Jessi Colter: Waylon Jennings "Broke The Myth of Self-Destruction" in Country
Country music queen Jessi Colter is both outspoken and well spoken. The esteemed chanteuse and Arizona native, widely considered to be one of the grand dames of the genre, speaks quite eloquently and loquaciously of both of her storied 43-year career in country music and her many experiences along the way with husband Waylon Jennings, who passed away in 2002.
Courtesy of TGen Country music queen Jessi Colter.
Both Colter and the late crooner, whose birthday is on Saturday, are equally renowned as outlaw country artists, which she eagerly told Up on the Sun during a recent phone interview wasn't just some marketing shtick slapped on by Nashville. Both she and Waylon both bucked trends and the demands of record label executives, following their own particular muses. Its one of the reasons why the superstar, his music, and his legacy are still celebrated at events like the Waylon Jennings Birthday Bash on Saturday at Crescent Ballroom.
The party will help raise money for The Waylon Fund, which supports research for the treatment of diabetes -- the disease that claimed his life -- at local bioscience firm Translational Genomics Research Institute (or TGen.)
Colter also discussed the party and its aims to celebrate Jennings' legacy during our chat, as well as her feelings on the idea of new country artists being branded as outlaws, why her husband loved Arizona so much, her own solo projects, and the recent passing of fellow legend George Jones.
Up on the Sun: Your last album Out of the Ashes came out in 2006. Any plans of recording a new one, especially with your son Shooter Jennings producing?
Well, yes, he's going to produce an album. We've got to find time between what he has to do, between records of his own, producing some young groups in his field, and so forth. I have already begun with Lenny Kaye [creating] a very interesting album. It's actually the Psalms, right off the page, and we're hoping by the end of the summer to have that completed.
We've been working on that on-and-off for a couple of years because he tours with Patti Smith. And then I have a number of inspirational things that Waylon helped produce. He produced some of them, I produced some of them, and I'm going back this summer to pull together our masters. And so I'm hoping to have into fall a couple things ready to go, certainly by the end of the year.
Any other tidbits you'd like to reveal about those projects?
I'm also working on a book, slowly--steadily but surely--which will talk about my turning points in life. Waylon wrote a marvelous book called Waylon. He told me once, "I'm going to write my story before somebody gets it wrong," and he and Lenny Kaye wrote that and it's a great, great book.
Shooter has begun working with a writer on Waylon's story, and it's going to be very different from most life stories. It's going to be very artistic. [Waylon] didn't like Buddy Holly's movie. He thought it was awful, nothing like Buddy. They didn't capture him. It's very hard to capture a personality. It will be done differently.
How hard is it to write new songs and material?
I have to manage the estate and deal with the publishing. so I've not been into just writing my own songs and doing that [as much]. I wrote another entire Psalms album with a classical music [composer], Ken LaFave, a great friend of mine. We worked three years on-and-off for that.
So I'm going to tie everything together, hopefully bring them to a head. But for right now I've just been doing charity things, just appearing for charities. I don't know what you would call what I've been doing. exactly, but I've been having fun and just living.
How much did Waylon love living in Arizona?
Oh, he loved it. He felt like he romanticized his music here. He felt like that's where the true... he was in Texas and always loved it from the time he was a very small child, and he did his things there, his beginning things, his DJing at 12 and all that. But when he came out here it was probably like striking out on his own and finding his way, and those initial impressions, they go very deep, and he felt for Arizona and Arizona loved him.
There were such love moments with his music here, like living down in Coolidge--he would take people in the last few years of his life down to the Galloping Goose. That represented a big-time club, even though it was in Coolidge, and Coolidge had KCKY that really drew artists down there. A radio station in those days could make a difference. And so there were steps that he took here that brought him to be known nationally.