Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography
After our interview was confirmed, I started researching fiddle player Renaé Truex. I looked at her website. That took a while. It appeared she’d done a few things. Next I went for it. I took to Google and typed her name in the search box. The hits went on for days. There were videos upon videos. There were articles. It never ended. I started taking notes on people she had worked with, but finally I gave up. I just quit. I decided I’d just wait and ask her. It seemed like she had worked with just about everyone. So, when I did finally speak with her I asked if there was anyone she hadn’t worked with that she’d like to, and you’ll find out what she said in a bit. Hang in there, her answer was a good one.
What’s important to understand before we really get into this is Renaé Truex is probably the most upbeat musician I have ever interviewed. She has the most infectious laugh and her sense of positivity just oozed through the phone. I can’t stress this enough. I think we all need someone like her in our lives. When I went back over the audio of our interview, I ended up with 59 pages of notes. Normally, that would equate to a crushing migraine. Listening back to Truex? It was actually a joy! Her laugh sprinkled throughout 90 minutes of audio really helped. I hope you appreciate all that she shared as much as I did.
Our conversation began with Truex explaining how she and her husband were taking down Christmas decorations. They had gone a little overboard this year with more lights (even inside the house) and such. Sort of a way to dress up an otherwise gloomy 2020. She said she’s always been a “glass half full” person, and it didn’t take me long to realize she absolutely was.
Renaé Truex grew up in Moundsville, West Virginia, about 12 miles south of Wheeling, “literally on top of a hill.” She was the youngest child and only daughter, which meant she was well-guarded. “My parents didn’t let me out of my room until I moved out,” Truex said with a laugh. All that seclusion did have some benefits though. She was surrounded by music. Gladys, her paternal grandmother, played guitar and piano and played square dances. Her father was also a musician who played bass guitar and fiddle in his own country rock bands. “I remember going to sleep at four or five-years old and listening to the band practice. They always had the band up to our house to practice because we didn’t have any neighbors. We were literally out in the hills.”
Image courtesy of townmapsusa.com
Truex was in her first band with her dad when she was only 15-years old, but she didn’t immediately become a star. Dad believed in the value of working your way up from within the system. “He brought me up on being a roadie first. Yeah, he had his band and all his music gear so they would have gigs every weekend and I would go help ’em load and unload.” The first band she actually played in with her dad was called Night Rhythm. She then moved on to play with his band Buckshot, a band that stayed together for about 25 years. Truex’s dad taught her some scales and tunings, but other than that it was more or less by ear, watching others and playing along to records.
When asked how she sounded when she first started out, she let out one of her familiar laughs. “Oh, especially for that instrument? Somebody usually really takes to it on the first couple notes or they’re totally turned off by it. I will tell you I’m a left-handed person, so I was like, the first couple months I played, I was trying to play left-handed, but then I realized if I were ever to be in an orchestra or anything, it wouldn’t work out too well, so I changed to right-handed. It didn’t sound good,” she said chuckling. Hard to believe once you’ve heard her as she is today. I responded, “Really? “No, it wasn’t the best,” she said, still laughing. “Well, it improved,” I replied. “Well, I’m hoping so,” she answered. Now we were both laughing. This is a pretty clear indicator of how most of the interview went. There were loads of laughs.
Since we were on the topic anyway, I brought up elementary school concerts and the poor kids who played violin and were just learning. I’m sure they were doing their best, but let’s face it, they sounded rough. I’m sure if they didn’t quit, they got a lot better eventually, which spurred Truex to mention a fantastic program she is involved with. I’ll let her take it from here.
“You know, the thing with that instrument is it’s not like hitting a key on a piano, the note is already set, it’s already there. If the piano is in tune that’s really cool, but it’s one of those instruments that it takes a lot of time, patience and persistence. Before the whole virus thing hit I was doing musical petting zoos at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and that’s when we would have something like 15 different instruments for kids to try. Kids from about four-years old to like, 16-years old. They were allowed to come in and try different instruments like the banjo, the mandolin and the violin and I was the violin person. Kind of what it would involve was, the parents would bring ’em over and they touch it, and you give ’em kind of a little quickie lesson and just let ’em try it and see if they liked it. I had kids that the first two notes they pulled out of it or attempted, they were just totally like, ‘Eww, I don’t like this,’ and they would move on. Some of the kids that I would have would just be like, they would try it and they would be like, ‘Wow, this is fascinating,’ and they would come back for more turns. They would keep comin’ back and keep tryin’ more and more. So, it’s definitely an instrument where you just have to have patience with yourself and the instrument itself.”
Truex went on to say she hopes some of those kids that showed an interest in the violin at the Country Music Hall of Fame went on to take lessons because she firmly believes learning an instrument is important, especially in today’s world where everything is so rushed. She explained, “You don’t have to go on and become a professional musician, but learning an instrument, to me, is still important these days. We’re at a point in society now where patience is not as much. Everything is a ‘now, now, now’ situation and I think learning an instrument teaches us that patience is very important because if you can have patience, you can have the world.”
So, how did a girl from the hills of West Virginia end up playing fiddle in Nashville and all across the world? A lot of practice for one. It didn’t hurt that she had some cool grandparents either. This set of grandparents included Gladys, the musician. Truex would hang out at their house and practice the fiddle for hours on end, often times having to be dragged back home by her mother for dinner. Seeing how self-motivated she was with her music, her grandparents made her a deal. They were heading off on a Florida trip, but were planning to visit Nashville after that. Provided she continued to practice hard during their absence, when they returned, they would take her with them to Nashville. At 15, Truex first visited Music City and things started happening right away.
“There were some cool seeds that were planted,” Truex told me. “I ended up playing on Nashville Now, which I have an old videotape of me. You remember the old Ralph Emery show? Well, they used to draw people out of the crowd if you could show a talent or something you’ve done that’s really neat. So, they had these cards and they’d draw them out, and I ended up getting called out of the audience. I had my fiddle and I ended up playing on the show and ended up playing the Ernest Tubb Jamboree as well. So, I went back home and that lit a fire under me. It really did. I knew from there what I wanted to be. I knew right there as soon as I got out of high school this is where I’m gonna be going.”
Now, that’s all pretty incredible for a 15-year old. We all know that’s a precarious age. Most kids that are 15 have no clue what direction their lives are going to take and depending on what outside influences are surrounding them, it can directly affect what happens to them as adults. Going on that Nashville trip really sealed Truex’s destiny at a young age, and her grandparents deserve so much credit for taking her. All those lucky breaks, but wait, there’s more!
Renaé Truex continued her story. “I even got to play a little bit for Roy Acuff. Actually, one of my trips, it was my second trip down, I got to meet Roy Acuff in the Opryland Park back when he lived in the Opryland Park, you know, back when it was still here, ” she giggled. “I played for him. I was in my last year of high school. It was the summer I was a senior. He said, ‘Well, you know, you come back down here as soon as you graduate high school and I’ll take care of you.’ He pretty much said to come on down here and, you know, he’d put me to work or whatever. I’m like, ‘Cool.’ Unfortunately, he passed away that fall. You know, it was cool that I have a picture of that too.”
I asked if he was a nice person to which Truex responded, “Oh, yes, he was! He had his apartment in Opryland. He’d walk back and forth to the Opry. I’d catch him on the way to the Opry and he was just a sweet, sweet man. Really sweet and he had this flashlight in his hand, one of those old square flashlights. He had one of those so he could get back at night, you know? He was really cool.”
Photo courtesy of Renaé Truex
Truex did, in fact, move to Nashville after graduation. I was learning that she doesn’t waste time when she sets her mind to something, so she and another fiddler friend visited Nashville for a “scouting” trip during which she found a job on the General Jackson Showboat as a steward, and her first day of work was in two weeks. Time to fill the parents in about all this. “I’ll never forget the phone call,” she said, “I remember calling my parents when I passed my job interview and ended up calling them on the phone and saying, ‘Well, I have to come back down here in two weeks.’ There was this silence on the phone, you know? So, again, ‘I got a job down here and I have to report in two weeks’ and silence on the phone. So, my parents were like, ‘Wow, she actually did it.'”
She went on, “I was a steward for three weeks, but I was also cooking on the General Jackson. I was in Culinary, so I did that. I worked on the General Jackson cooking for about a year and three months and I’d been playing for about four or five years. I just used that time to really study up. I mean, I went downtown, and back then they had a club called Wolfy’s. Really cool hang. Buddy Spicher used to play there every Tuesday night. It was the hang. I mean, it was the coolest thing. Then people like Johnny Gimble would show up and Merle Haggard would show up. Bill Monroe showed up one night. I just spent a year and a half working on the boat and doing my homework, getting in jam sessions and takin’ it in, bein’ a sponge, you know? A lot of people come down here and there’s so many great, beautifully talented players here, and a lot of people, they’ll get intimidated and turn around and run home. To me, it’s the more people you can learn off of, the better. Your work is never done. Don’t think you’ve ever learned everything because there’s always something to learn. It’s a forever journey, so just enjoy that moment. Learning from a lot of people and listening to a lot of music.”
Photo courtesy of bryanthomas.com
Cooking on the General Jackson paid the bills, but the real goal was to pay the rent with the fiddle. We all know that eventually happened, but what was Truex’s first break? She’d been hustling and doing her homework, getting herself acquainted with the music community downtown and watching as many players as she could. She’d been learning and finally she got her first gig on Lower Broadway. It was a club called Maggie McGee’s, which is currently the location of Crossroads. “I sat in there one night and I ended up playing down there, like, four nights a week, but it was weird because I was playing late at night and turning around and having to be on the boat at five in the morning. There was a lot of coffee involved, ” she recounted with a laugh.
Photo courtesy of Nashville Then Facebook Page
There are always mixed feelings among musicians I interview about playing Broadway. Some love it. Some are vehemently against it. Some just go with the flow and take the gigs without a care either way. When it comes to Renaé Truex, the Lower Broadway musicians are family. That’s where she got her start and no matter how much success she’s had outside the downtown Nashville world, she continues to play regularly in the place she considers “home.” It was while playing at Maggie McGee’s and working on the General Jackson that Truex got an offer to play her very first road tour, a song and dance show called, Ropin’ the West. That also meant making a major decision.
Her superiors on the General Jackson were getting ready to increase her pay and put her in a Culinary apprenticeship program which would have offered her health insurance. If she chose to go on tour, she would have to give up the guaranteed money and medical benefits because the General Jackson wouldn’t allow her to take a leave of absence. If she chose to return following her tour, she would have to start all over. Truex then had to ask herself, “Did you come here to cook or did you come here to be a musician?” She took a leap of faith and went on the road. Was it the right decision? She let me know.
“It was three months and I went. I got to go see the country, tour the country. Like I said, it was a singing and dance tour. I was part of the band and they had singers and dancers. It was really awesome. It was my first time out west. My first time ever seein’ a cactus, that was amazing!” With her cheerful laugh, Truex added, “I was just a kid from West Virginia. I’d never seen real cactuses before, or really traveled. So, the whole ‘out west’ thing really blew me away. I was like, ‘This is so amazing!’ I just put away every dime I could and I got back into town three months later and tried to start circulating myself downtown playing, just workin’ my way in. That’s kinda how that came together. After that I never looked back on that particular decision.”
In life just about all of us have to make at least one of those pivotal decisions. What we decide either works or it doesn’t. It’s simple. For Truex, the floodgates opened.
Image courtesy of magicquote.com
It seemed as if the machine was powering up and things started happening for Truex. She got circulated more downtown. She recalled, “Gosh, even back then I got to do some stuff for Ronnie McDowell. I even went back to the park (Opryland) and I ended up playin’ shows for Little Jimmy Dickens. Then about that same time, Jeannie Seely, and I also did some work with Ray Price as well. I had some calls to come and fill in on tour with him. Ray Price was amazing. His whole crew was really cool. It was really cool to get to play with them. It was amazing with Ray Price because he just stood still like he does, but the audience was just like, ‘Wow.’ He’d just captivate the audiences.”
Photo courtesy of Renaé Truex
Photo courtesy of Renaé Truex
The late Charlie Daniels, known for his expertise as a fiddle player, is another legend Truex had the honor of working with. Her first encounter with Daniels happened while she was playing a gig with her former band, Cowboy Crush, an all-girl band signed to Curb Records. You might remember their radio single, “Nobody Ever Died Of A Broken Heart,” originally recorded by Trick Pony. That show was at a Louisiana casino. Cowboy Crush was playing in the bar area and Daniels was playing the main stage. Somehow, one of the other Cowboy Crush band members arranged to have Truex get up on stage to play with Daniels. It was quite an experience for her. Truex remembered she was wearing a long, flowy leopard-print dress and her hair was longer then. How did it feel to get up there and play with one of the greatest country artists of our time? She described it like this, “Whoa!” I asked if she was intimidated by him at all or if it was just a lot of fun. She replied, “It was just fun. I didn’t feel any intimidation whatsoever. He’s a nice guy. He’s a sweetheart, you know.”
Photo courtesy of Renaé Truex
That wasn’t her last meeting with Charlie Daniels either. While associated closely with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” for obvious reasons, it wasn’t Georgia that this next story takes place in. It was in a land far, far away from the Peach State. It was in Japan. Some stories are just better if you allow them to be told by the person who lived them. That’s what’s going to happen now. Take it away Renaé!
“In October 2006, Charlie just turned 70 because he had his birthday. We were in Japan. There’s a festival called The Country Gold Festival that’s held every year in Kumamoto, Japan and it’s been going on for many years. (Festival organizer, Charlie Nagatani started the festival in 1989 and held the final one in 2019 when he was 83-years old.) Charlie Nagatani put that festival on. I probably played that festival seven times, going over with different artists. In 2006, when I was in my group Cowboy Crush, we were under Curb Records. We were with Charlie Daniels and we did that festival with him and opened for him. Anyway, he got me up to play, and that was really cool because my dad got me a black fiddle, and I usually took it on overseas trips because it’s pretty sturdy. I remember as a kid I grew up listening to Charlie Daniels. I learned a lot from that Urban Cowboy movie and all that. That’s how I learned a lot of Charlie Daniels stuff. He had a black fiddle and I had a black fiddle. It was wild being on stage. I had that black fiddle my dad had given me, and there’s Charlie with his black fiddle, and we’re both up there playing. It was almost like from that time I was a kid, it was like the Lord spent that time preparing me for this. How many times did I play “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” before actually getting to play “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” with Charlie Daniels, you know? All these other Charlie Daniels tunes, “Orange Blossom Special” and others, it just all came full circle to me that night, if that makes any sense.”
Photo courtesy of Renaé Truex
It did make sense. It made complete sense. I told her that. We then spent several more minutes talking about it. That black fiddle, at that particular moment, held a very special significance to Renaé Truex. She then continued, “It’s funny because I’m talking about the black fiddle a lot, but looking down and seeing that black fiddle I was playin’, ’cause that’s what I was doin’ when I was a kid and I was learnin’ all the stuff…” (you could just hear how much that moment meant in her voice as she paused and then began with a slightly different thought)
“My dad had a black fiddle and I would play on that black fiddle and learn Charlie Daniels stuff. So, here I am on stage and Charlie Daniels is actually there, and here I am playin’ a black fiddle. Like, it all was just a big revelation to me (laughs). It was amazing. He was such a sweet guy. It was a beautiful time. We played several times together that night. Even the night before the actual festival, the person who put on the festival, Charlie Nagatani, he has a club in Kumamoto, Japan, and every year before the festival, the night before, he would have a jam session. So, the night before, Charlie had not brought his fiddles or bows or anything and came up to me and he asked me, “Can I borrow your fiddle and your bow?” He said, “I promise if I do anything to your bow I’ll get you another one.” I’m like, “Charlie just asked if he could borrow my fiddle and my bow.” I’m like, “Sure!” (Laughing) It tickled my dad because here’s Charlie Daniels playing on the fiddle my dad had made for me and put together and everything, and of course he did shred the bow (laughs). At the end of the tour, I’m tellin’ you, and I have it hangin’ right here in my office, he gave me one of his bows. It’s just a 35 dollar Glasser plastic bow because that’s what Charlie played on because he shreds ’em like crazy, but I have the bow right here and it has his name on it. I have it hanging right here. He game me one of his bows at the end of the tour.”
An experience that was all meant to be. All of the hard work, practice and a leap of faith back when she took that road tour over the General Jackson job contributed to it. Stuff dreams are made of and if you ever meet this musician, you’ll know she deserved that moment. Then again, when it comes to concert life, there are always backstories, things that go on in all the hours when the performers aren’t playing. There are a lot of hours to fill. In general, you’ll hear how it can be frustratingly boring much of the time, and then, there are those other times. Here’s one time where I wish you could hear Truex telling the story in her own voice. She’s a marvelous storyteller, and this was just one of many that she told me during our interview that were exceptionally entertaining. The next best thing is giving it to you in her own words. This is Truex’s account of one morning at breakfast in Japan:
“Charlie, he’s a stinker, man! Such a trip. When we were over there they had breakfast in the morning at the hotel where we stayed. They would have the Japanese portion of the breakfast, and then they had the Western portion of the breakfast. You’d get eggs and bacon and whatnot, but then they had the Japanese portion. So, we’re there and we’re eating and we’re getting ready to go over and set up and do soundcheck the day before the festival. Charlie comes up to me and he has this weird container of something. He opened it and it looked like this weird, white, rice type stuff. It was like, this rice pudding. It was almost like that. He comes up to me and he had that smile on his face, and he’s real jolly lookin’ and he says, ‘Hey (in a gruff voice), try this.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ (Laughing) I’m thinking, ‘Charlie just asked me to try this weird ‘whatever this is’ and I thought, ‘Of course I’m gonna try it because Charlie Daniels asked me to try it,’ so I’m like, ‘Okay.’ So, he has this big grin on his face ’cause I said I’d try it. I taste it and it is the most repulsive tasting stuff ever. I’m not kidding you. It was the grossest tasting thing, and I think about it now to this day and I can still taste it. I won’t lie to you, it tasted a little bit like vomit.”
Laughing hysterically, I asked what that revolting substance was?
“I don’t know. I never found out what it was, but the moment I tasted it and he saw the look on my face, he got a big old kick out it,” she replied. “He kinda snickered, you know. You could see that jolly kinda (in that gruff, gritty voice again), ‘er’, ‘er’, ‘er’. As soon as he saw the look on my face he got a big old kick out of that. I think it was a big joke to him. He knew it tasted horrible.” (Laughing)
I had to know. Was he going around and asking everybody to try this stuff?
“As far as I know, I think I’m the only one. He singled me out on that one. I was the perfect target apparently. (Laughs) Well, it was some Japanese something. I don’t know what it was, but that’s pretty much what it tasted like, it wasn’t any good.”
We were both laughing so hard I barely got my final comment on that story out. I closed it out by saying it was a truly great story, I even gave it a short story title right on the spot. Simple and straight to the point. Kind of like Charlie Daniels lived his life. “Charlie Daniels Made Me Eat Vomit.” I love interviewing touring musicians. They have the very best stories of all.
The vomit buffet conversation was over, but we weren’t done with Japanese food yet. We found some common ground with that story. I used to work for an international sales manager who traveled extensively and one time he brought back Japanese candy. Honestly, it didn’t look that terrible. Kind of like red and green gumdrops if you smashed them with a hammer and flattened them out. How bad could they be, right? I could just copy and paste Truex’s quote about her initial reaction to Charlie Daniels’ “food sample.” That would be an accurate description of my reaction to that candy too. Whatever that Japanese candy was, I don’t know, but I told Truex that whenever it comes up, and it does from time to time, whenever anyone asks what the worst food I ever ate was, I always say it was Japanese candy. It was downright rank. Who knew candy could be so nauseating?
Don’t count Japan out on all cuisine though. Their convenience store food is pretty righteous. According to Truex, for all the unusual food over there that you’d probably want to steer clear of, the Japanese equivalent of our American 7-11 stores are serving up gourmet-quality fare. She explained, “In Japan, the only place you can pretty much go is 7-11. It’s called Seven & i Holdings, but it’s a 7-11, and you can go in there and buy fresh sushi. It’s the freshest sushi known ever. There’s a Seven & i Holdings up the street from where we were staying and I would go there and get sushi and bring it back to our room and eat it.”
Photo courtesy of bbc.com
Imagining those questionable looking hot dogs in our own American 7-11 stores, I commented that obviously Seven & i Holdings stores weren’t serving the same types of food. Truex laughed and answered, “No, nothing like that. Yeah. You know, they’re actually very clean. Everything’s economical and people are extremely polite. You go over there in a shop and they greet you (Japanese greeting imitation). You go in a shop and you buy something and they wrap it up really beautiful, and it’s beautiful paper, real pretty, like you’re gonna give it as a gift to somebody. It’s amazing. Also, I won’t lie to you, but even the toilets are pretty fun. They’re pretty funny (laughing). The toilets are pretty wild! They’re pretty smart. You go to McDonald’s and there’s a toilet and it has all kinds of… it makes sounds. It has a heated seat, various ‘washing’ operations.” (Laughing)
I’m a person that loves new bits of trivial information and I was getting it by the truckload. This was enlightening. I expressed my amazement during our conversation. “That’s incredible. Here I am thinkin’ they had holes in the ground.” Truex came back with, “No, but China does (laughing). Been there, done that (laughing harder).”
Wow. Note to self: Japan is a better vacation. I don’t do holes in the ground well.
Video courtesy of Marga Raquel and YouTube
Also, who knew that the Japanese had an annual country music festival? I guess a lot of people did, but I sure didn’t. I needed to go back to that for a minute. Although it was several minutes ago, that fact was smoldering in the back of my mind and if I didn’t bring it back up, it would have eventually caught fire and made me crazy that I neglected to ask about it.
I was astounded. Truex told me that festival was a really big deal every year. “I think Charlie (Nagatani) has pretty much limited it down quite a bit, but yes, and there’s quite a following of country music over that way, yes there is. You’d be amazed when you go to other parts of the world how much music flourishes over that way. Yeah, quite the festival. Outdoors, and there’s a volcano. It’s called Mount Aso. Some of the people, they really, really dress the part too.” I asked if that meant the fans dressed in things like sundresses and cowboy boots. She said, “Oh, yeah. I think I even saw a couple people dressed up as Indians one time. That was pretty wild. It’s amazing. Even in Switzerland doing a country music festival over there, boy, they love their country music there too, and the biggest huge rebel flag you’ve ever seen in your life hangin’ from the ceiling. It’s unreal, like, ‘wow.’ It’s amazing how the culture of the West is so taken in by Europe and Asia and whatnot, so it’s pretty wild.”
Video courtesy of Shane Reynolds and YouTube
Pretty wild indeed. Like rock and roll. Just another musical universe that Truex has been involved with. Researching her online was mind-boggling. She’d worked with so many artists, including rockers, it made making a list pointless. I waited to ask her and now was my chance. Who were the rock artists? Just give me a few and let’s talk about those. So, she started off with, “Well, an interesting story is one evening I was heading home from a gig playing downtown and I got a call from a friend of mine who owns a studio in Nashville. He’s moved to Florida now, but he was doin’ an album. Now, mind you, I was headin’ home from a gig, and I think it was about 11 PM, and I’m just getting ready to get on the interstate and he calls me. I answer and he says, ‘You need to get in here right away. Bring your fiddle.’ I’m like, ‘What’s goin’ on?’ He says, ‘Just get here right away.’ I’m like, ‘Okayyyy…’ So, I turn around and I head back downtown, back toward where his studio was. I walk in and there sits Bret Michaels (laughs). He was re-cutting ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’. He was doing a country version of it and he wanted fiddle on it and there I was.” (Laughing)
I remarked that it had to have been a bit of a shock to walk in to see Bret Michaels sitting there waiting to cut a song with you after you’ve just played a gig all night. In my mind I was thinking it was also one of those tunes that everybody knows, tired or not, you’d have to play it perfectly. Before I even had time to complete that entire thought, I realized where I was and what kind of musician I was talking to. These people are like machines. If you get called at that hour to come and record tracks for something like that, you’ll handle it. Your skills are more than up to the challenge on a professional level. On a personal level, however, you might have a few other things swirling through your brain, even if you’re not letting anyone know that.
Photo courtesy of Renaé Truex
“It was just one of those things,” Truex began, “because I was in junior high when that song came out. I remember that song comin’ out and kids playin’ it through the halls on their radios and whatever, you know? So, I’m like, ‘Wow. This is a cool song.’ I never thought in a million years that one day I’d be recuttin’ the song with the man! (Laughs) I walk in there and there he is! ‘Well, hello there!'”
Was he a good guy? Easy to deal with? “Yes, he was. He was cool and we actually did a couple shows after that. Months later we did a couple shows.”
Video (audio) courtesy of BretMichaelsOfficial and YouTube
Sometimes genres crash into each other by accident, other times by design. With this particular event it was planned that country and rock were paired up. Country artist Chelsea Bain opening for the Red Rocker Sammy Hagar, and Renaé Truex was playing fiddle in Bain’s band. Truex let me know how that one worked out. “I played with Chelsea Bain, kind of country, but very hard edge rock too. Another really cool chapter in the music journey. We were doing a series of shows and one of ’em was opening for Sammy Hagar and we got to meet and hang out with him too. So, he was really cool. Got to talk to all of his group, and he still has it too. He still has it. He still has the goods. Great performer and player.”
Photo courtesy of consequenceofsound.net
This led to our discussing the different vibe between playing with country artists versus rock artists and what she felt about both. It kind of took on a life of its own. It was one of those times I was really thankful we weren’t being timed. I love that kind of thing. I’m fascinated by it. It’s always like taking a trip through a fun house talking with musicians about their own personal thoughts on subjects like these. I think we often tend to view them as one-dimensional if we see them playing one style of music the majority of the time. Logically, we may know they’re more complex than that, but somehow our brains want to put them back in their usual genre “lane” where they can be kept safely. Once you get into an in-depth conversation with these amazingly talented individuals, you find out they’re usually far from one-dimensional. Even though they may have played country hits from 1955 to whatever’s hot right now all night long on Broadway, there’s a great chance once they get in their car, they’re turning on anything but country music. It might be thrash metal. It might be classical. They might prefer nothing at all and want to drive home in silence. Think about it. The only thing that makes them all the same is that they’re all unique.
Renaé Truex shared her thoughts on playing country versus rock shows. “I would say I love playing rock stuff too. Like I told you, my dad and my grandmother planted a seed, and the actual person, there’s a lady, her name is Deni Bonet, she and her group came to my hometown, when I was about 15. She was in a rock/folk group and when I saw her take the instrument beyond just a fiddle tune, Appalachian, whatever, taking it to a whole new level of playing folk rock, finding out you could rock out on the instrument, you know what I’m sayin’? When I saw her do that I was 15, and I was like, ‘Wow!’ She was the one, if like I’m sayin’, my dad and my grandmother planted the seed, she was like the Miracle-Gro. When I saw her do that on the the instrument, I was like, ‘I want to do that. I want to be just like that.’ Seeing her do that is what made me pull it out of the closet and just go practice and I couldn’t stop. I was pickin’ up everything that she would play. I find that taking it down that different journey as a rock avenue is just amazing. I really do. Very energetic. I think just the way it impacts me is how it impacts other people as well, but seeing her doing that at 15, I think around 15 kids are always wondering. You know, like, ‘Timmy’s good at math,’ and ‘Susie’s good at dancing,’ or whatever. What do I do? What’s my thing? I was lookin’ for identity. I think a lot of kids look for identity, and that was it, but seeing her rock out on the instrument really egged me on to wanna play, and it was the Miracle-Gro that me go, ‘Wow. I wanna do that. That’s what I wanna do when I grow up.'” (Laughing)
Video courtesy of Deni Bonet and YouTube
As a big rock fan myself, I mentioned how impressive it always is to see a violin introduced into a rock show. Whether it’s just for one song or the whole show, strings really elevate a rock show up a notch. There’s just something about them. They can be added to the heaviest number and provided the arrangement is well thought out, it works like a charm. I only wish it would happen a little more often. Truex had good insight about that. “The best way to explain it is taking that instrument to a different level. It is a different level. Playing more of the rock music, the folk rock, hard music on the instrument, it definitely pushes you to a whole other level. I certainly enjoy it. I’m actually working on a project with a gentleman named Caspar McCloud, a Christian Rock artist. I’ve had the honor of being able to record on a whole record with him and now I’m working on one that he’s pre-released. Now I’m putting down tracks, violin and string tracks for that and it’s just a whole other level. Seeing her play and seeing how the instrument can go in this whole different direction made me search on listening to bands like Kansas and the Dixie Dregs. Even Aerosmith when they do ‘Dream On’ and the violin parts. Then you have Guns N’ Roses with ‘November Rain,’ you know what I mean? It’s like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ So, it’s definitely a whole other level. It’s a whole other journey and I certainly enjoy it. I really do.”
Video courtesy of Caspar McCloud and YouTube
All in all it doesn’t matter what you call it, a fiddle or a violin, it’s the same instrument. Truex explained to me it’s how you play it that makes the difference. She told me someone playing in an orchestra may use tuners in a different way or may simply have a different set up. Everyone finds their own way of making the instrument sound the way they need it to for whatever type of music they’re playing at the moment. Maybe a violinist in an orchestra won’t have their instrument electrified like a rock musician. As she said, “The player is the definer.” The strings used can certainly help create the right mood for the music being played. Truex said, “There are many, many different types of strings that can be used and some are brighter and some are warmer. I think it just depends on the player really. The bows go anywhere from 35 dollars to thousands of dollars, and once again, it depends on the player. You’ll find a bow that you love and it becomes a part of you and that’s what you stick with.”
Truex has a favorite fiddle and like almost everything we hold dear in life, it has a story. “My main violin that I play I named ‘Pearl.‘ That’s the name because it has pearl inlay on the back and a pearl rose on the stop. It’s my main baby. It’s been all over with me. It’s been all over the world. It’s been to Saudi Arabia, it’s been to China, it’s been to Israel, it’s been downtown. I’ve tracked some tunes with it. I have several different ones that I use and they all have different attitudes and different sounds. Sometimes I’ll use a darker sounding violin if I need to track a darker sounding piece. Then there’s another one I have that’s maybe a little brighter. The song might need that, so there’s little things you notice the longer you play and experiment. My main ‘go to’ is Pearl.”
Photo courtesy of Renaé Truex
Photo courtesy of Renaé Truex
She went on, “I found Pearl. I was out on the road with Cowboy Crush and we were in a little town, South Springfield, Missouri. We were there for several hours and we had done soundcheck and I was walkin’ around this little town. There was this little music store, a little family-owned music store, and I look in there and there’s a violin hangin’ up in there. Pearl was hangin’ up in there and the back was showing to the front of the window. It was just hung up there with a bunch of the other ones. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty neat.’ So, I go in and I start lookin’ and of course Pearl didn’t have strings, needed some work, didn’t have a bridge, definitely was gonna need some love. That’s why it was there. Apparently, someone had left it there to have it repaired and they have an old man who’s a repairman. I guess it was just forgotten or something happened. It’s just been hanging there for a long time. So, I asked about it. They just said, ‘Well, you know, we don’t know…’ I’m like, ‘Was this here to be repaired? Is it for sale?’ They’re like, ‘Well, we don’t know. Let us talk to the repairman and see what the deal is.’ I’m like, ‘Okay. I’m getting ready to play a show in a couple of hours.’ I gave them my phone number. So about 10 minutes before we were supposed to get on the bus and head to our show from the hotel they called me and said, ‘Hey, are you still interested in this violin?’ ‘Sure!’ ‘How about we’ll give it to you for 250?’ I’m like, ‘250? Sure!’ It’s a beautiful instrument. So, they ended up bringing it to the venue and givin’ it to me. It wasn’t even the same case. It was like an old viola case, but safe enough to bring it home. I gave ’em 250 cash. Pearl needed work though. Pearl needed a lot of work. It needed a neck reset. I probably put about a thousand dollars worth of work into Pearl, but Pearl is beautiful and you know, it’s been all over the world.”
It was the story about Pearl being all over the world that prompted me to ask about venues. Of all the many places Truex has played, did she have any particular favorites? A venue that she loved or a concert where something special happened? I just knew there was another good story sitting up in her mind waiting to be told. I wasn’t wrong.
It took her a moment, but once she had it, she was sure. “Israel. On the Sea of Galilee. Several times in Israel. I would say definitely that whole trip is a life changing experience. When we took the boat on the Sea of Galilee I took my violin with me and I played for everyone when I was on the boat. It was beautiful.”
Just the way she spoke those words told me she really meant them from the deepest part of her heart and soul. I almost wished I could have been on that boat with her. I asked her if that made all the practicing as a kid worth it. In perhaps the most subdued tone of our entire conversation, she replied, “Yeah, just beautiful. We played several places while I was there. It was part of a conference.”
Photo courtesy of Renaé Truex
From there, our interview landed on a profoundly interesting floor. Still on the topic of memorable show locations, Truex began her story. “I can tell you another moment was we went to Saudi Arabia and I went over there through the State Department with Thom Shepherd and several songwriters. We went over there to play music at a couple embassies and it was a long trip over, but you better do your homework before you go. I want to say it’s probably one of the most culturally different places that I’ve ever been. You definitely feel like you’re far away from home. I will tell you that I remember being at one embassy and getting ready to play and the sky was absolutely clear. There just wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was night and the moon was absolutely beautiful and I remember lookin’ up and seein’ that moon and goin’ ‘Wow. Here I am thousands of miles away, yet that is the same moon that I would see if I were still standing in my backyard back home.'”
She laughed again at the thought and quickly got back to the story. “I did that trip back in about 2010. I’m very glad, being a lady, that I did my homework. Since then, it’s kinda opened up a little more for ladies, but back then, you know, it was definitely a whole other story. Wow. I remember coming back to the States after the trip and everything was so much more vibrant to me because everyone over there was wearing the dark robes and everything. Coming back and everyone being in bright clothes and showing more skin, I was like, ‘Wow!’ I know when I was over there ladies couldn’t go anywhere by themselves. So, unless I was with one of the guys I couldn’t go anywhere, and of course, they need to know what the situation is, it’s very strict over there, at least when I was there.”
I knew it was restrictive for women in that part of the world, but hearing it directly from someone I was speaking to who had spent time over there, I have to say, that was pretty shocking. I said, “You couldn’t even go get a coffee by yourself then?” “No. The funny thing is, I remember we stayed out in the culture. We stayed out in society probably 80% of the time. We went and played on some embassies, but I will tell you that though there’s a monarchy there, or whatever you want to call it, there’s a whole underground movement of people who are starving for the Western culture. Tom Shepherd posted the whole trip on YouTube. He documented the whole thing. It’s definitely something worth watching. I’ll say the food was really good. They were really good, pretty heavy on the curry though. (Laughing) I also remember they didn’t have dogs over there. There were a lot of cats.
I was momentarily horrified. “Uh oh… I wonder where the dogs were…” Thoughts of dogs being snatched in nets by restaurant workers came to mind. Yes, I was mortified, but thankfully Truex set me straight right away. “They don’t like dogs over there at all. They don’t like them. They don’t like dogs and I remember coming home and I heard a dog bark after we landed. We were at the airport and I heard a dog bark and it startled me. Then I realized, ‘Wow,’ that’s the first dog I’ve heard in, like, three or four weeks, you know?”
Video courtesy of Thom Shepherd and YouTube
So many things we females take for granted in our Western life. I was so taken aback learning these details by a woman who experienced a bit of what it’s like to live in a completely male-dominated world. Truex continued, “There were various things you had to be careful with. If you don’t mind me mentioning it, you know, being a lady over there, I wore a robe, they call it an abaya. I didn’t wear the head covering though, but under the State Department, they said to just wear the robe. Riyadh, the capitol of Saudi Arabi, was definitely the most conservative of the places that we visited. Jeddah was a little more liberal, but you definitely had to do your homework. I remember us being on the airplane flying over to Saudi Arabia and a guy from Saudi Arabia dropped something in the aisle and it fell right next to my foot. I’m a helper person and the first thing I went to do is pick it up right away and hand it back to the gentleman, but no, I was not allowed to do that. I couldn’t do that. You weren’t allowed to talk to any males. Of course, they didn’t even recognize you either, they acted like you’re not even there.”
At this point, my mouth was just about hanging open. I mean, I’d heard all of this on television and read it in books and things, but this was a real person that I was having an extensive conversation with telling me in her own words how it was. I couldn’t even imagine how that must have been. She was traveling over there to work and had to spend a good amount of time in that environment as the lone female in the group. It was such a foreign concept, yet intensely fascinating, that as far as we’ve come in so many departments of life, there are areas of the world that are still like this. I vocalized these thoughts and Truex agreed, it was strange. She also added that when it came to the item the man dropped on the plane, “Yeah, so I had to leave it there and he had to pick it up. True story.”
There was even more. “You’d look through magazines and I remember there being a lot of magazines, and a lot of it was meant for men. There really weren’t a lot of ladies in the magazines and if there were any, they were kind of blotted out, like fuzzied out. They did show movies on the plane, but any movies that had any kind of woman showing any kind of skin, it was blotted out. I remember there was a movie on and there was a woman who was floating in a pool. She had a bathing suit on. It wasn’t like it was too scantily or anything, but it was just a bathing suit and you could see they had a square over her body so you couldn’t see it.”
As if that wasn’t enough, the story doesn’t end there. “Oh, and alcohol. Alcohol was blotted out. You would go into a store and if there were any magazines that had any kind of anything depicting a woman, you could see where the pages were torn out. Also, women couldn’t sit in the front seat of cars. They weren’t allowed to. Now they’re allowed to drive. Women are driving now. They’re allowed to go to sporting events now, but back then you could not sit in the front seat. When we would go to do our shows, initially it was very uncomfortable because when you go there, the first thing you want to do is you want to meet people before the show, talk to ’em. You know, just do what you do as an entertainer, whatever, you meet people, they talk to you. To the guys, they would talk, but me, they acted like I wasn’t even there.”
She was invisible. In my head, I was thinking that. She was invisible to these men. “You were invisible.” “I was invisible. Exactly. Now, after I played, then it all changed. It was pretty amazing. After I played, then they just wanted to talk and buy me abayas and take me to their gold shops and everything.” (Laughing)
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I really couldn’t.
There was one more Saudi Arabian story of female oppression that she told. This one was slightly different. It had a twist. I think you’re going to like it. Once again, Renaé Truex, ladies and gentleman… “When you go to those places, China as well, you really realize how valuable and important your freedoms are. I work out. I’ve always had working out in my life, getting up and moving every morning and hitting the gym. I remember some of the places we stayed at had really nice gyms, brand new gyms, I mean amazing. I remember not being able to use ’em because no women were allowed in the gym, just the men. There’s one place we went to where they had a really nice gym and I did go down there and asked the front desk about it. Well, they had women’s hours. They actually had women’s hours! It was for an hour. They actually opened the gym up to women for an hour and it was from 11:30 to 12:30, I remember that. I don’t think they got very many women down there for that hour. They said, ‘Yes, it’s open just for women for an hour.’ I’m like, ‘Okayyyy…’ So, I came back the next day and it’s filled with just dudes down there. I came down there, just little old me and I go, ‘Hi. I’m here to use the gym for women’s hour from 11:30 to 12:30,’ and that guy, he had to go in there and usher all of them out of there.” (Really laughing)
I enjoyed that and asked, “But, he did it, right?” “He had to!” We both cracked up for a few seconds, then she pushed on with, “He had to. There were probably like, 10 guys in there. Beautiful gym. Top of the line, money, money, money gym. Beautiful, brand new gym. He had to kick ’em all out. They couldn’t go in there because it’s women’s hours. So, he kicked them all out of there and they all kinda looked at me like, ‘grrrrr….’ That was in Saudi Arabia. I went in there and they closed the curtains so nobody could see any women workin’ out in there. They closed the curtains and I had that beautiful gym all to myself for an hour and boy, I just celebrated in there. I used that hour really well. It’s just never a dull moment, you know?” (Laughing more than ever at this point)
I told her I was so glad she stood up for herself. That was a tremendous tale. I guess there are some ways to win if you’re willing to look for them and speak up. I wonder if that hotel changed its policy on women being allowed in the gym after that. Maybe they changed it back to never letting them in again. I suppose Truex got her workout in anyway. She bucked the system, which, as she said, probably doesn’t happen very often. Outstanding.
Time to totally turn the page and talk about the music again. Renaé Truex has done a lot of things and played with so many people. I’ve said that already, I know, but it’s true. It was time to call her out on the carpet and ask the big question. So I did. “So, you’ve played with all these laundry lists of artists. Is there anybody that you’d like to play with that you have not?” Her answer was priceless. Wait for it.
“Wow. Well, I heard that the Dave Matthews Band lost their violinist.” (Big laugh)
Clearly, she was a fan and she had never worked with him, but just to be sure I asked, to which she replied, “I’ve always loved that group, especially in the days when they had violin and saxophone. I played some tenor myself. I thought that would always be cool.” Earlier Truex mentioned she was a “helper person,” well, so am I, and being one, I figured why not do my part here?
Oh, Dave Matthews Band or anyone remotely associated with it, we heard you might be in the market for a violin player. Don’t waste your time and resources looking for that perfect violinist. You’re creative people, spend your time creating. Don’t stress. We’ve got you covered. Her resume is impeccable and reads as follows: World Class Violinist Renaé Truex. Played on stages across the globe with every known artist worth mentioning. Except the Dave Matthews Band.é
Photo courtesy of consequenceofsound.net
That should do it, don’t you think? Don’t worry. I won’t charge any finders fees or anything. Just maybe a ticket to a show someday. It would be good to see that happen. I’ll be watching.
In addition to everything else Truex does, she also writes her own music. “I’ve been writing instrumental music for a good while now. Quite a catalog and I’ve had some of it used. Once again, it’s always a work in progress. Always writin’ new stuff and then there’s new stuff that’s goin’ in and my co-writer, Jody Alan Sweet, produces and mixes stuff. It’s been a little slow this past year with all the virus stuff, but we’ll get back as soon as things cool off a little bit, but it’s still on the move. Jody Alan Sweet and I have an instrumental project called Jonaé which we’re very proud of and it’s online.”
Calling downtown and the Lower Broadway district in particular home ever since moving to Nashville, Truex can still be found playing there, even now. If you’re in town, where can you see her? That’s something you need to know, because this is one musician you can’t miss.
“I am part of the Robert’s Western World family. I play a lot at Robert’s. I’m gonna say of all the places that have been in my life since I’ve been here, I’ve always been playin’ at Robert’s. So, I would say that’s definitely a home. I was playing before the virus hit. I was playing probably 40 plus hours a week. I was hitting it pretty good. It was a set schedule and then I would pick up extra gigs as well. I’m playing mainly on Saturdays with Sarah Gayle Meech. Right now it’s 3 to 6:30, hours have been tossed around a bit differently because of the virus. I’ve also been playin’ AJ’s with a gentleman named Jay Bragg. I’ve been doin’ some stuff with him which is really cool.”
Video courtesy of Think Country and YouTube
At the time of our interview, it had been some time since I’d been downtown. From what she had told me, I assumed there must have been some activity on Broadway or she wouldn’t have been working at all. “So, things are still hoppin’ a little bit downtown?”
“Yeah, as much as they’re allowed right now, yes. So, I’m playin’ down there. I’m doin’ some work with a gentleman named Billy Lord. I’ve been helpin’ him, played for him, his original music. We just did John Schneider‘s opening for his movie on December 3rd. We played at the Pink Cadillac Drive-In Theater out west of town, way out west in Centerville, Tennessee. It was kind of chilly that night (laughs). It was with Billy Lord, Confederate Railroad and Keith Burns from Trick Pony was there as well.”
Photo courtesy of Renaé Truex
This is a busy, busy lady. As you can tell, she doesn’t seem to stop, and once you actually see her play, you’ll realize, she’s firing on all cylinders on stage the entire time too. She’s an entertainer that brings a ton of energy to a show. Everything about the way she plays makes your eye move to her. You can’t help but look. She’s animated and fun to watch. I found out because I did get to a show before I finished writing this. That was a treat. I also got to test out this next question. Her answer was likely to be completely true.
I asked what she thought the most requested song downtown was. She came back with another question. “For a fiddler?” I said, “For anybody.” She thought a minute and said, “Oh, my goodness.” Then she laughed a little and replied, “For fiddlers definitely, ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia.'”
I guess that shouldn’t have been shocking. At all. When I went to her show with Jay Bragg (who was also quite the talent) they knocked that one out. By request, of course. They didn’t play it just any old way, however. They had their own very special arrangement. If you want to see it in its entirety, there’s a Facebook Live video of it on the Think Country Facebook page. It falls right around the 1:09:03 mark. You can skip right to it. It’s really something to see.
Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography
Truex went on with her answer. “It really depends on what club we’re playing. It’s definitely more traditional at Robert’s. We get a lot of requests for Patsy Cline, we get Dolly Parton‘s ‘Jolene’ and that sort of thing. If I’m with another group, I would say ‘Chicken Fried’ or ‘Wagon Wheel.’ ” We both laughed because I think “Wagon Wheel” is the number one answer from every Broadway musician if you ask them what song they would prefer to never have to play again in their life. They play it that often. So, just in case you haven’t heard, if you come to Nashville and think you’re being really original by requesting “Wagon Wheel” at a downtown bar, you aren’t. There are three things in life that are definitely going to happen. Death, taxes and “Wagon Wheel” is going to get requested in a downtown Nashville honkytonk every day of the year. More than once.
Video courtesy of Google Accounts and YouTube
With a tiny tweak to the last question, I asked what song Truex, believes she, herself has played more than any other over her career? Without missing a beat, “Devil.” I guess I knew she’d say that, but there was always the slim possibility it could have been “Orange Blossom Special” which is another big fiddle song. She agreed, that’s a close second. I asked if she still likes playing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” even after playing it countless times over so many years. She paused for a second, but then said, quite emphatically, “Yes, I do. I have various different versions of it that I do. Just really depending on where I’m playing and who I’m playing for, but I have the real cut and dry, basic version and I have the really, extremely in-depth version.”
I then asked her to tell me a secret. I’m going to share her answer with all of you now. I actually asked it with all of you in mind. I put down a scenario. I know so many people want to come visit Nashville. For some people it’s quite a distance to travel here. They save for a long time to get here and have a good time. They finally get here and they’re on a limited budget. They get downtown and they’re ready to have fun. They’re listening to live music and they want to request a song. They have a favorite in mind, but it’s not one of the usual ones. Maybe it’s one of the ones that the band has to “look up,” you know, the ones that normally get thrown in the “sorry, we don’t know that one” file unless there’s a big piece of currency involved. Suddenly, that band might scramble a little bit. They’ll pull out their iPad and look it up. They’ll at least make an attempt. Everything has a price tag. Even a song request. It might not be the best cover ever, but if the customer doesn’t care, the band will give it a shot. Those Benjamins are hard to turn away. I’ve seen it many times.
Let’s say, however, Mr. and Mrs. Smith from outside Lincoln, Nebraska just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and they’ve been saving up for this Nashville trip since the day they took that walk down the aisle. They finally made it and they barely have enough to buy a beer in the bar, much less request their favorite song. It’s an old Porter Wagoner song, never a single, just an album cut. These young guys in the band have never heard it, but this couple, they look so sweet. They’ve worked hard on their farm all their lives and this is a moment they’ve waited for. Just that one song. They might have a dollar or two for the tip bucket, but that’s it. What can they do to sway these young bucks to try this song for them? I mean, if they do it, that whole bar crowd is going to melt and it might work out in their favor. They might get even better tips in the end, right? Here’s what Renaé Truex had to say about that. “Just be nice. Be polite.” Wow. It’s that easy?
Meanwhile, my husband is shouting in the background to buy the band a drink. I had to remind him that these people are poor. They don’t have money to buy their own drinks. They don’t have money to buy the band a drink. Now it was becoming kind of funny. Truex sided with my husband to a point. “I myself don’t drink, but you know, yeah, they can definitely work on that too. I just say that every bit helps. I have turtles that eat. I have a dog that eats. I have a husband that eats.” (Laughing) Moral of the story is if you’re really broke and you want a song, be nice. Don’t be a jerk. Maybe you’ll get lucky.
Image courtesy of quotefancy
So, what does Truex listen to when she isn’t playing music herself? She’s all over the map which is how I’ve found most musicians to be. “Wow, you know what? It really depends on my mood that day. I love Led Zeppelin. I love AC/DC. I’ll turn around, I’ll listen to TOOL. I know that sounds weird comin’ out of a fiddle player. (It didn’t to me, I listen to everything myself) I’ve been getting a kick out of Greta Van Fleet. They’re really cool and I guess it’s ’cause they’re kinda into Led Zeppelin. It’s really cool to hear the young’uns rockin’ out like that, you know? I’ve been listening to them quite a bit lately. I just go through various chapters. Like, right now we’re takin’ down Christmas decorations and I have Buddy Emmons playin’ in the background.”
Video courtesy of Greta Van Fleet and YouTube
We had covered so much ground and I wanted to sneak something in before I forgot. During my research prior to our interview, I had seen some videos of Truex playing with Jimmy Fortune and Dailey & Vincent. My parents are big fans of all of them. I am too. These are guys with some of the most pristine voices in country music. My parents are really into all the shows on RFD-TV. The old reruns of Country’s Family Reunion and the Dailey & Vincent Show. Jimmy Fortune, especially, turns up on these shows quite often. I had to ask how it was working with them.
Truex couldn’t say enough good things. “Oh, they are great.” I told her my parents would be happy to hear that. She went on to tell me this, “You know, Jimmy Fortune, we were on the Country Music Cruise with Jimmy Fortune and he was always the sweetest man. I’ve played behind him on several occasions throughout the years and his voice is like an angel. His voice is just an angel. Oh, my goodness, he is just such a sweet guy. Every time that I’ve seen him he always has come up and is just talkin’ and sayin’, ‘How ya doin’?’ and all that. Yeah, very nice. Nice person , wonderful singer. Gosh, I love his voice. Like… ‘Elizabeth,’ oh, my God, what an amazing song. ”
Video courtesy of Jørgen Petersen and YouTube
We were really at the end of the line. When Renaé Truex “Thinks Country” what does she think?
“Well, of course, I’m from West Virginia… (laughs) Yeah, country to me is Merle Haggard, George Jones, all those greats. The Highwaymen, Patsy Cline, Ronnie Milsap. To me, that’s country. Wow, Steve Wariner, Vince Gill. You know, not to pin it down to one chapter of country music, it’s all over you know, and I have the country roots in me too naturally, and there’s Buck Owens, Bakersfield country. (Laughs)
Usually, that’s where things wrap up, but there were a few scraps left on the table. I wasn’t about to leave anything left unsaid. I kept the floor open for Truex to get everything out, everything she had on her mind.
“Yeah, you know, it ‘s been a real crazy 2020 and I’m turning lemons into lemonade. I’ve been pressing forward no matter what. The fact that things fell through and I was getting ready to do cruise ship shows. I love cruise ships, I love traveling and I was putting together a whole show I headline for cruise ships and of course that kind of fell by the wayside. Playing downtown, that fell by the wayside, but it allowed me time to actually get my own studio up and rolling now, so I’ve been picking up and getting fiddle and string overdubs and doin’ as much recording as possible and keeping myself busy on that end of things. I’ve been picking up some interesting and cool projects like with Caspar McCloud, he’s amazing. He’s originally from Liverpool, England. He’s a pastor out of Georgia and quite the brilliant guitar player. He toured with Ozzy Osbourne.
Remember, earlier in the interview it was mentioned that Caspar McCloud is a Christian Rock artist. Now, much later in the conversation, we find out he also played with the Prince of Darkness, himself, Ozzy Osbourne. Hey, you just never know, do you? Life is a box of surprises, isn’t it? But wait, there’s more.
“Yes, he’s a Christian rocker and he also toured with Tommy James and The Shondells, you know, ‘Crimson & Clover’ and all that? So, he works with them, but he’s a pastor out of Georgia and I met him at a conference in Texas. When all this fell apart and I had my studio up and rolling, I was contacting people. I kept in touch with him and I was like, ‘Hey if you need tracks, violin or whatever, let me know.’ Because I knew he did rock. So, anyway, he goes, ‘Well, you know, actually…’ So, he sends me one track and I go ‘Wow, this will be fun to play.’ Then I start hearing all these string lines and then next thing you know he sends me a whole record.” (Laughing)
So many people in the music industry have been found new ways to be creative throughout this pandemic. New ways of recording. New ways of communicating. New ways of writing over computers. There’s been a lot going on despite the shutdown. I told Truex I think once everything really opens back up it will be good to see all the projects that come out of this. Lots of new music. Many songwriters have been writing more by themselves, not being comfortable writing over Zoom. Who knows what we’re going to see. I think in some ways, people have become smarter. They’ve had to learn a lot. She thought so too.
“I think so. When we do get back on stage, I was telling a gentleman I play downtown with, and we’ve known each other for years, we’re like family, we’re gonna come out of this and we’re gonna be even more appreciative of what we do. Then the people, they’ll come out again and they’ll be more appreciative of live music. I think overall everyone’s going to come out more appreciative in general out of this whole experience. There will also be more talent. I’ve had time to hone in on my craft more in a pair of headphones. I’m honing in on my craft even if I’m not playing live as much now. I can be here in the studio and analyze my playing and become a much better player. Each moment has been used very wisely. I’ve even bought a cello and I’m playin’ on that since then. I’m a woman of good faith always. Either way it will work out fine.”
It sure will. It has to. There isn’t an alternative. Renaé Truex graciously thanked me for the interview and I thanked her as well. People may say this is a long piece, because it is. They may choose not to take the time to read the whole thing because it’s lengthy. That’s okay. For those that do, though, what a gift they’re giving themselves. How do you put a price on someone who shares their life stories with you? We can all go through this thing called life and we all know what we do. We spend hours upon hours watching movies that some screenwriter in Hollywood dreamed up the whole story out of his or her mind. That’s fine. It’s entertainment, but getting real-life stories, things that actually happened, told to you directly by the people that they happened to, that’s precious and I can’t put a value on it. Then when you get an entire treasure trove of stories that keep you captivated like the ones Renaé Truex spent over 90 minutes sharing with me, that’s something to be grateful for. I feel fortunate that I am able to now share these stories with others. If you’re reading this, be thankful. You’ve just received a piece of someone else’s life, and the most spectacular thing about it is there are as many stories as there are people. You’d be surprised by how many people enjoy talking about their lives. You just have to be willing to listen. All you need to do is ask.
Image courtesy of The Stones Call
Photo courtesy of Renaé Truex
Renaé Truex can be found:
*Featured photo courtesy of 90 East Photography