Issue #17 Sept. 15th - Sept. 28th, 2006

Shooter Jennings: Putting the 'O' ln Country
By: Ryk Weston

Being the son of a legendary country singer can be an uneasy task. There is no doubt that Hank Williams Jr. felt the pressure of such expectations, as well as his won son, Hank III. However, each of these artists seemingly cater to obvious age groups. Hank III has gained massive notoriety with both punk and metal crowds from his endeavors with metal group Superjoint Ritual, and his solo recordings which have taken him on the road with the likes of The Murder Junkies. All have suggested Hank’s punk rock ethics.

But the Williams family isn’t the only country stronghold which birthed family ties into music. Shooter Jennings, son of the late Waylon Jennings, has been making a name for himself in the country and rock circuit now for several years, and shows no evidence of letting his love for music slow down. Even as the mainstream press try to pigeonhole Shooter into the “outlaw country” label, he is quick to affirm. “I always say it’s country because to me that’s what our audience is made up of: Country fans. But I do generally try to avoid labels. I mean, I kind of wonder sometimes when they say that because yes, there are some songs that do have that vibe, and what I always consider the “outlaw beat”, like the funkier beat that my dad always used to kind of bounce on. I just don’t necessarily consider a song like ‘Electric Rodeo’ as “outlaw country”. At the same time, they just don’t know what to say. They’re already so confused.”, says Shooter.

And certainly that CMT tries to lump Shooter in with many of today’s current alt-country artists must have some effect on what is percieved as “true country”. “Yeah, because you’ve got alt-country, have all this crap and then they try to make alt-country the saviour because they can’t really get back to what we did in the day. They don’t know what to do, and that kind of excites me because it’s just gonna keep on getting bigger, like us, Hank III, Dead Street Brothers...and there used to be just two to three bands like that. Now there’s like forty bands that’re paving the way.”, remarks Shooter.

To think that Shooter started his career off in country music is just misunderstanding his influences altogether. His start began in Los Angeles at a young age when his band Stargunn were hitting the circuits of the big city. Says Shooter, “I was younger when I started it. Stargunn kind of went through three eras of sound. The first year I had really gotten into T. Rex, Bowie, and Iggy Pop. That whole kind of era. Then I was really into Guns ‘n Roses, Ministry, all these kinds of bands, and I would bring a lot of that in there. But there was always like...(pause)..we did country covers, but there was this definite flavor of Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Guns ‘n Roses vibe. We were young, and you know, it was a much more juvenile thing. As I got older and older, things started to change.”

And growing up in a musical household certainly had profound effects on a young Shooter. One would almost have to ask if the senior Jennings understood the music Shooter was into as a teenager. “Oh, absolutely!”, remarks Shooter. “We had a really great relationship where we’d play each other’s stuff we liked. Like, he’d listen to what I was listening to and just understand it. Nine Inch Nails, White Zombie...and he would get it. He would get why it was cool, and he like the flavor of it.”

“I remember we watched Woodstock ‘94,” Shooter recalls, “And he saw Primus. And he loved Les Claypool! So then I bought him Pork Soda and he got it and he would listen to that. I would bring him random stuff and he would just get into it. Like Pride and Glory, that Zakk Wylde band? He loved that.” The thought of Waylon being a Primus fanatic can be bewildering to the mind of any Waylon Jennings fan, though Shooter stands firm. “I know, and it really shows you how much he loved music and how open he was.”, says Shooter.

With being the son of a famous country outlaw musician, there almost certainly comes the notion that pressure is there. Expectations that certain media hounds try to push upon Shooter Jennings. “I’ve never thought about that in my entire life. the thing about it is is that there are two kinds of reviewers. Like Rolling Stone. I’d like it if they’d say “we don’t like it very much” rather than “Not as good as...” or saying what I have to live up to. I don’t really pay much attention to it. I mean, sometimes I’ll do interviews where like...with you, I can already tell it’s more just like a conversation, and that’s cool. But some this one dude, they turned it around and made it sound like I had tons of Hollywood friends. And I was like, “What is this?”. I don’t have any friends, period! It was a strange article, but this person thought it would be cool, and I was like, “That’s not cool!”, says Shooter.

So far, things have been looking up for Shooter Jennings. With his albums sales up and a current jaunt on the road with Willie Nelson, this rising star will only further his continued success. And just how is it touring with the legendary Willie Nelson? Shooter replies, “It’s good! Thi is our first one in awhile. We haven’t played with him since the 4th of July. We’ve been having run off’s with him here and there. Sometimes his audience is a lot older. the first two shows we did with him, the advertsising wasn’t done very well, and people didn’t know we were going to be there. It was before our second record came out, and they didn’t know our record that well. But it turned out great.”

You can catch Shooter Jennings at the Oklahoma State Fair on September 16, this Saturday.

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