Clint Black's formula for success? He doesn't have a formula. "I do what I love and love what I do. I think that's what makes you genuine," said the singer, who broke out in the early '90s around the same time as other neo-traditionalists like Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson.
"Tastes do change, but there will always be fans of good, genuine country. So if you stay true to what you do and love, you don't need any formula!"
Black's eclectic career backs his claim that there's been no master plan. The singer -- who has maintained that cry in his voice reminiscent of the young Merle Haggard -- has appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" and sometimes acts alongside his wife, singer/actress Lisa Hartman Black (their most recent collaboration was the 2012 family move, "Flicka: Country Pride").
Today, Black stays busy shuffling across the country with a rich catalog of material pulled from 12 albums and more than 30 charting singles. The singer brings his act -- along with his trademark smile and black hat -- to the Fox Theater on Saturday.
On strict voice rest between shows, Black answered our interview questions via email, offering a glimpse into his illustrious career and future.
The release of "Killin' Time" in 1989 was one of a number of hugely successful "new country" breakthroughs around that time, along with music from Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. What do you remember from that era?
I remember that time as being like a whirlwind. I was adjusting to fame and a minute-by-minute itinerary that never seemed to stop. I also remember as a country fan how much I loved the music others were making. It was exciting to watch as country music rose to its proper place on the charts and showed the industry how popular it really is.
Is pursuing a major label still worth the work or does it make better business and career sense for artists today to operate completely independently?
You can argue both, but I prefer to focus more on my music than on the business side, and I think most artists are that way. Balancing it all is too much, even for someone that's been in the business as long as I have.
Your 51st birthday is two days after your Bakersfield show. Would you welcome an early party thrown by local fans?
The fans just showing up for the show is all I want for my birthday! Believe me, that's a special gift to me. My whole life has been spent seeking an audience, and I remember when I had to play to two or three people who weren't even paying attention. When they show up and listen, that's icing on the cake!
Merle Haggard has had a big influence on your musical style. Do you two keep in touch?
I haven't been in touch with Merle for some time. I think he's as busy as I am! I will never forget the time I had with him when he was on my 1991 tour. That was way beyond what I could have wished for.
What do you think of today's country scene?
Any time someone can shine a spotlight on country music in the mainstream in a positive way, it is a good thing for the entire industry.
Who are some of the new country artists catching your ear?
There are quite a few; many of my favorites are not nearly as well-known as they should be. Mallary Hope is a great example; she has opened for me for a number of my shows and I'm blown away every time. Check her out!
You've done some more acting recently. Is that something you'd like to keep pursuing?
I love acting, nearly as much as I love music, but definitely not as much. For the time being I want to focus my energy on this tour and my next album. We'll see what the future holds.
Does your wife, Lisa, offer up tips on acting?
Lisa and I talk about acting, but not in that way. Her biggest piece of advice was to get with an acting coach.
How do you pick a set list with such a rich discography of material?
There are always a certain few fan favorites that I would have to play or some fans might charge the stage. Other than that, I can bounce in and out what songs to play each show based on my mood. I guess having so many songs is an advantage in that way -- at least I have options!
What's next for Clint Black?
There's still a lot I want to do. The next year will be very exciting as I am working towards putting out my first record in seven years, going on my acoustic tour, collaborating on a Broadway play about the life of Roy Rogers, and I've even recently wrote the score for a touring production called "Aussie Adventures."