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Eyes On The Road

Pat Green has his own formula for success

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Hang around Texas long enough, and you're bound to see a bumper sticker bearing the slogan: "I'm from Texas ... What country are you from?"

The Texas music scene is the fiercely provincial embodiment of that saying. It's as self-sustaining as it is suffocating, and Austin is its control center -- a place whose mystique as a world-class music town will never die if its glut of local music critics has anything to say about it.

Pat Green is a product of that environment -- but damned if he'll let it limit his horizons. "I like to hear the highway sounds, and I don't think that I'll ever settle down," he sings on "Threadbare Gypsy Soul." And as far as the ballad of Pat Green is concerned, that just about covers it.

"I have some sort of career ADD," says Green over the phone from his Austin home, where he's killing time before hitting the golf course for the afternoon. "I have to have forward motion in my life at all times."

Green shares vocals on "Threadbare Gypsy Soul" with iconic country rebel Willie Nelson, who, after doing his part in the 70s to craft Austin's "cosmic cowboy" lore, busted out of its velvet rut in a big way while still maintaining his love affair with Texas. And if there's a template for success Green most admires, it's Nelson's.

"I'm the kind of guy that believes in slow but permanent growth," states Green. "I've kind of gotten to the point where, in Texas, it's between 10,000 and 40,000 coming out to see us; you can't stay in the same state doing that."

It's odd, then, that other than the Nelson duet, nothing on Three Days, Green's major-label debut, makes a compelling case for his eagerness to transcend the trappings of home. In fact, he spends a large part of the album gushing over them -- whether plugging a local Tex-Mex joint in the lead-off "Carry On" (the catchiest of the 13 tracks, which Green purports to have written in 15 minutes) or enduring a rather redundant double-bout of homesickness on "Southbound 35" and "Texas on My Mind."

As for the music, the sweaty enthusiasm of the singer's live shows is muted by the album's glossy production, leaving little room for Green to charm his way past some inconsistent songwriting. But what some might see as a hindrance, Green sees as progress.

"I'm very comfortable with this record," he says. "But I think what sells records in the long run is live performance -- and consistent performance."

Born in San Antonio and raised in Waco, TX, Green first got serious about music as a student at Texas Tech, playing clubs and opening shows for other artists. By 1995, he'd released his first album; five more would follow, along with increasing attendance numbers in clubs and dancehalls throughout the state. By the late 90s, Green was in tight with fans of sure-bet Texas storytellers Robert Earl Keen and Jerry Jeff Walker, and his shows were selling tickets by the thousands. More recently, Universal Records came calling with a deal Green couldn't pass up -- one that involves total creative autonomy and plenty of money to bankroll the thing he loves most: touring.

By now, Green knows that his rep as Texas music's latest big-hearted ambassador will only get him so far with folks who've never set foot in the Lone Star State, let alone experienced his show in its natural chew-spit-and-longneck-littered environment. "You can get pigeonholed, and radio people go, 'Ah, it's just another guy from Texas trying break out and be George Strait or Willie Nelson,'" he admits. "But honest to God, if you don't write good songs, you're not going to get on the radio."

To that end, Green will take inspiration anywhere he can find it, be it from Willie Nelson or lesser-known Austin contemporaries like Trish Murphy, whose lilting, hymn-like ballad, "Wrong Side of Town," he covers on Three Days.

"If you only learn and grow from yourself, you're not going to go very far," says Green. "You've got to be watching other things and other people around you. You can't do it on your own."

Pat Green will be performing May 23 as part of the Speed Street Race Festival activities. *

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