Alan Jackson: No Pressure To Compete With My History

After 25 years in the music industry, pressure is no longer a factor for Alan Jackson.

“You always want to make a good album, you’re concerned about doing that, but I don’t feel pressure to compete with any of my history or trying to worry about getting on the radio or selling many albums,” said Jackson, sporting his signature cowboy hat, in a recent interview.

Jackson, 56, released his debut album in 1990, and marks an anniversary this year with his 15th studio album, Angels and Alcohol. It debuted at No. 1 on the country albums chart last month.

“(I) try to just focus on the music and what songs work better together and the sound, and make an album,” he said. “I tried to always concentrate on that and not worry so much about, ‘Well is this one going to be nominated for a Grammy?'”

Turns out he didn’t need to worry about it: Jackson, who is from rural Newnan, Georgia, has earned two Grammy Awards, among other accolades. He recently wrapped the spring leg of his 25th Anniversary Keepin’ In Country Tour, and he talked about his new album, the streaming business and more with The Associated Press.

Photo: Amy Sussman/Invision/AP

AP: What comes to mind when you think about being in the industry for 25 years?

Jackson: Old (laughs). I’m very proud of it. …I feel relaxed. I feel like, ‘Gosh, I’ve just done so much and accomplished so much and been so fortunate.’ I couldn’t hardly ask for anything else, so the rest is just like fun.

How do you think you’ve grown?

I try not to look at all the charts all the time. In the beginning you’re looking at your song, ‘Oh it went from 8 to 9 and somebody jumped me and went to 7.’ And every week you’re looking at it and how many (radio) spins you got – it just drives you crazy. …Try to concentrate on the music and not get caught up in being a celebrity in the spotlight because then the music ends up going to the bottom.

Streaming is how so many people listen to music – are you into that?

I don’t know that it’s a bad thing. I think from a business side, you know, being a songwriter and being a part of the Nashville community so long and record labels, I think all that has hurt the financial part of the business and it hurts the business because it’s hard for songwriters to make a living … For the fans I think it’s nice; they can get what they want. …I feel disappointed sometimes … they can buy what they want and not buy the album. I want them to buy the album, not ’cause I want the sales or the money, it’s ’cause that’s your music.

What was it like writing ‘You Can Always Come Home’ for your daughter?

I wrote that when my middle daughter moved to California and it was the same thing my daddy said to me when I moved to Nashville. I was young and he said, ‘If it doesn’t work out you can always come home.’ That meant a lot and that’s why that song spilled out.

Did you play track for her before it was released?

I think I played her a rough track before we cut it; just like a guitar vocal. Made everybody tear up (laughs).

Are you a big fan of any contemporary country acts?

Jon PardiKacey MusgravesZac Brown. … Miranda Lambert, she’s in the spotlight a lot now, but I’ve known her for years. She was opening for me when she was still wearing her long, wrangled up blue jeans out there. She has really worked hard and I always liked the fact that she appreciates real country (music) and writes some stuff like that. Even some of her more aggressive stuff still has an edgy, roots-y sound I like. There’s still some good music out there.

There’s a lack of women on country radio right now. Have you noticed that?

It’s just kind of in cycles. I remember when Shania Twain was kind of leading the pack a few years ago and it seemed like during that time, it was just more woman than there were guys winning all the awards. It was just back and forth, back and forth. I’m sure it will turn around.