BELOVED GRAMMY-WINNING COUNTRY ICON DWIGHT YOAKAM JOINS DAN RATHER IN AN ALL-NEW EPISODE OF THE BIG INTERVIEW, ON TUES., AUGUST 4, AT 8pE
Country icon Dwight Yoakam sits down with Dan Rather for an all-new episode of THE BIG INTERVIEW on Tuesday, August 4, at 8pE. During the enlightening hour-long conversation, the two-time Grammy®-winning singer, songwriter, filmmaker, and actor discusses his introduction to acting, working with Billy Bob Thornton on SLING BLADE, the experiences that inspire him, and what influences his Art.
Though he has primarily made a name for himself as a musician, Yoakam has acted in multiple big screen roles, as well—including the Oscar-winning 1996 drama SLING BLADE, starring Billy Bob Thornton. Yoakam opens up about how he first caught the acting bug, and why he ultimately decided to pursue music instead, saying, “The particular junior high I went to, they began a theater program there. I got involved and found that I was pretty good at it. I could hold people’s attention, and was able to perform. I liked it a lot. I did a play after I moved to California when I was in my early 20s, and realized even if I did the lead in a play there and received some accolade for it, it wouldn’t mean that I controlled my own destiny. Actors are at the mercy of opportunity… I realized that with that guitar and my voice, that I controlled my own destiny to a greater extent. So I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll have the opportunity later’, and it did present itself in small ways.”
On the impact acting has had on his life as a performer, Yoakam says, “Acting allows another form of expression. It’s a whole different artistic expression… Theater probably had more to do with what I do on stage live. My first real taste of success, that strangers who didn’t know me would respond to what I was doing as a singer, came in high school as an outgrowth of that theater department and those musical performances I did. Acting is something that I greatly respect and admire and I cherish the opportunity to do. But, again, like every other actor, I’m at the mercy of opportunity.”
Yoakam played the villain in both SLING BLADE and the Jodie Foster thriller PANIC ROOM—a role that presents an interesting contrast with his handsome, good guy stage presence. Yoakam details what he saw in Billy Bob Thornton’s Oscar-winning script that drew him into the darker role of the abusive stepfather, saying, “Billy Bob Thornton saw me in ROSWELL with Martin Sheen and Kyle MacLachlan, and prior to that I’d done RED ROCK WEST with Nic Cage and Dustin Hopper… I was just finding my way. But, he believed that I could act… and that I could pull this character off. I saw a short version of the film first, and I thought, ‘Whatever this guy’s doin’, I want to be a part of.’ It was so brilliant, and brilliantly written… He sent [the script] and I read it, and again it wasn’t about being the villain in that, it was about being so well-written and so true to life. It was a modern Tennessee Williams take on Southern America.”
Transitioning to his music career, Yoakam reflects on the storytelling aspect of the Country genre, and reveals that it’s not entirely necessary to have lived through everything you sing about. The real key is empathy: “You have to be able to truthfully express with empathy what you’re writing about… Fortunately, I escaped , but I was aware of it… You may not have experienced it literally first-hand, but you write about what you witness, also. You can be a witness for other people.”
Yoakam praises Country music legend Merle Haggard as the one artist who has had the greatest impact on his own work, saying, “The song that taught me more about songwriting than any other song I’d ever heard in my life, was Merle Haggard’s ‘Holding Things Together.’ One verse, and the verse is this, ‘Today was Angie’s birthday and it must have slipped your mind. I tried twice to call you, with no answer either time. But, the postman brought a package I’d mailed some days ago. I’d signed it, ‘Love, from Mama’, so Angie wouldn’t know.’ Only needs one verse. It’s like, gate closed on that! Any other verse than that one, and we all might as well put a gun in our mouth. When I heard that at 22 years old, that song profoundly impacted me as a songwriter and taught me lessons that years of study couldn’t.”
To see more of this insightful episode, be sure to tune into THE BIG INTERVIEW on Tuesday, August 4 at 8pE, only on AXS TV.
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