Danny Shirley Interview
They started out as
a Georgia bar band, but, they’ve taken their act all the way to the
They were named Best New Group in 1993 by the Academy of Country Music.
They’ve sold some 5 million CD’s.
Their name is-----Confederate Railroad.
Lead vocalist and founding member Danny Shirley spoke with us about
Q – You’ve got this new CD out called “Unleashed”.
How are you promoting it? Are you out on the road?
A – Oh, yeah. Of course we still do about 120 shows a year anyway.
On top of that, we’ve been going to a lot of radio stations, doing
acoustic shows in several different towns. And so far-----so good! You
know, I’ve been out of this for awhile, the recording end. This
is the first album I’ve done in several years, but, it seems to
be catching on pretty good.
Q – Why had you not recorded for so long?
A – Well, I didn’t record anything for about 5 years. I got
married. I’ve got 2 small children. I really backed off of everything
once the kids were born. I wanted to spend more time at home. I hadn’t
planned on doing this album, but, Nick Hunter at Audium said, if you
come do this record, here’s your budget, you do the record-----no
interference from the label, telling me what I had to do, what I couldn’t
do. It was a real pleasure making this record.
Q – How many groups are there in Nashville
trying to do what Confederate Railroad is doing-----and has done?
A – Oh gosh, it’s unlimited. I don’t have any idea
what the number of people in Nashville trying to get a record deal going
would be. If you have dinner, chances are one of the waitresses is in
Nashville trying to become a recording artist or a writer. If you stop
and get your car worked on, chances are one of these guys are in Nashville
trying to become a star. (Laughs). Nashville is just covered with people
trying to get a break.
Q – Where did this name Confederate Railroad
A – Well, actually the band had been together for about 10 years
when we signed the record deal. I actually signed the deal as a solo
artist and recorded the first album as a solo artist. At the time we
were getting ready to release the first album back in ’92, there
were so many new male vocalists out at the time that we were afraid I’d
just get lost in the shuffle. So, the label and I got together and decided
to re-name it as a group since the band and I had been together for so
many years. A songwriter friend of mine came up with the name Confederate
Railroad. I liked the Confederate part because the project was very Southeastern.
Me, being born and raised in the Southeast, I liked that. The Railroad
part if you’re familiar with Civil War history; I was living in
Kennesaw, Georgia at the time, but, I was born and raised in Chattanooga,
Tennessee. If you’re familiar with Civil War history the train,
the General was hijacked by the North in Kennesaw and re-captured by
the South in Chattanooga. So, there was a little personal thing there
that made me go for that.
Q – You were the house band at Miss Kitty’s in Marietta,
Georgia for awhile. What kind of a club was Miss Kitty’s?
A – Oh, it was a great club! That’s why I moved to down around
Atlanta for several years. Back in the mid to late 80’s the rotation
of bands there was me, Travis Tritt, Jon Berry, Diamond Rio, and Little
Texas. That was before any of us had records. You can imagine with all
5 of us being able to go and further our career nationally, you can imagine
how much fun that club was back then. It was just phenomenal. And it
was so much fun coming up, all of us together and then becoming noticed
later on. And, it’s still so much fun to run into each other and
talk about those old days. It was a special time.
Q – Someone must’ve liked the “Gunsmoke” t.v.
series to have named the bar “Miss Kitty’s”.
A – (Laughs). That’s true. That’s very true.
Q – From that club, you went on to back
up David Allan Coe and Johnny Paycheck.
A – Yeah. We were the David Allan Coe Band for I guess about 5
or 6 years, leading up to the time when we got our record deal with Atlantic.
On the new album, you probably noticed, David and I got to do a duet
together. First time we ever recorded together and that was a lot of
fun. We still see each other pretty regularly and still do several shows
together in the course of a year.
Q – How much roadwork did you do for those
A – With Paycheck it was really a deal to where John and I were
friends. If you’ll remember back in the late 80’s, he went
to prison in Ohio. A year before he went in, we went out with John and
basically just helped him stockpile some cash. He wanted to work all
he could and got him ready to get his family took care of before he was
incarcerated for a couple of years there. With David, we were his band,
full-time for several years. Back then, we were probably doing 200 shows
a year with David.
Q – How far did you travel?
A – We toured Europe together.
Q – I guess you did do some roadwork then!
A – Oh,yeah. July (2002) will be 26 years I’ve been doing
this for a living.
Q – That’s actually pretty good isn’t
A – That’s great-----yeah, to get to go that long without
having to work. (Laughs). No, it has been really good to me. I have no
Q –Confederate Railroad was named by the
Academy of Country Music as Best New Group of 1993. Do you recall who
your competition was?
A – I know Little Texas was one of the groups and if I’m
not mistaken there was another group called The Great Divide. There was
3 of us in that category that year. And again, going back to the Miss
Kitty’s days, it made it more exciting that it was us and Little
Texas together, because we’d known each other so long. And, at
the time we were actually touring together if I’m not mistaken.
Q – In this song of yours, “White Trash With Money”…..
A – (Laughs).
Q – It’s a funny song, with a funny title. But, there is
one line in the song, “Doctors and lawyers don’t think it’s
funny that they’re living next door to white trash with money”.
Is that the way you’re viewed or is that the way you view yourself?
A – Well, I actually wrote that song based on a true experience.
When things first started going really good for us, the first thing I
did was buy a really nice house in a really nice sub-division there in
Chattanooga. After I’d been there for awhile, a couple of months,
one of my neighbors told me that when they heard I was moving into the
sub-division they had a community meeting ‘cause they were concerned
with an entertainer moving in, there would be wild parties, late-night
goings on and all this, not realizing that when you entertain for a living,
the last thing I want to do when I go home is have a party.
Q – Right.
A – We were laughing about it. They were thinking just the opposite
of what it turned out. He said you’re like the calmest people in
the whole neighborhood. We had a lot of doctors, a lot of lawyers, and
a couple of professional athletes that lived close to me. I just couldn’t
let that opportunity pass when they told me there was this concern about
me moving in. So, that’s why I wrote the “White Trash With
Q – Could they have stopped you from moving
into the neighborhood?
A – No. No. There was no way about that. They were just real concerned
about it because it is such a classy neighborhood. I guess with our reputation
and songs like “Trashy Women”, they didn’t know what
to expect. They thought that their little paradise on earth there was
gonna go down hill. (Laughs).
Q – Why do you think Confederate Railroad
succeeded where another group might not have? Was it talent? Persistence?
Luck? A combination of all 3?
A – The way I’ve always seen it was I was never a great writer.
I was never a great entertainer. We weren’t great musicians. But,
something came together there that connected with the common people.
I think a lot of it might’ve been the lyrical content. We’d
sing about things so many people can relate to. Sometimes we sing about
things that they can relate to, but other artists wouldn’t go so
far as to say it. I think that having a good time onstage is contagious.
The crowd sees us having fun and it makes them have fun which in turn
makes us have more fun. I think there’s a diversity in the music
we’ve done over the years that made Confederate Railroad’s
music appealing to a wider range of people. They hear we were up for
a Grammy for “Trashy Women” and we were also up for Christian
Awards for “Jesus and Mama”. I think it’s just a combination
of things there.
Q – I’ve heard there’s trouble in Paradise. Labels
are dropping country acts. Management cos. are packing up and moving
back to Los Angeles. What’s going on? Is that true?
A – Yeah, that is true. You know, if you look at the history of
Country Music, you’ve got peaks and valleys. They early to mid
90’s was definitely the biggest time ever in Country Music history.
You just can’t sustain that momentum forever, and so you’re
gonna have a falling off. We’re down right now, but, I’m
sure in a few years it’s gonna swing back up, ‘cause it always
does. Of course, we have a theory that the hillbillies get things going
real good in Nashville and we start making money and the L.A. people
come and screw it up. They leave and the hillbillies get it built back
up. (Laughs). We’ll see what happens this time. You know, I think
a lot of what happened there in the mid 90’s; things were going
so good that a lot of the upper management in Nashville, be it the record
cos. or the radio people or whatever didn’t want to screw it up.
So, they said o.k. we’ve got to be real careful what we do now.
And I think that was the downfall in that they got so careful that the
music became kind of sterile, kind of vanilla, where things started sounding
alike. We don’t want to offend anybody. We don’t want to
scare anybody off which I think the one thing that always make Country
music so appealing to people when it is at it’s peak is that they
do get a little off-center sometimes and maybe a little controversial.
In my experience, looking back on the peaks and valleys, that’s
always when it went to its peak. You have the Outlaw movement with Waylon
and Willie which was just so far left of what Country music had been
up to that time, that it brought people into Country music. It was interesting
again. I think that when you make it so vanilla and so generic you take
a lot of the personality out of it, and I think that’s what happened
Q – Maybe the record cos. shouldn’t
have signed so many acts at one time and devoted their promotional
budgets to breaking a select few acts.
A – At one time, I think Nashville was more concerned with building
a career than they are right now. Here in the past few years they’ve
been more concerned about getting that one hit record. We want to get
a hit out of this guy and then we’ll go on to the next guy and
get a hit out of him, instead of let’s take this artist and build
Q – Let’s hope that Audium Records
is behind Confederate Railroad.
A – Well, it’s hard for me to complain. We still do, like
I said, 120 shows a year and that’s by choice. That’s all
I want to work. If you can turn down work, something’s going right
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