NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The black hat is back. Clint Black released his first new album in a decade after finally finding a record label he could trust.
The staunchly independent country artist was always a thorn in the side of Music Row's record executives. He never gave in to pressure to sing other people's songs and never wanted to repeat his big hits like "Killin' Time" or "A Better Man."
"I am not here to sell records, I am here to make records," Black, 53, said during an interview in his home studio in Nashville, Tennessee. "And if someone can sell them, that's great. And if they can't, that's too bad. But it's not going to change what I do."
The singer-songwriter with the traditional country sound was one of the best-selling artists of the '90s, selling more than 20 million albums worldwide. His 1989 debut album, "Killin' Time," generated four No. 1 hits on Billboard's Hot Country songs chart, an impressive feat in any genre.
But he walked away from RCA at the height of his career and founded his own music label, Equity Music Group, which launched the career of the platinum-selling country group Little Big Town.
After years of being courted by major labels, this year he signed a deal with Thirty Tigers, an independent label in Nashville, to put out "On Purpose," released last week.
"If it weren't for Thirty Tigers, I don't know if there was another company out there that I would have loved and would have loved me as me," Black said. "I may be standing here just doing my thing on tour and all my music would have been sitting down there in the studio."
Thirty Tigers owner David Macias said their core mission has been to help artists maintain ownership of their own work. Black's label mates include the Avett Brothers, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, Marty Stuart and Jason Isbell.
"We are a place that values artists that are singular and hold tight to their vision," Macias said.
Between playing about 85 cities a year, Black tinkered away at his songs in the studio for a couple of years and refined his guitar skills. The songs on "On Purpose" stay true to his neo-traditional country style and he shows off his wit and clever writing on songs like "Calling it News," which skewers the election year media circus, or an ode to the universal language of drinking on "Beer."
And like his song, "Better and Worse," Black has enjoyed the highs and the lows of the music business and found that he's right where he belongs.
"My expectations are still under control because I never expected or felt entitled to anything in the first place," Black said.
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