NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT

Clint Black is back! And a line from his latest single - I'm gonna spend my time like it's going out of style - reflects perfectly where his heart and mind are nowadays.

"Time is always going out of style," declares Clint, kicking back in the Nashville office of Equity Music Group, a new label he helped create. "It's here and then it's gone. The key is to spend the time you have wisely."

So how does the talented singer/songwriter - whose "Killin' Time" was one of his many No. 1 hits - balance his life, between career and time with his actress wife of 12 years, Lisa Hartman Black, and their daughter, Lily Pearl, now two-and- a-half?

"I prioritize," says Clint without hesitation. "Dad and husband first, music second. If something comes up musically that'll take me away from being a dad or husband, I really weigh that decision. The time with Lisa and Lily is so precious to me.

"I love making music and I love the fans," he adds. "But, before Lisa, music was all I did. Now if I'm working on a musical project at home and Lily's not napping, I look for her. And we'll sit at the piano and sing 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,' or I'm going to chase her or she's going to chase me. I can get back to that musical project later."

Clint is, however, genuinely proud of his latest music project - the new single, "Spend My Time," and the new album of the same name set for a March release. "It feels great to be back on the radio," he admits with a smile. "It's been too long." His last hit was "Easy for Me to Say," a duet with Lisa, in 2001. That was from his Greatest Hits II CD, and it's been four years since he's released a studio album.

The video for "Spend My Time" is very personal. There's footage shot on Clint's tour bus as it rolled between Tennessee and Texas. "There's me getting out of bed, downing cereal, eatin' hamburgers at truck stops."

Clint also put his family in the video - even though they weren't there for the filming. There's an image of Lisa and Lily on a laptop computer screen, and a photo of Lisa and Clint on a desk. And the video ends with footage of Clint and his precious Lily walking down a lane.

"I was the youngest of four boys," he explains. "As soon as Lisa told me we were having a girl, I instantly pictured the whole thing: the little dresses, walking with her, holding her hand as she takes me shopping. I saw a sweet little world that we didn't have growing up as scrappin' boys - yard apes and tree monkeys, really.

"Lily has brought such a sweetness into our house. There's no way without really getting sappy and really making folks sick that I can say what she means to me."

He pauses. "It's better than everything all put together."

And the latest pearls from Lily Pearl reveal exactly what Clint is talking about.

"While I was on a recent trip, Lisa called to tell me Lily was on the stairs crying. When Lisa asked her what was the matter, she said, 'I miss my daddy.'

"Then Lily asked Lisa to show her the 'When I Said I Do' video, of which Lily always says, 'Mommy's in her Cinderella dress,' because in it Lisa wears a wedding gown. So Lily pulls her booster chair in front of the television, stands on the chair and kisses my face on the TV screen."

Clint's smile is as big as Texas.

"Lisa telling me those two stories while I was out on the road made being out there easier - and it made me want to get home to them that much faster."

-- Larry Holden

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