Dr. Ralph Stanley and Nathan Stanley Interview

(CSC) 1. Truly an honor to be speaking with you! First and foremost, you’ve just recently released a fine record of duets entitled “Man of Constant Sorrow.” Having re-recorded some of your favorite songs, how did the idea for this project first come together?

(Dr. Ralph Stanley)

Well, we had been working close with the folks at Cracker Barrel for over a year I guess and finally we got everything together for this album. I'm real proud of it.


(CSC) 2. Having had this record produced by Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller, what gave you the most satisfaction being able to work with them in Buddy’s very own home studio?

(Dr. Ralph Stanley)

I've known and worked with Jim Lauderdale for years so I knew he would do a fine job. My grandson, Nathan Stanley introduced me to Buddy Miller.  Nathan told me that he was a fan of my music and would do things the way I like them to be done.  And he did. Of course I met Buddy several times on the Down From The Mountain Tour that featured the music from "Oh Brother Where Art Thou."  They both did a wonderful job.


(CSC) 3. There are many memorable duets on this record but one in particular that strikes me is your duet of “White Dove” with Lee Ann Womack. What an angelic voice! What was that like recording the song with her in the studio and what do you admire most about her as an artist?

(Dr. Ralph Stanley)

White Dove is a song that have recorded and performed for many years. My brother, Carter Stanley actually wrote the song.  Lee Ann Womack is a wonderful talent and she sure can give a song the feeling it needs.  I was glad to have her apart of my record.  I was glad to have everybody who sung a song with me on there.


(CSC) 4. Another highlight has to be “Rank Stranger” which features a duet with your grandson, Nathan. Being his grandfather, what important values have you instilled upon him throughout his life as a musician?

(Dr. Ralph Stanley)

I’m very Proud of Nathan. He is doing a fine job. I raised him from a pup so he is more like my son rather than grandson.  I've always told him to stay humble, Always aim to please your fans, and never try to copy anybody else' sound. And I think he is doing just that, and making a good name for himself in this business. Nathan is a big part of my career now days, I don't know what I would do without him.  I'm sure he will keep my music alive.


(CSC) 5. Nathan, knowing how meaningful this song (“Rank Stranger”) is to you and the personal connection that spans all the way back to your childhood, tell us about the experience of being able to record this particular song with your grandfather in the studio.

(Nathan Stanley)

Recording Rank Stranger with my papaw was an absolute honor. Of course we sing this song all over the country at every one of our live concerts.  Producers Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale were the ones that suggested that we record Rank Stranger for the album.  I'm sure glad they did.


(CSC) 6. To music fans your grandfather is an American Icon and a living legend, but to you he is family and much more than that because he raised you. In what ways has your grandfather taught you about being a real singer?

(Nathan Stanley)

He has been the only father figure I have ever known.  My papaw has always told me to "be myself, never copy anybody else' singing, and to sing a song the way that I feel it."   There has already been one Ralph Stanley and there will never be another one. So I have got to be Nathan Stanley. So I'm doing just that.  I love him with all of my heart. If it wasn't for him I would not be where I am today. 


(CSC) 7. Congratulations on celebrating 70 years of performing music. As you look back on your childhood being one of twelve children…how did your early attraction to music and performing play an influential role in your life?

(Dr. Ralph Stanley)

Thank you. Well my mother played the banjo and she influenced me in that way. She bought me a banjo and my brother Carter a guitar. We would sing at   Picnics, family reunions, and things like that when we were young. Folks seem to like what we were doing so we thought we could make a living out of doing this. Thanks to the Good Lord we have.

Enjoy Part II of the interview below:

(CSC) 8. What are some of your fondest memories of your father and mother and the musical impact that they made on you as a young boy?

(Dr. Ralph Stanley)

My mother was the one who really started it for me. By her playing the banjo I would have to say. And listening to the Carter Family and artists like that with her on the radio.


(CSC) 9. When you think about that show stopping Grand Ole Opry performance by the late Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe…you heard the banjo played in a way like never before. How did you manage to take that unique sound and style of playing and create your own distinct style which many refer to as “Stanley Style?”

(Dr. Ralph Stanley)

Well Earl was great but I have my own style of playing. I play a raised head and Earl played a flat head.  The raised head has a much more brighter, keener sound and it fits my music better.  I did not want to copy Earl, so I created my own style.  Earl was a fine musician though.


(CSC) 10. What a fitting tribute to your late brother Carter on “Hills of Home.” This moving recitation chronicles several precious memories that the two of you shared as brothers and as a duo…Which leads me to ask, what attracted you and Carter to “Man Of Constant Sorrow?”

(Dr. Ralph Stanley)

I recorded Hills of Home in the 1960's after carter passed away. I was glad to include it in the project.  We experienced a lot of things together.  My dad would work around on the farm and sing "Man of Constant Sorrow."  It is an old English ballad. So Carter and I added a few words to it and changed the melody around and made it ours.


(CSC) 11.  Nathan, as you continue to play with your grandfather and make your mark as a solo artist, what are you most grateful for at this stage of your career?

(Nathan Stanley)

I first went on the stage with my papaw when I was two years old at the Grand Ole Opry.  I really did not understand what stage I was on or how important it was. All I knew is that I was with papaw so I was happy. I’m 22 now and it's a blessing to be able to stand beside one of American Music's Greatest Legends.  I'm so thankful for my papaw giving me the opportunity to be an entertainer, and of course I give God all the Praise and Glory because he has opened so many doors for me and my career.     


(CSC) 12. I know you also have released a new album titled “The Legacy Continues.” Tell us a little bit about that record and some of the songs that you consider to be most special to you!

(Nathan Stanley)

I'm very proud of "The Legacy Continues."  The album features old and new songs. They are 16 total tracks of good solid traditional Bluegrass and Gospel Music. It was such an honor to have country superstar Brad Paisley join me on one of the songs titled, "Will you miss me when I'm Gone."  I think he did a fantastic job. I wrote a song called "Papaw, I Love you" for the album and that's my favorite song on there. It tells a story of how I grew up with my papaw and how I will never let his legacy die.  I wanted to let the music industry and fans know how much I love this man. 


(CSC) 13. Having been able to record with some of the greatest names in music, one in particular, the great George Jones… what was that experience like being able to work with and know one of the finest voices in country?

(Nathan Stanley)

To me, George Jones was the greatest male singer in Country Music. I had the pleasure of getting to know George and his wife Nancy in 2010. They were so down to earth and so nice to me. He told me stories of Back in the day when he and my grandfather played the same concerts together. Being in the studio with him was a memory that I will never forget.  I still keep in touch with Nancy, I love her to pieces. 


(CSC) 14. In closing, you’ve been very blessed and have accomplished much in your storied career. What pieces of wisdom and or thoughts would you like to share with us as you reflect upon your legacy?

(Dr. Ralph Stanley)

I appreciate that. I want folks to remember me being an honest man, a God fearing man, and that I never copied anybody else' sound. I stayed true to myself.  I hope that the 70 years I have been in this business has brought joy to people.

Learn more about Dr. Ralph Stanley here: http://drralphstanleymusic.com/

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