is a picture in your mind and you put it into words. Do you publish any of your photos or sell any of them?
Razzy: I have had a lot of people ask me to over the years and they wanted to do some art shows on me and show them up in Hendersonville. Just seems like I never really have time to get them together, but maybe one of these days I will.
Bev: Getting back to the music, what projects are you working on?
Razzy: I have finished my album and now we are trying to get the promotion out on the album and make people aware of it. We use the internet a lot to promote it. Hopefully we will be doing more dates. We are getting more dates on the book. I want to get out and play shows and promote the album.
Bev: Do you prefer to play festivals, the big venues or do you like small, intimate venues?
Razzy: I like to play listening rooms, I don’t mean where people can’t talk. I am sort of burned out on bars and the cigarette smoke and all that stuff. I have done that for so many years that I just as soon play where there is no cigarette smoke. I like to play places where they dance, but not the Honky Tonks. I enjoy casinos, because if you play there for a week, you just do your shows, go upstairs and get some rest and you don’t have to do as much traveling.
Bev: Over the years, have you had one song that the fans request most often?
Razzy: I would say it is “9,999,999 Tears” even though I didn’t have the hit on it. That is a song that gave me my break. People still talk about it. The other ones are “Friends” and “Midnight Hauler”. Those are the most requested ones.
Bev: Is there a favorite that you have that you like to perform that maybe is not a requested song?
Razzy: It is usually the newest thing I have written. I love to do my new songs because I get excited when we write one. We write all the time.
Bev: You say “we”, do you have a co-writer that you write with most of the time?
Razzy: Different ones, me and Ben write some together. I was writing with Jennifer Brantley. We were doing a lot of co-writing and before her I was writing with another girl that moved back to Louisiana. Now I write with a guy named Joe Downey. I don’t like to write with the people that have been going to the songwriter things. I don’t think it is a good thing for the new novice coming to town to belong to those songwriter deals. I think they really confuse them, so when I sit down to write, they say you can’t do that and you can’t do this. I say why can’t you? Why can’t you write the song the way you want to write it? That has always been my way, to write the song the way I feel it, and not go by what some instructor, that has never had a hit song and never been acquainted with a hit tells everyone how to write and how not to write. I have been to some of those meetings and they will take a good song, not a bad song and chop it down so bad. They take pleasure in ripping it apart. I have always been the type of person, I work better on compliments. I don’t mind when people say I don’t really like this song, I like something else better. I can take criticism but I can’t take solid put downs all the time. I say “what’s the use, this guy just doesn’t see what I am doing.”
Bev: When you write, do you have a specific method you use? Do you jot down notes as you are going or when you sit down you are like an open book and you just let things flow out?
Razzy: I do it both ways. A lot of times I get a hook line in mind, I will see something happen or hear someone say something and I think that is a good line for a song, I write it down. Most of the time, I just pick up the guitar and then just sort of let myself channel and something will come to me. I heard one writer say he gets up every morning and turns on his laptop and words just start coming to him. I am the type person that if I had a writing appointment for next Tuesday from 2-4pm, I would have something to write about.
Bev: Out of all the people you have worked with in the past, is there a favorite that you like to perform with?
Razzy: Willie Nelson. Willie has been such an inspiration to me. I liked Willie Nelson music back in the 1970s when nobody would listen to him. They would say he sounded like someone stepping on a cat’s tail. I lived down in Macon, Georgia at the time and I started listening to Willie back in the 1960s. He had a song called “Black Jack County Chain” and he got a lot of play in the little town we lived in. I don’t know if it ever made it to major radio or not but after that, every time I heard a Willie Nelson song I would say “oh wow”.
There was a lady in a record store in Atlanta that found out I liked Willie Nelson and she was doing some of my independent stuff for me on the jukeboxes. Every time she would get a Willie Nelson sample in, she would save it for me. She would say I can’t sell it so I will give you all the Willie Nelsons I get. By the time others got caught up to Willie, I already had a good Willie Nelson collection.
Bev: How young were you when you started? How did that all happen?
Razzy: Are you talking about playing music in clubs? I was about 15 probably. I always wanted to be a musician and Daddy played the guitar a little bit. He always inspired me to do that. When I was 12, Momma got me a harmonica and I started playing it some. Then I finally got a guitar and started learning to play it. There were a lot of musicians that lived in a 10 mile radius of where I lived, hobby musicians and I would get together with them. Then, Daddy got me lined up with two different radio stations so we started doing two regular radio shows, one in Roanoke, AL and one in West Point, GA. We would do one and then drive to the other. Then there was another guy that had a radio show and he heard me play and he wanted me to play at dances with him. So we started playing dances. Back then they called it “Round” and "Square” dancing. They had Jitterbug and Rockabilly. It just kept going from there.
Bev: Compared to how you started and how the new young artists, what do you see as being different?
Razzy: I wasn’t around a whole lot of other people that was trying to get started. I was just trying to get started myself. Now I knew Freddy Weller and Joe South. They were at Lowry Music. I took songs up there and I understood it was a process you had to go through. You had to keep trying and keep doing something but now, the people I work with in the studio are very impatient. They get really mad if they don’t get a deal right away.
I worked with a girl for eight months and we cut an album. I took it and shopped her to RCA and those labels down there and they said because of the economy they weren’t signing anyone even though they liked her singing. I went back and she got real mad at me because I didn’t get her a deal. She said she had to have a deal. I told her that if she had to have a deal, then she would have to do it herself. I told her I could get her an independent deal but she didn’t want that, she wanted to be on the majors. That is typical.
The last eight to ten kids I have worked with, I tell them it is going to be hard. It is a thing that no matter what you tell them, they don’t do it and then when they find out they don’t make it overnight, most of them get discouraged, get mad. I think because of the nature of promotion today, people do get a lot quicker breaks. If the guy is real good looking and got muscles, tight fitting jeans, he has a chance-it is a visual thing. If you look at guys years ago like Ernest Tubb, they would have never made it. Ernest Tubb was a great artist; he had a great longevity until he died.
Bev: Going back to your new song. You have a single out on it now?
Razzy: The new single is “Hank Wrote That” and it was written by me and Ben. I have already mailed it out to some stations to see how they react to it. We are getting some air play on that one too.
Bev: Are you doing the digital downloads?
Razzy: Yes, they can order the CD from CD Baby, Amazon or Top Spin. We have them in Ernest Tubb Record Shop, they have four shops. We are promoting the single by video on You tube. Top Spin Media has signed me and I will be their first country artist to promote.
Bev: It has been a pleasure talking to you. I cannot wait to see some of your photography work and I look forward to the music.
Razzy: Thank you! I would love to see some of your work as well.
For more information on Razzy Bailey please visit www.razzybailey.com.