Darryl Worley: Maybe the Hard Times are Over

Darryl Worley’s seen more than his share of tragedy and hard knocks, but with inner peace and a loving family, he’s in a great place now.

Darryl Worley would be the first to say he’s lived an eventful life thus far, with plenty of major highs and lows along the way. From the loss of several friends in his high school and college years and his divorce from his first wife a few years back to his string of hit songs, second marriage and recent fatherhood, his emotions truly have run the gamut. But, by all accounts, he appears to be as happy as he’s ever been now, with a new record label, another hit song, his great new Sounds Like Life CD and a spiritual comfort level he hasn’t always known. He recently took time to chat with CW about those and other topics. Here’s some of what he had to say.

For more from Darryl, go to the June 22 issue of Country Weekly.

CW
How’s your head? [After being hit with the case lid during the windstorm when he was onstage not long ago in Montana.]
DW
It’s actually very numb. I don’t know if it cut some nerve endings or what. But when I touch where the stitches are, it feels like I’m touching up on top of my head. And then when I touch up on top of my head, I can’t feel nothin’! So I don’t know what’s goin’ on. It’s healin’ up I guess. It’s right on my forehead. Out there for the whole world to see.
CW
In that wind, how much longer could you have gone on even if nothing had happened? Would you have had to stop soon anyway?
DW
I think what we were hopin’ was that it would either subside or lesson a bit. It got insane there for just a matter of a minute or two. And I think after I hit the deck, it sort of started to back off a little bit, which was kinda weird. It was almost like, “Okay, we were tryin’ to blow him down, and we got that done.” [laughs] We were plannin’ on playing out our show. But we wouldn’t have been able to keep it up in that. If it hadn’t blown that thing across there, it would’ve been something else. I was afraid that we were gettin’ ready to lose the stage, lighting and everything. It came up in a matter of about 30 seconds from blowin’ maybe 10 or 15 miles an hour to probably 70 miles an hour. It was really intense. I knew somethin’ had to give. It wound up bein’ the skin on the front of my face.
CW
How many people were there when it happened?
DW
There were about 800 people there. It’s a small-town thing they do in Miles City every year. It’s a big tradition called the buckin’ horse sale that’s been goin’ on for 50 years. It was a stormy evenin’, so the crowd might have been down a little bit. But it was a pretty doggone good crowd and a pretty enthusiastic crowd.
Before we even got out of the venue, I realized our tour manager was in the vehicle with us and I asked him how we were gonna handle this. Because I didn’t want to not finish the show. We were only into the second song when it happened. He said, “I guess it’s gonna have a lot to do with how everything goes at the hospital.” And I told the guy drivin’, “If she’s gonna be one of these hard asses and tell me that I’ve gotta stay in the hospital for so many hours . . . I don’t even want to go over there. Let’s just go back and get the show done and we’ll go from there.” I just sort of had regained my senses. Man it knocked me for a loop! [laughs]
And he said, “No, I think she’ll patch you up as fast as she can and get you right back to work.” So we went over and talked to her and she said, “You got a pretty nice little wound here.” But she thought she was gonna be able to glue it, and it wouldn’t be a big deal. But I knew she hadn’t seen the severity of it because I had held a towel with really heavy pressure on it going over to the hospital. She started cleanin’ it up and it fell open and she said, “Oh, me . . . we’re gonna have to use stitches.” [laughs] So she stitched it up and got us out of there in less than a half hour. We were back on stage. I didn’t even take time to change clothes, and I was covered in blood. We just went back out. The rain had started back and then we played in the rain for almost 50 minutes. It started to storm again pretty bad and we went ahead and called it a night.
CW
How many die hard fans were still there?
DW
I couldn’t tell that anybody had left. We called from the vehicle about half-way to the hospital and told the promoter that, barring any craziness, we were gonna do this as fast as possible and be back to finish the show. And not a soul left that I know of. They were so appreciative that we would come back and do that. It was very cool.
CW
Didn’t you have some problems even getting to the show?
DW
Actually, it was pretty crazy because we were supposed to fly commercially. We went to the airport at 4 a.m. and our plane had been struck by lightning and they cancelled all the flights. So we had to get a private jet to take us out there. It was a heck of a day because we were up all night the night before playin’ in Chattanooga and tryin’ to get back to Nashville in time to catch that flight. So we wound up havin’ about three days when we didn’t sleep. But we got it done. [he chuckles].
CW
Is this a work ethic thing? Or they paid their good money, we want to give them a good show . . . or with all the traveling you do . . . I know the show is the highlight of your day, too . . . so that’s what you look forward to?
DW
Well, to be honest with you, I think it’s a little bit of all of that. We had a tough time gettin’ out there and the promoters were already scared to death that we weren’t gonna make the gigs. We had two in Montana. So it meant a lot to me to be able to deliver. But I grew up with a dad, and his whole focus in life was work. Back then I kind of resented that, but nowadays it means a lot to me. I know why he taught us that way now.
I don’t know how many times I was injured at the paper mill and there wasn’t any of this stuff, “I’m gonna get patched up and go home for the rest of the day.” That would’ve been considered a lost-time injury and would’ve been somethin’ horrible on their safety record. So it was understood, “You’re gonna go get bandaged up or sewed up, and you’re goin’ back to work.” I didn’t look at this any different. I had to finish the job. Somebody said, about halfway through her sewin’ up my head, I looked up at her and said, “The show must go on!” [laughs] I don’t even remember that!
CW
I love the new record . . . “Honkytonk Life.” Great images in that song. Is that something that you strive for when you write one or look for outside songs?
DW
Absolutely. When I heard this song, I didn’t write it, but when I heard this song . . . I said, “We got to record this.” You spend as many years doin’ this as a lot of us have, and you’re gonna have some years where you’re gonna spend quite a bit of time in the dancehalls and honkytonks. Honestly, I did that for 10 or 12 years before I ever came to Nashville. You go through every bit of that stuff [in the song]. And even as a national artist, I can’t tell you the times in the past two months that I’ve pulled into the venue and there up on the marquee is my name spelled wrong. I’ve gotten D A R Y L or D A R R E L L or Darryl W H O R L E Y. It’s just funny. After a while you just laugh about it.
But all those things, when we get to that verse . . . the crowd here is rowdier, the girls here are prettier than anyplace we’ve ever played. It don’t matter where you are, that crowd’s gonna go crazy. We open the show with that song every night now.
CW
“Sounds Like Life To Me.” How’d you get [Tennessee Titans quarterback] Kerry Collins involved?
DW
He was actually co-writing with one of my producers, Jim Brown . . . mostly known as Moose. And Jim called me and said, “Hey, I invited Kerry to come out and hang with us at the video shoot.” I said, “Hell, get him to be in the video. We’ll make him the bartender.” And he goes, “Are you serious?” And I said, “Yeah, ask him if he’ll do it.” And he said, “He’d love to do it!” It’s so weird to see him in there, but at the same time he almost looks like he oughta be there.
CW
You played football in high school . . . right? Any kind of reciprocal deal worked out with Kerry . . . will you get to put a Titans uniform on at some point?
DW
Yeah, I played. I have absolutely no desire! I’ll take my chances on stage . . . and sometimes that’s not all that great! I’ve learned that. If I want to line up across from some big strong guy again, I’ll just go find Trace.
CW
How’s Savannah doin’ . . . a year old now?
DW
She’s almost 15 months old [24 of June]. She’s very advanced, a very smart baby girl. Just beautiful, red hair, blue eyes. Big old mouth full of teeth. She loves to bite! [he laughs]
CW
What can she do that just puts you on the floor laughin’?
DW
I’ve got her dancin’ . . . just the cutest little buck dance thing she does. And for some reason, sometimes when she’s doin’ it she just lifts one leg—it’s always the right leg—and she’ll lift it way up high in the air, and then stomp it back down. That cracks everybody up!
I think more than anything else, the fact that she talks more than most babies her age. She says everything. You’ve gotta be careful because she doesn’t have a filter. She will just blurt it out. She mimics everything you do. And she’s got about 400 [facial] expressions at this point. She’ll raise her eyebrows up and it’s like, “What’re you gonna do?” It’s just hilarious. She seems to me like she might be an entertainer. I don’t know what kind. But she just has the coolest personality. Outgoing, loves people. She was at Waffle House with us this mornin’ and she greeted everybody who came in the door. [he laughs]
CW
What about the other end of the spectrum? What brings a tear to your eye?
DW
When she gets sleepy, she’s very loving. Until that, she’s very independent. But she gets this real warm fuzzy lovin’ mood and she gets real generous with her little sugar and kisses, and it’ll just about make your heart melt.
CW
Has Father’s Day taken on a whole new significance?
DW
It has. I look back and wish that I had probably made a little bit more out of it when I was growin’ up. But that was a whole different generation. My dad’s best Father’s Day gift ever would’ve been if we’d cleaned out the gutters or something. It’s just true. That’s one more thing that he wouldn’t have to do. And that’s usually what we’d do. We’d do some kind of chore around there that would lighten his load. He’d be like, “Boy, that’s gonna help out.” I guess it’s just a generation thing because nowadays our lives are so different. Most people hire that stuff done.
He’s a good dad and we’re closer than we’ve ever been before. I’ve gotta figure out somethin’ nice to do for him this year.
CW
How’s your mom? [she had a leg amputated in the past year due a circulatory condition]
DW
She’s doin’ good. We just had Mother’s Day and we always get her something she can plant out in the yard, ’cause that’s her thing. She gets around real good on her prosthetic. It’s really an inspiration to anybody that’s ever been through any kind of adversity. She’s just not one of these people that lets stuff get her down. And it’s really amazing. It’s a true testament to who she is, and we adore her. We kind of wish we could be more like her. She’s strong.
CW
“Slow Dancin’ With a Memory” was maybe my favorite song on your 903 record, and I’m so glad it’s on this one.
DW
I heard that a lot during that album. I heard that from a lot of radio people and that’s exactly why I told [producers] Jim and “Swine” [Kevin Grantt], “We need to record this song again.” Plus, I just never felt like we nailed it as far as the tempo and the groove were concerned, and this time we did. It’s a little slower, it’s not quite as frantic. It sort of sings itself now. It’s where it ought to be. I’m glad to hear that because I’m not sure that that song couldn’t be a big old single.
It’s just such a great story. And, once again, it’s a true story.
CW
You rarely think of something being really, really romantic and really sad at the same time, but it is.
DW
Exactly, yeah, you’re right.
CW
I love “Doin’ What’s Right” . . . is that one you wrote?
DW
Yeah, I wrote it with a buddy of mine. I’ve had that sayin’ tucked away in my brain since I was a kid. That was one of my dad’s things when we were growin’ up. And it has really carried over into my adult life, more so than even my younger years. If we were at one of those crossroads where you were strugglin’ with yourself to know what it was you really needed to do, Dad would always say, “Well, you can’t go wrong when you do what’s right.” And that was his mentality. And, you know what? That’s really the best way. If it comes down to right and wrong, just choose right and you’ve made the right decision, no matter how it turns out.
CW
I’ve given money to people on the street who said they were hungry, and they may have gone and bought liquor with it, but I guess if your heart’s in the right place when you do it, it’s not gonna do you any harm.
DW
Not only that, if I’ve found myself in a situation where it was questionable and I had the time, I’ve loaded ’em up in my vehicle and taken ’em to McDonald’s. I saw a bunch of music industry people out on the town one evening and I had this homeless dude at South Street or somewhere feedin’ him supper.
CW
Think there’s too much gray in the world today? Not enough black and white? Things seem blurrier than they used to be.
DW
I think it’s all around us. I think the whole world is in a check mode. It’s like we’re gettin’ checked by the powers that be. We’re gonna have to make some changes. Bottom line is, we’re gonna have to get back to the old way of thinkin’ on some things . . . back to the basics. Because things have gotten so far out of control with spending and loans and credit. And, not only that, but just the moral fiber of our nation . . . talk about gray. There’s no black and white. People don’t want to think about things in black and white anymore because there’s too much room for all that variation.
But there’s always hope in this world. Like I said earlier, I think we’ll come through this and be stronger than ever. But we’re only gonna do that if we get back to some of the things that really, really matter. And if we don’t, I see it probably gettin’ worse until it implodes.
CW
I love “Don’t Show Up If You Can’t Get Down” . . . the intro with Wyn [Varble] and Mel [Tillis] is worth the price of admission. How did all of those people come to be on there?
DW
We didn’t go out and beg a bunch of people in there to do stuff. Almost all of that was spur of the moment stuff. When we went over to record some of the vocals, we ran into other people that were already hangin’ out at [the studio] and we said, “Hey, you want to do this thing with us?” “Yeah, why not.” It wasn’t a bunch of hand-picked artists or anything. It just kinda came together on its own.
But I think it was a cool mix of folks and personalities.
CW
When I heard Ira [Dean] say, “We’ve got a Bill Anderson down in aisle two,” I almost fell off my chair. So funny.
DW
Yeah, that was Ira.
CW
One of my favorites on the new CD is “You Never Know” . . . how powerful, and what a great message, too. Did you write it?
DW
No, some buddies of mine wrote that song. One of them is Billy Ryan. It was sort of written about the death of Ralph Ezell, the bass player for Shenandoah. [died of a heart attack in 2007]. They were all real good friends.
A few weeks back we took the whole crew and the bus and went to Boaz, Alabama, and played a benefit show for Billy’s niece and nephew. He was a writer on that song, and not long after he wrote that song, he witnessed his sister being killed by her boyfriend. He shot her and killed her and her baby girl inside of her when he killed her. It was horrendous, just insane.
I was down there doin’ that show for him, and he came out and he told me, “Never in all of my life, would I have thought when I wrote this song that not long after that, I’d be livin’ this.” I said, “Brother, when I heard that song, I thought to myself, no truer words.”
How many times have you said, “You never know?” When I saw the title, I went, “Damnit! How’d I let that slip by? I should’ve written that 25 years ago!” And I know a lot of other people are gonna think the same thing when they hear it the first time on the radio. I’m sure that song will be a single. I don’t know how it couldn’t be.
When I heard the song, I found out later that really the second verse of the song is where they went into songwriter mode, you know, and just came up with the rest of the story. Which happened to be exactly what myself and my younger brother had been goin’ through. It was just so right on the money. I about choked up when I heard the first verse. But when I heard the second verse . . . I promise you, for the two weeks prior to that, I had been thinkin’ . . . “I’ve got to call him, because if somethin’ happened to me, it would kill me that we didn’t set this whole thing straight. He had been goin’ through a really difficult time . . . And I thought, “how in the hell could somebody write something that would be that dead on?” Well, it was just like “I Miss My Friend.” I think that’s gonna be another big hit for us.
CW
“Best of Both Worlds” and “Everyday Love” talk about Kimberly.
DW
It’s all about her. I always swore I wouldn’t be one of those songwriters. But, I think if it’s real and it’s not contrived . . . I think those songs, especially for me, “Best of Both Worlds” might be my favorite of those two. And I think that song could be a single. If you don’t get it right, it always sounds contrived and a little too sappy. But if you get it right, and it’s got a real cool groove like that, it’s like, “Okay, people are gonna dig this.”
My wife has changed the whole way that I think about love in general. And, now, havin’ a baby, especially a baby girl, they’re bringin’ me around. I’ve been a crusty, stubborn, mean, don’t-believe-in-that-kind-of-love sort of guy. I’m learnin’ to give in a way that I’ve never given before in my life, and those songs mean a lot to me. Because I couldn’t have written those songs before now.
CW
I think guys in particular are definitely gonna relate to lines like, an angel with a wild side. What guy doesn’t want that?
DW
That’s what we all want! That’s what we all want and hardly ever find. And mine is. She’s such a precious . . . everybody who meets her and spends any time with her at all just loves her. And they think, “Well, she’s just an angel.” But, when we have our time together, she’s got the other side. Everybody wants that.
CW
Go back about three years . . . could you have foreseen you bein’ where you are in your life now, both personally and professionally?
DW
[he laughs] No. But I think that’s the beauty of the life we live. If you really believe, your whole profile could change in a moment. And that’s kinda what happened. You know this, we’ve talked enough that you know this . . . I have struggled so with relationships and just difficult times. I told my dad the other day, “I probably ought to have my head caved in for even thinkin’ this, but there’s moments when I think maybe the hard times are over.” God, there’s a title. Who knows? Maybe the hard times are over.
Don’t get me wrong. We don’t have a fairy tale. We struggle with things. We’re both learning how to juggle wanting to still be wide open and runnin’ our own thing around here and doin’ whatever we want to do. But when you have a baby, you have to learn how to give in a whole different way. So it’s not all about us anymore. But that, in itself, is the most beautiful thing that has happened because you don’t’ really learn how precious love and life are until it’s about someone besides yourself. That’s when you start to get the real rewards from it. So we’re just tryin’ to do the right things as we go along. Some times we make mistakes and some days we have cool small victories. And you never know!

For more from Darryl, go to the June 22 issue of Country Weekly.

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