Country recording artist Doug Stone began filling the charts with hit songs in 1990, and has cranked out seven albums--six platinum or gold, with 15 hit singles--in six years.
The 40-year-old Georgia native's appeal as a balladeer has earned him--in addition to many adoring female fans--nominations from the Grammy's, the Country Music Assn., the Academy of Country Music and Music City News.
And he has already appeared in a feature film ("Gordy" in 1994), and, like all big stars, has changed record companies and had creative differences with producers.
Along the way he has also had quadruple bypass surgery, which he underwent at age 36, and a couple of marriages, the last of which was dissolving in December when he suffered a mild heart attack.
The complex and charismatic performer--who Playgirl magazine said "brings romance to country music"--will appear at the Ventura Theatre on Saturday, performing many of his hits, as well as cuts from his new CD, "Faith in Me, Faith in You."
But don't let that velvety baritone voice fool you. Stone, who also plays guitar, piano, bass and some fiddle, draws upon his background as a hard-hitting drummer to give a great show. And Stone connects with his audiences through his sense of humor.
Those who think Stone's recent health setbacks might affect his show are in for a surprise: He doesn't hold back during live performances--the thing he enjoys the most.
Stone recently took time off from putting up fences and sheet rock for a log cabin he's building in Nashville to answer this reporter's call. He was in high spirits--full of laughter and good-natured self-deprecation--as he candidly discussed personal and professional challenges he's faced since our last in-person interview 2 1/2 years ago.
When Stone talks, the words "can't" and "paint" naturally rhyme. He punctuates the conversation with belly laughs. Here is some of what he had to say about songwriting and new projects over the muffled sound of dogs barking outside.
What do you think draws women of all ages to you?
I have no earthly idea. I look in the mirror and say, "Boy-damn, you're ugly."
That's not what the 1994 article in Playgirl magazine said about you.
I didn't have to get naked. (laughs) Thank God for clothes. When I had my heart surgery I told 'em, "You make me a little bitty scar." And now I swear you can barely see it. It's just like somebody took a ink pen and drew a little white line down my chest.
What do women say about your music?
They say they like the contents of the songs. You know a lot of the stuff I write is really from a male point of view. I don't know if women know that men have the feelings they have at times. I wrote a song called "I Won't Be Dyin' for You," and it's a real down song. Then the woman can sing it and get away with it and I can't.
So you're like the Alan Alda of country music getting in touch with your feminine side?
I guess. Take the lyrics, "I know you want to hurt me/It's your goal in life to take the love I have for you and use it like a knife. To cut away the memories slowly one by one 'til you crush my heart with misery and see us come undone./ You want me clingin' from a thread of hope, holding us together while you be lettin' go/ . . ."
That is powerfully down. But I think we've all been through that. Well, I mean "Pine Box" is about as far as you can get, isn't it?
Yet it was your first hit single and the video was nominated for a Grammy.
I almost didn't cut the song because of it. I thought to myself, "My God, that's depressing." (belly laugh). But I think we've had enough of up, goody-two-shoes stuff. Now let's have some real-life stuff.
You must be referring to your struggle to record "Born in the Dark." When we talked in May 1994, you were frustrated because your new label was resistant to the song. But it was finally included on this current CD and became one of the two singles. At the time you said you felt it was a double standard, where a man couldn't talk about his wife coming home late from the office. But if the roles were reversed, a female artist like Reba McEntire could record it in a heartbeat.
Yeah. I had to beg 'em to let me do it. I said, "Hey, look, I've sang all these goody-two-shoes songs about women, this that and the other being real nice. And I said, there is a flip side to that coin. If guys are dogs, there's women running around with us. And that's what I wanted to show in that song. There's never a one-sided love affair.
It looks like the deejay disco-dance-mix country fad has peaked. Do you think the CMA's recent recognition of George Strait after a lull sent the message that country was headed back to a more traditional roots sound?
I don't really know what it's doing or where it's headed. But I can say what I want it to do. I want it to go back to where you can sing a drinkin' song, you know? "Hey, my woman left me and I'm (bleep)-faced."
You've said you're a longtime fan of Frank Zappa's music and admire the story quality of "Joe's Garage." Do you pick and write songs that tell stories?
You remember John Conlee's "Miss Emily's Picture"? It came out around '80 or '82. I thought that was one of the best songs I'd ever seen. I could see it. If you'll look on one on my albums, the second one, "I Thought It Was You," there's a song called "The Feeling Never Goes Away." A guy named Kim Williams helped me write that. . . . Country music is an art form because we paint pictures with words.
You can be so poignant on a tender acoustic number like "In Another Light" and then you can be a real clown on upbeat songs like "Why Didn't I Think Of That'?" and "Addicted to a Dollar." Were you trying to break out of the romantic crooner mold?
Well, I did on the "Faith in Me" album. It's like the other day I was in North Carolina and the write-up said: "Stone's Comic Relief" (laughs). I told 'em one time I'd really like to pick my nose but that would be unsightly. But I think I'm gonna go back the other way. I think that's what the buying public really wants out of me--what they want to hear. In fact, after this album my next project is gonna be a ballad album--vintage Doug Stone. And I want to thank my fans for sticking with me.
This new untitled CD with producer Barry Beckett is due for release this spring, right?
Yes. And I co-wrote some songs for it.
Both you and Hal Ketchum are tremendous entertainers with great voices and lots of hits. So why do you think you guys are always the bridesmaids never the bride on the industry-awards circuit?
I think I said something real early in my career that messed me up with the award shows. So you want me to say it again (laughs)?
Well, they asked me if I thought that was real important, and I told 'em no, and I don't. If the people like my music, the award shows have nothing to do with it. If they'll buy my music I don't care if I get nominated or turn into anything. I ain't playing for them. I think it's political and I'm not a politician. So I don't fit good into that game. I came into this game thinking all that mattered was the music. And that's what I still think.
* WHO: Doug Stone in concert with opening act, Caught Red Handed.
* WHERE: Ventura Theatre, 26 S. Chestnut St.
* WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday.
* HOW MUCH: $25.
* CALL: 648-1888.