Cowboy Troy was hick-hop country when hick-hop country wasn’t cool. With his debut album Loco Motive in 2005, he set the curve years before there was Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. His music dared to bridge the gap between tradition and the new wave, and it still does. At the time, he landed on the tail end of the pop-country vibrance of the ’90s, headed by Garth Brooks and Shania Twain, and this particular brand of country music wasn’t as accepted as it is in 2014.
On his brand new record, appropriately titled The Kind Of Clubs, he reaffirms all the things he already knew about himself and the world, but sheds light on where country could go in the future. “I like to make music that is dance-oriented but from a country music fan’s perspective. That’s how see the process for making this record,” he shares exclusively to NashvilleGab.
Everything from the song selection to production was a reinvigorating experience for him, even choosing the title. “I wanted to make sure I went back and revisited those ideas and make sure to address the needs of those folks,” he says of the new music. “I wanted to also that it would be something that would have some longevity. Music in the clubs has a tendency to last a little longer than music for radio. That’s just how it works.”
“And considering I’ve spent a lot of time in dance clubs since the early ‘90s, I wanted to make sure [the music] was something like that,” he adds.
On the album being a meager eight songs, he explains why, “It’s one of those things where you want to make sure you add high-quality content and make sure that it’s nonstop high-energy. There are no ballads on this album. It’s all uptempo, and I wanted to make sure it’d be something that people could push play and really enjoy themselves from start to finish.”
Two of his favorite tracks, “Daisy Dukes and Cowboy Boots” and “Club Criminal,” happen to be two of seven collaborations to land on the record. Troy admits that it wasn’t that “difficult” to have so many cooks in the kitchen, “Generally, when you have guest artists appear on a record, what you’ll do as the primary artist on the song is record all your parts. From there, you send it out to people you’d like [on it]. It’s fairly easy from that standpoint.
He concedes, however, “Now, it’s different if you’re starting the song together and trying to write from the initial vision of the song.”
Another standout collaboration is the opener, “Drink, Drank, Drunk,” one of the more organic results from a day in the studio. “Charlie Pennachio had already talked to Sinister and a couple other folks about the idea for a song. From there, we started the process after they had initially come up with the idea. It wasn’t like we were sitting around a room one day and started trying to figure out topics to write songs about. The topic was actually brought to me,” he says.
With what is known as hick-hop, Troy doesn’t really think in that kind of term, but asserts that he simply draws “upon my favorite aspects of each as I’m writing,” noting some remarkable similarities between hip-hop and country, at their core. “One of the interesting things about country and hip-hop, in general, is a lot of the subject matter is going to be similar in nature. Rappers and country boys like to talk about their rides, the ladies they’re in love with and having a good time.”
Admittedly, he finds it rather easy to live in both worlds. Only when he’s putting down the final production layers does it become a task. “The biggest issue is determining where you want the particular song to end up. If you are targeting a specific song for radio play, then you are going to have to dial back the bass line and grooves and increase the level of guitars and live instruments.”
“If you are looking at a song for country dance clubs, then you can pull back the live instruments and increase the bass and beats and track. It depends on where you are looking to target that song. A lot of times, we may have one song and have two versions: one for radio and another that has a club feel to it.”
The King Of Clubs is “some of my best work,” he details, “It’s a different area, creatively, and a different mindspace.” He continues,”Once we realized what we were doing, in terms of a targeted record to dance clubs, it took a minute to hone in on those ideas. The way it is set up, people may have preconceived notions about what the country record is supposed to sound like.”
“If you go to a dance club, you’ll find that the DJ will play your traditional Top 40 country hits during the first 45 minutes of an hour. That last 15 minutes of the hour, the DJ will play everything from straight up rap to electronic dance to rock-n-roll. What ‘King of Clubs’ is designed to do is to fill up that last 15 minutes for the club, but it does it from country fans’ perspective.”
While Troy’s music certainly pushes far beyond the envelope, it clings to what’s familiar. He says, “It has all the aspects of what country fans like to listen to and have a party about, but it provides it in a fashion that’s going to be danceable. It has the boom and thump and bass that rap music has, of what the DJ usually plays, but it has the fiddle and all the other country instruments, too. It’s your one-stop shop.”
Even so, critics can dive into the album with preconceived notions about what he should be doing, and he’s realistic about that. “Being a music fan and artist all these years, I know when something sounds forced or contrived,” he recounts. “Growing up, I could tell if someone was trying to do something to appeal to a particular audience. If you just do music that’s true to who you are, eventually will people will like it (or they won’t). Those that really like it will gravitate toward it and latch on. You can’t try catch all the fish in the lake. You have to catch the ones close to your boat.”
Through the years, fans of all walks of life have approached him about his music, calling him a pioneer comapred to Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. “When my first record came out in 2005 on Warner, that was the first country-rap hick-hop album all the way through–first one on a major label,” he recalls. “It says something about the label and thinking that this is something that could have some longevity. The fact that they took a chance on me, I’m very grateful for that. Between Big & Rich bringing me out and making sure that I got to be on their first album and be on tour all these years, that opened the eyes of Warner Brothers when they saw how fans were reacting to me.”
He adds about the current trends at radio, “Anytime I hear a country artist come out with rap in their songs or live shows, I think that’s cool. Going back and looking at, it makes it seem like I wasn’t such a ding-dong to begin with when I moved to Nashville. There were a lot of people that thought I was just off my rocker and thought it would never work.”
But don’t be fooled. Behind the many cowboy hats (FYI, he has five–including two black felts and a silver-mist grey one), he’s a family man. “I like to spend as much time as I can with my family. I travel a lot as it is. When I’m not working, I really like to stay with my wife and kids. That’s how I like to do it. If they’re playing around or doing something or relaxing, then I’m doing it, too.”
Not getting into specific details, he teased a rather cool future opportunity. “We have some other interesting things coming up,” he hints. “There’s a potential for a docu-series about my family.”
Don’t forget to grab a copy of The King Of Clubs on iTunes now!
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