Grammy, CMA and ACM award-winning artist/singer/songwriter K.T. Oslin released “Simply,” on June 2nd, her first album in 15 years. The album has new arrangements of many of her hits including, “Younger Men,” “Hold Me,” and “80’s Ladies.” Included is a new song, “Do You Think About Me,” which is the first song she has written in 20 years, bringing in Al Anderson as the co-writer. Her career started out in her early 20’s when she performed with folk singers Guy Clark and David Jones. K.T. went on to achieve a very impressive eclectic career that also included acting and producing.
On a very pleasant Saturday morning, after a few hits and misses in scheduling, we had the honor and pleasure of visiting with Ms. Oslin to discuss her career and how the new album became a reality.
Country Music Matters: Good morning Ms. Oslin and thank you for taking the time to visit with us today.
K.T.Oslin: Good morning and thank you for having me. It is a pleasure
CMM: You started your career early on and part of that start was living in New York city in the 70’s where you appeared in stage performances of, “West Side Story,” “Promises, Promises,” and “Hello Dolly.” Did you feel this prepared you for your shows as a country artist?
K.T.: I did theatre when I first moved to NY, then started doing commercials and jingles which were fairly lucrative, but I was by no means one of the “big dogs” just sort of like one of the “dogs” just kind of getting in there. Everything you do performing wise whether it’s live on a stage, on film or video you scrutinize the heck out of it. The steps you take along the way from tap dancing class as a little kid and more prepares you. It just gets you over pure stage fright, where you are comfortable in front of people, not just getting out there and thinking you can do it.
CMM: In 1981 you signed your first record deal with Elektra records. How did this opportunity come about?
K.T.: I was trying to get a record deal and was getting nowhere. The wife of the head of Elektra records at the time heard my demo tape. It was never an album deal, just a singles one. We cut a couple of singles and it didn’t go anywhere, it didn’t have any life in it at all. I was given a credit card and a password and the label had me doing radio calls unannounced and unprepared. I had no idea why I was calling this person or who this person was but I was calling them and answering questions. I realized it was something that was not going to work out.
CMM: You have had songs recorded by Gail Davies, The Judds, and Dottie West. For an artist this is the biggest form of flattery. It has to be confidence booster as well.
K.T.: It is one thing to write the songs and sing them yourself, thinking, ‘This is a pretty good song’ but if someone else thinks it’s a pretty good song and basing some of their livelihood on whether it’s a good song or not, that’s wonderful. It’s a complete validation on your ticket and a fabulous feeling. Now when they don’t do a good record on it that’s not so good, but that has not happened so all is good.
CMM: In 1987 you signed with RCA Nashville releasing, “Walls of Tears,” and “80’s Ladies.” What is the story behind “80’s Ladies,” and how did it feel to have two #1 hits with “Do Ya,” and “I’ll Aways Come Back.”
K.T.: “80’s Ladies” was an idea where it was one of those things where a little chunk of it came out at once when I was sitting down to write and then I could never get any further with it, like the first verse or something. I would play it over and over again, playing on it for over a year. I was niddling and noodling on it, adding a little piece here and a little piece there. Finally when I got that little nursery rhyme thing on the end I thought, ‘Oh ok, this is what I was looking for’, something that was just a little different and there it was. In regards to the #No 1 hits, you can’t look at that too much or make too much on it. It’s a nice feeling, and a great feeling. But it’s so fleeting that it’s hard to pay attention, like ‘Whoa we moved on to this’ but then well what have we done all along before this. I just really didn’t know, we had always been around.
CMM: You have worn many hats such as singer, songwriter, producer, actress and writer. What rewards did these bring?
K.T.: I love performing. I love the recording end of it but not as much as I do the performing and I’m pretty good at it too. It’s fun to do, its things like that you flex your muscles on, really digging in on what you really like to do. I don’t like the business of the business, it’s just weird to me. It’s so different from what the artists feels about anything, it’s them and us. That does not mean they are bad guys but that is just the way it is, we think differently. The business side and creative side will never see eye to eye and we will always be suspicious of each other, tense and therefore unable to see the big picture.
CMM: Throughout your career you have worked with many artists such as Alabama and Barry Manilow. Is there anyone in your sights you would like to work with?
K.T.: That’s a tough question since I have worked with so many wonderful people. I have something in mind right now, but nothing definitive. I just kind of do things as I feel them, sometimes I’m very productive and sometimes I’m not. I don’t feel as drawn to doing things as I used to, since the business right now is a silly hard business and it’s too hard to play that for very long. I don’t feel the sense in it the older I get.
CMM: Red River Entertainment has brought you on board and with them you have recorded your first album in 15 years. How much fun and excitement came along with the project?
K.T.: It was a lot of fun, I was introduced to a lot of new things. I found Jimmy Nichols as my keyboard player and he ended up being my co-producer. Jimmy is a phenomenal musician and a real find. Between the two of us we sparked some ideas. I had the impression over the years that people only knew the singles and they probably didn’t buy the album. They probably just listened mostly at the time to what they heard on the radio without actually hearing the entire album. They were more familiar with the singles and I thought we just didn’t capture the songs, they just laid there like an old pancake. I thought it would be nice to regenerate them. I made this record not to make a record and make this big splash coming back with a record and then my next one was going to be this and on and on. That is not what this was. This was just supposed to have been sold at some gigs. As a rule everybody is hocking something so I thought this would be nice for the fans to have this music. Jimmy and I tweaked some of the arrangements and some we changed quite a bit. There is a new song on there and there are a couple of album cuts you may or may not be familiar with, but the hardcore listeners would probably know, but they are good fun songs. I paid for this album, we had four players, and my idea was to use the same players on this album that would be working with me live. That way we could reproduce exactly what we put on the record we asked you to buy. I just wanted to give these songs some fresh air to the younger audience that is out there who might hear some of it and say, ‘Hey I like this.’ That is all I was trying to do, I just didn’t want the music to just slip away and do nothing.
CMM: Who do you feel have been some of the biggest influences in not only your career but also in your life?
K.T.: I don’t go with a whole lot of people, the ones who have been in my life are usually very special people. I had a high school drama teacher that was just great who cast me in a lot of good parts that got me started as well as the first guy who cast me on Broadway. On down the line with such friends as Diane Petty of SESAC who had just started working there two weeks before I came along. She instantly got me and my music working tirelessly to keep me afloat when others were just ready to toss it away. I credit longtime RCA label chief Joe Galante with my success as well.
CMM: How would you describe success?
K.T.: Success is a very scary thing. There are a lot of people coming at ya, especially in show business who try and get a piece of the pie. You are more exposed to all sort of scrutiny. I just like to stay in my place.
CMM: What are the plans for the rest of 2015?
K.T.: Right now my calendar is empty. I’m not sure I will do any shows. It is very difficult to do it the way I would like to do it. I just like to sit back and am not one of those who have to fill up every second of my life with an activity.
CMM: We were very excited to hear about the new music when it came out and we wish you continued success, good health and a good life. Thank you again for being part of our day, it was very relaxing and enjoyable.
K.T.: I really appreciate you saying that because I feel it is sincerely coming from your heart. Who knows what I will do. This business has changed so much since I was working and I’m not sure there’s a place to get in. This new country does not relate to everyone’s ideas and thoughts of what country is. When country got its start it had a certain sound to it. Now with all the commerciality of it like, ‘Let’s have a hit and yeah yeah yeah’, that’s what makes it change into something we almost don’t recognize. It’s hard for people to create in a fast paced schedule where they have to think fast because the clock is ticking for another hit.
“Simply” can be found at all digital retailers and updated information can be found on the K.T. Oslin website: http://ktoslin.net/