Steve Wariner’s New Album Takes Him ‘All Over the Map’

Four-time Grammy winner Steve Wariner opens up about his new album, "All Over the Map," in this SLN exclusive. 

Written by Chuck Dauphin
Steve Wariner’s New Album Takes Him ‘All Over the Map’
Photo by David McClister

The title of Steve Wariner’s 20th studio album is All Over The Map, and the four-time Grammy winner tells Sounds Like Nashville that it’s very much a true description, as the singer considers himself blessed to have toured not just around the country, but the world. “I’ve played every nook and cranny of the whole United States and Canada,” he says. “I remember when I worked for Dottie West, there were a few states we didn’t play, then I’d fill in some with Bob Luman, then later with Chet Atkins, I got Hawaii and Alaska,” he says, admitting that even now, the road life still has an allure. “Travelling is wonderful. There’s always so much to see in this country. You can never see everything we have to offer here in this country alone. It’s wonderful thing.”

The title of the album also describes the music. There’s some traditional sounds, as well as some contemporary sound – and an equal mix of vocal performances and instrumentals. “I just put it together on the fly,” he said. “I wrote ‘C.G.P.’ first. I was just playing around with this little Takamine guitar, and this little lick came out. I started playing this Jerry Reed-kind of groove, and the words just started coming out. That got me to thinking about making a new record, and I got fired up. It just kept going from there.”

One track that Wariner can’t help but beam about is “Nashville Spy-line,” which features one of his guitar heroes. “I saw Duane Eddy doing an interview at the Hall of Fame, and I walked over to him and said ‘We’ve never done anything together. Would you record with me? He said ‘of course I will, if you’ll record with me.’ I called him, and he came out to the house, and we wrote two songs. I’m really proud of how it turned out.”

When you get two masters of the guitar like that together, one might wonder if the competitive juices flow. Wariner insists it’s the opposite. “It’s like working with Chet. You think ‘There’s no way I could mash the pedal down with those guys.’ When we started writing it, all I could think about is ‘I’m sitting here, playing with Duane Eddy – which is awesome, and listen to what he’s doing.’ This is so much fun. I think when you put our styles together, they each have their own contrast. I think it was a cool combination. We laughed and told stories until our sides hurt. I wish I would have taped all of that.”

With his impressive pedigree of industry jobs pre-stardom, does Wariner regret that he didn’t document more of his experiences? “Oh, yes. I think that especially with Dottie and Bob, I wish I had gotten more pictures or video footage. I don’t have a lot of it. By the time I got with Chet, people started sending me stuff, but at the same time technology had changed so much. Chet also recorded everything, and there’s tons of stuff on him and me playing together, and some stuff with Jerry Reed, as well. That’s important as time goes on. That’s history.”

One aspect of the album that might surprise some of his longtime fans is the fact that Steve takes out one of his oldest passions -the steel guitar. “I don’t think many people know of that. I don’t say that I’m a great steel player or anything like that. It might have taken me all day to record that, but I enjoy playing it. My dad played steel, so I always had an affinity for them. My son Ryan said ‘You should do both parts. A lot of people don’t know you play steel. And, that’s probably true.”

The singer tips the hat to his father on “Mr. Roy,” whom he said played a great role in his musical development. “I have to be honest. That wasn’t intentional, but I noticed that when we were done. Dad had a multi-chord steel guitar at the house, and it reminded me of the Webb Pierce sound. I was always influenced by what my dad was influenced by. He had such a great taste in music – Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, Hank Thompson, and people like that. He wasn’t a rich man – he didn’t have a giant record collection or anything like that, but when he spent his money, he was going to get the best. He knew his country, and I grew up with it.”

Another guest star on All Over The Map is someone who Steve is quite fond of – Ricky Skaggs, who lends his mandolin talents on “Down Sawmill Road.” Of the singer, with whom he won a Grammy as part of Mark O’Connor & The New Nashville Cats in the 1990s, he said that “We’ve been friends for many years. In fact, when Bob Whittaker told me I was going to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, the first thing I did was go to his dressing room and say ‘Ricky, I need to talk to you.’ He was the first person I told. I remember him hugging my neck and saying ‘Nobody deserves it more than you.’ When we recorded the song, I said ‘Come on, Ricky, let me do something for you.’ He looked at me and said ‘What part of no don’t you understand? You’re my Kentucky brother?”

With five instrumentals on the disc – in addition to his history playing the guitar, Wariner was asked about the differences between composing an instrumental and a song with lyrics. He said it all comes from the heart. “Words and lyrics can move people, but music alone can also do that. Music, the way you put the notes and chords together, can really be powerful in a way that can touch people. For example, I did a song called ‘6120,’ which is a tribute to the Gretsch guitar – and also to Chet – and this woman comes up to me and said ‘That moved me so much.’ I got to thinking how amazing that was because there’s no words. But, I can hear ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles today, and it will move me even still. The lyrics are powerful, but the music is amazing with or without the lyrics. Sometimes, you can write an instrumental, and you just know that there are no lyrics needed. You just have an instinct as you go along.”

Wariner’s All Over The Map is available now.