‘…As if a night filled with awesome music wasn’t enough, Dierks also had some surprises up his sleeve to kick off this “Country & Cold Cans” tour. He started talking about how much he likes the Foo Fighters and that him and his band listen to them backstage before shows. Next thing we know he has his good friend, and Foo Fighter band member, Chris Shiflett come out on stage. Dierks shared they both admire Gram Parsons which led Dierks to reveal his white Gram Parsons t-shirt he had on under his plaid shirt. They sang “Sin City” and the Foo Fighter song “You I Fell Into.” He also had another special guest, Garrett Hedlund, from the movie “Country Strong.” Dierks invited Will Hoge, and Eli Young Band to join him and Garrett and they sang “Hard Out Here,” which is a Hayes Carll song.’
Category Archives: COUNTRY STRONG
Tex Ritter Award
Country Strong recieved the Tex Ritter Award, which is given to a movie released and/or receiving major exposure during the preceding calendar year, featuring or utilizing country music. Country Strong (Produced by Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Entertainment.) is a drama film starring Oscar® winner Gwyneth Paltrow as a country superstar staging a comeback, while two-time ACM male vocalist winner Tim McGraw played her husband and manager. Meanwhile, rising stars Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester portrayed the challenges and rewards of building a career as a performing songwriter. The accompanying soundtrack featured strong performances by the film’s four leading characters, along with country stars like Trace Adkins, Sara Evans, Faith Hill, Ronnie Dunn, Patty Loveless, Hank Williams Jr., Lee Ann Womack and Chris Young. Past recipients of the Tex Ritter Award include Beer For My Horses, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Crazy Heart, O Brother, Where Art Thou, Sweet Dreams and Walk the Line, among others.
Writer/director of ‘Country Strong’ Shana Feste talks about her love of country music and how that influenced her creative decisions.
Thanks to films like Walk The Line and Crazy Heart, country music has enjoyed a push back into the cinematic limelight in recent years, and writer/director Shana Feste’s Country Strong looks set to continue this trend. Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw and Garrett Hedlund, Country Strong follows a fallen country music star who works with a rising singer/songwriter to find herself again.
What inspired you to write and direct this film?
I think it stemmed from my love of country music. I lived in Austin while going to grad school and I was dating a country singer and I kind of fell in love with the world and that genre of music. It’s one of the few genres of music that still emphasises storytelling. As a writer that hits home for me.
Can you talk about casting actors who could sing rather than the other way around?
That was the most important thing. Coming from the South, I wanted this to feel authentic and there was talk in the beginning about re-voicing actors. You know, ‘Put other actors on the list. Even if you don’t think they can sing, it won’t make a difference.’ And you’re thinking, ‘Oh God, that seems like a disaster.’ You’re making a movie about country music and you’re re-voicing your actors? This, like, cheesy Disney voice comes on? I can always tell when actors are re-voiced in films.
I worked off a list of actors I knew could sing, except for Garrett. Garrett was actually the first person I cast. When I met him he could not sing or play the guitar and I had never seen him in a dramatic performance. With Garrett, I had a really honest conversation and I said, ‘You know, you’re not ready to play this role tomorrow. You know that. I think you will be ready to play this role but I need you to be mine for the next few months. You can’t take another job. I need to work with you.’ He gave everything up. He didn’t take another job. For four months he would come to my house and he’d do monologues and we’d do scene studies. He worked with a vocal coach and he worked with a guitar teacher. Then he moved to Nashville about two months early and stayed at Tim’s [McGraw] guesthouse on a ranch and started going into the recording studio. I started seeing progress every week and it was something that was really exciting.
Did you try to get Tim to sing?
I wanted Tim to sing and he would sing on set all the time but then it kind of started to blur the lines. Is it Tim McGraw? Or is it James Canter? I didn’t want to blur those lines.
I’m really glad that I did not go to a Tim McGraw concert until after I started shooting the movie. After it wrapped my producer and I went to a Tim McGraw concert and I was like, ‘I think I have a crush on Tim McGraw.’
It seems like it takes one set of skills to direct a feature film and another to direct a concert film. Is it a markedly different thing?
Yeah. It definitely was. My favourite concert film is The Last Waltz and I watched that a lot. Directing musical performances is also very different from directing two actors having an intimate conversation in a room. When they get on stage it’s all about confidence and that’s something that’s very hard to direct. What I found most valuable was using the extras in Nashville. I could not have directed those performances without those extras. Gwyneth was so nervous back stage, just shaking when she was about to play for thousands of extras in Dallas. When she came out and started singing, they stood up on their feet and started applauding and cheering for her. I saw how that impacted her performance. There’s a direct correlation between how loud they yelled and how much confidence she exuded in the performance.
Even though we only see snippets of certain musical performances in the film, did you actually film complete sequences for them?
We did. My first cut came in at three hours because I just wanted to keep every single song. That was really tough in the editing room. Deciding how much to show of each song and when to cut and go back to the scenes. If I had my way, I could have made a true musical out of this film and just held onto these songs.
Do you know what your next project is going to be?
It’s something very different. Something I have not done before. It’s called The Outlaws and it’s about father and son bank robbers so it’s a genre film. It’s definitely a dramatic genre film with strong character roles but it has a lot of action, which I’ve robbers so it’s a genre film. It’s definitely a dramatic genre film never done before so I’m excited.
Thanks to Mel! 🙂
Garrett Hedlund has mixed and matched his roles throughout his career and from the success of Tron: Legacy he switches for the musical drama Country Strong.
He teams up with Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Leighton Meester in the Shana Feste directed movie.
– How did you get involved in this project?
I had been sent the script and told that, if I responded to it, Shana Feste would fly up to Vancouver where I was filming Tron: Legacy and meet with me. I remember reading the script and having tears in my eyes by the end.
I really wanted her to come up and have this meeting. I felt honored that she would come all the way up to Vancouver to meet with me. It’s tricky though. You read a tagline or synopsis that says, ‘A triangular love affair that takes places on a ten city tour’ and your immediate thought is to set it aside.
Or else they could have explained it a little bit differently. I find Shana so incredibly talented and wonderful. This being her second film, I feel so proud to be a part of it and proud for her.
– How did you prepare to play a musician?
The biggest thing was overcoming lack of coordination. I couldn’t play at the beginning and this guy Neal Casal, who’s the lead guitarist from Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, stopped by my place and four days a week we’d be playing early Hank Sr. songs and the Byrds or just things to play that had chord progression.
We’d go to the studio and record and chart the progression. That was for four months. Then I moved out to Nashville a month before the shoot and stayed at Tim’s ranch cabin.
Like anything, it takes time to gain the abilities and you’ve got to fall on your face so many times. You’ve got to look silly in front of so many people before you finally start finding the ability and finding confidence within the approvals of others.
– Do you prefer playing dive bars or stadiums?
I prefer the dive bars. In most of these [movies], they cut in close to the fingers and they have a hand double just going at it. They’re mocking chords when the camera’s farther away. I was in fear that I would have to do everything on my own.
I was like, ‘These scenes are beautiful. I’ll work on these scenes but I can’t wait to do them with Gwyneth and Leighton and Tim.’ Performing, I thought, ‘Can we just get this over with?’
Our first time performing for an audience was at the stage, like the first musical scene in the film. I just remember having so much fun up there, but it also helps because I felt great about the songs. Having Hayes Carll there, whom I admire so much as a singer songwriter and who’s very parallel to this character, has a real Blaze Foley kind of grit to him.
When you’re confident and the songs are good, the audience enjoys it so it’s not hard for them to partake in just kind of really cheering and being genuine with it.
– Were you a fan of country music?
I grew up on a farm. We had one radio station and it was all country. Tim McGraw would be filling the airwaves then and I’d be in the tractor listening to Tim songs and Faith Hill songs and then for him to play my father in Friday Night Lights.
I got up on stage with him in 2004 and sang, I Like It, I Love It. But I wasn’t a country singer. I was like, ‘Can I sing ‘Don’t Take the Girl’?’ He said, ‘No, you’re singing ‘I Like It, I Love It.’ You’ll catch on.’
So I’m up there just kind of mouthing with him, ‘I like it. I love it.’ His guidance within this was great. He said, ‘You just have to live and breathe countrymusic. There are thousands of people out here who are incredibly talented just trying to gain success. You’ve got to meet the scales that are raised so high and really live and breathe country music.’
That’s what I tried to do. He let me stay at his cabin, which was just great because I got to work with the guitar coach out there – this guy Rob Jackson – who’s kind of the best of the best in guitar training.
I got to go to the studio every day and work with this producer Frank Liddell and engineer Luke Wooten. They work with a lot of incredible people. I was kind of taken in by these people who were trying to help me succeed the way I wanted to succeed and wanted to help me get there. Once they saw a possibility in it, we just sort of ran for that door.