A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
Oklahoma City-based Stoney LaRue looking to fly with upcoming album ‘Aviator’
While readying for his summer release, Oklahoma City-based red dirt singer-songwriter Stoney LaRue is playing a show Friday night at a familiar venue: the Tumbleweed Dance Hall in Stillwater.
Stoney LaRue is looking to fly with his upcoming album, which will launch from the “Velvet” he laid down three years ago.
The red dirt music star is readying to release his new album “Aviator” between now and August, and he plans to keep building on the mellower, more mature sound he wove into his 2011 studio effort.
“With ‘Velvet’ it was more of kind of like establishing a direction. You know, kind of setting down a post and saying ‘this is my path’ type of thing, and I think this is just an extension of that, just getting a little further down it. It has a lot of similarities,” the hard-touring musician said last week by phone from La Grange, Texas, where he and his bandmates were hunting grass snakes to kill a few afternoon before playing a show that night.
“Songwriting is honing a craft. I think ultimately you want the next thing you do to be better – or at least different in a better way.”
While his music may be continuing a stylistic shift, some things remain the same for the Oklahoma City-based singer-songwriter. He will play Friday night in a familiar town — Stillwater, the ancestral home of his red dirt music — at a storied venue — the Tumbleweed Dance Hall.
“Twenty years ago, I was sweeping the floor there,” LaRue recalled with a laugh. “I remember seeing Smokin’ Armadillos back in the day at Tumbleweed, and I went by their little booth where they were signing and everything and I said, ‘I’m gonna be there on day. I’ll see y’all in Nashville.’ And they were like ‘OK, sounds good, moving on.’ But I’ve really thought about that. My brother Bo Phillips is doing quite well now, and he was a bouncer there at Tumbleweeds. Obviously, Garth Brooks was a bouncer there at Tumbleweeds, so there must be something in the water.”
When he started out playing music about 15 years ago, LaRue, who turns 37 later this month, was eager to hit the road, although he acknowledges now he didn’t have a particular sonic destination in mind.
“I wanted to play music and I wanted to tour. I didn’t really have a direction or a sound or an idea of what I wanted to do. It just kind of got placed under a shroud of ‘red dirt whatever.’ So it’s easy to throw that under there, but now it’s a little bit more definitive. Whenever you hear anything off the ‘Velvet’ album or this next one, you’ll know it’s my music, it’s my style,” said LaRue, who recently toured the East Coast on the “Four on the Floor Tour” with Texas country acts Randy Rogers Band, Wade Bowen and Josh Abbott Band.
“‘Velvet’ was awesome, in my opinion, it was one of those things that made me feel like I’m an artist and it’s valid and I’m not spinning my wheels. It’s that type of thing that ‘if I die tomorrow, I’ve got that at least.’ … But this next album, I like it better.”
The Taft, Texas-born and southeastern Oklahoma-bred musician assembled the same team to launch “Aviator” as he did to weave “Velvet,” again writing with fellow singer-songwriter Mando Saenz and working with producer Frank Liddell, who has helmed projects by Tishomingo resident Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram and Lee Ann Womack. Engineer Mike McCarthy flew from Austin, Texas, to Nashville, Tenn., to work on the project, too.
“Whenever we walked in the studio, everybody hugged and it’s just like ‘Let’s get to work,’ as opposed to trying to figure out what we’re gonna do and what kind of sound we’re looking for, what we’re trying to accomplish. Everybody just set (up) live like we did with ‘Velvet.’ If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And I like the way we’re doing this. Everyone seems to be really comfortable and creative,” LaRue said. “If you could’ve just felt the energy in that room while everybody was recording at the same time, everybody just looking at each other and just smiling from ear to ear. … We just picked up where we left off, so to speak. Wish we could do it every day,” LaRue said.
Considering it took LaRue six years after his debut studio album, 2005′s “The Red Dirt Album,” to spin “Velvet,” his newfound affinity for the studio may come as a surprise to some.
“Every night, the people who come out to the shows, they have those shows for themselves. But being in the studio, that’s timeless,” he said. “It’s a footprint or a fingerprint. It’s gonna be around long after I’m gone. And it’s gonna be a legacy, hopefully that somebody can look back on a go like ‘that’s my grandpa.’ And hopefully, it’ll be awesome.”
After getting what he considers his first professional recording experience with “Velvet,” the longtime indie musician inked a one-album deal with Entertainment One so he would have more resources to create and catapult “Aviator.”
“They put together radio interviews, cross-country radio tour promotion, and you gotta wake up and do TV stuff … so there’s just a few more cogs in the wheel you might say,” LaRue said, adding he didn’t find the deal restricted his creative freedom. “I tour 262 days a year, so as far as restrictive is concerned, I’m pretty comfortable with whatever’s thrown at me these days.”
Although he still loves his occupation, the father of four said he is looking to future in which he can hopefully tour less and make more money.
“That way I can actually feel like I can spend a little bit more time with my children or doing some other extracurricular crafts as opposed to feeling like I’m spinning my wheels sometimes,” he said. “I’m blessed to be able to do this in the first place, and I’m happy for the opportunity that people get to listen it, that people want to listen to it … and I feel comfortable and confident that the music’s worthy of being listened to.”
When: 9:30 p.m. Friday. Doors open at 8 p.m.
Where: Tumbleweed Dance Hall, Lakeview and Country Club roads.