By Annie Reuter October 3, 2016 12:00 PM
George Strait may have retired from touring, but the country icon is far from hanging up his hat. At a recent gathering to promote tequila brand Codigo 1530, the King spoke with a reporter about his influence on the country genre and the ever-changing sound of country music.
“I don’t see a lot of my influence out there in country music today, out there being played on the radio,” he tells the Dallas Observer. “The country music scene is always changing, and the music is always changing. I’ve seen the pendulum swing this way and back this way. It’s very country, and then not so country. I think right now it’s kind of trending back to more traditional country music, which is what I like and I like to do. So I’m glad to see that.”
Strait says he knows how tough the industry can be, and while he might not listen to today’s country radio, he won’t put anybody down for having success in the business. As far as the transition from traditional country to pop country, he says it’s a natural evolution for the genre.
“When I got signed at MCA Records in 1981, you had all kinds of things going on, shows like Pop Goes the Country,” he recalls. “The thing was to get a crossover hit, and that would sell more records. They wanted a pop sounding country song to get the pop music lovers and country music people to buy it. And I never was into any of that. But I came around at the right time. Traditional country music kind of came back and there were a lot of artists who started doing it, like me, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis.”
Strait does give props to his Las Vegas opening act Kacey Musgraves, saying “she’s got it wired.”
“She doesn’t need any advice from me,” the icon adds. “She’s a very good songwriter, very good performer, singer.”
The superstar’s Las Vegas run continues with two shows in December and five weekends in 2017. Strait will release a new box set — a follow-up to Strait Out of the Box from 1995 — on Nov. 18.
Read More: George Strait on the Changing Country Music Scene |
George Strait unveils Codigo 1530 tequila in DFW
I am not a tequila fan, but when you get an invite to a private VIP tequila tasting party that will be attended by the likes of country music icon George Strait and former Dallas Stars great Brenden Morrow, it was easy to overlook that small detail.
The setting was a lavish $10 million mansion in Dallas' prestigious Bluffview neighborhood that was complete with a swimming pool, tennis court, valet parking and, of course, plenty of Codigo 1530 tequila.
Codigo 1530 is a premium tequila that has been enjoyed by a selective group in Mexico for years, but is was officially unveiled in DFW at this exclusive gathering.
The party was hosted by Morrow and featured a private tasting and food pairing of all four expressions that were introduced by the brand’s co-founders, Federico Vaughan and Ron Snyder.
"I started going down to Cabo, eventually bought a place down there and I met these guys (Vaughan and Snyder) while playing golf together," said Strait, a brand partner and investor in the venture. "They would bring this great tequila out to the golf course in unmarked bottles and I would ask where I could buy it and they would always answer that they just made it for family and friends. At first I was thankful that I was friend and it took us a few years, but we finally talked them into getting it out so everyone else can enjoy it."
For getting non-tequila fans to give Codigo 1530 a try, King George has the answer.
"All you have to do is get someone to try it. I started drinking tequila like most people, with a shot," Strait said. "You hold your nose, have the lime and lick the salt, but this tequila is actually better if you sip it instead of shooting it.
"So I got my friends who weren't big tequila drinkers either and some that even have a tequila phobia to try it," Strait continued. "Across the board, they started asking me how they could get it. I really believe that if someone has an open mind, they'll enjoy it."
Morrow, the official host of the celebration, also came in contact and instantly fell in love with the tequila while playing golf in Cabo San Lucas.
"My close friend Brett Hull and I go multiple times a year on golf trips to Cabo and I met Fede and Ron through our mutual love of golf and being friends with George Strait," Morrow said. "I'm like a lot of people who grew up and have a bad experience with tequila and was off of it, but when George Strait suggests you try something, you give in to peer pressure and I really enjoyed it."
Prior to the tasting event, the group met up for a round of golf at one of the very best courses in Texas. Morrow treated Strait, Vaughan, Snyder and fellow Codigo 1530 investor and former St. Louis Blues defenseman Barret Jackman to a round of golf at the utlra-exclusive Preston Trail Golf Club in North Dallas.
"Preston Trail was great," Strait said. "I shot 84, but I had never played there before, so I'm not too disappointed in that score."
Who came out the big winner on the golf course?
"The hockey players definitely threw the party," Morrow said, laughing. "I know who won in the score department, but not in the pocket book department."
Strait fans can still see him performing, but they will have to visit Las Vegas' brand new T-Mobile Arena.
"I wanted to slow things down and I have," Strait said. "I'm kind of exclusive to the new T-Mobile Arena that MGM built in Las Vegas. I've got two more shows in December and five weekends next year."
Like Morrow before me, I gave in to peer pressure, sampled the tequila and it was great. My personal favorite was the Origen, also known as the Extra Añejo, as it actually tasted more like a caramel bourbon than a traditional tequila.
Codigo 1530, which is named for the year the town of Amatitan (the town where tequila was invented) received its official charter from Spain, is priced similar to Patron.
Blanco ($49), Reposado ($69), Añejo ($119) and Origen ($249) -- suggested retail prices for each individual bottle -- are available at Goody Goody Liquor, Spec's Wines, Spirits and Finer Foods, Sigel's Fine Wines & Great Spirits and Fossil Creek Liquor.
DFW bars and restaurants that currently offer Codigo 1530 are Hotel ZaZa, Javier's, Lounge 31 in Highland Park Village, Mexican Sugar in The Shops at Legacy and the Gaylord Texan Resort on Lake Grapevine.
For updates on Codigo 1530, like them on their official Facebook page.
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George Strait has never been a man of many words. So when he speaks, you lean in and listen.
Talking with Joe Pappalardo of The Dallas Observer recently about a new tequila brand he’s touting, George Strait had some interesting comments about where country music appears to be headed, confirming what many others believe—that it’s trending more towards the traditional.
“I don’t see a lot of my influence out there in country music today, out there being played on the radio,” Strait said, chuckling. “The country music scene is always changing, and the music is always changing. I’ve seen the pendulum swing this way and back this way. It’s very country, and then not so country. I think right now it’s kind of trending back to more traditional country music, which is what I like and I like to do. So I’m glad to see that. But I can’t put anybody down for having success in the business, which is just tough … I’m not saying I have to like it, but I just know how tough it is.”
With the mainstream success of folks like Chris Stapleton and William Michael Morgan (who may have a #1 song here shortly, and is sometimes compared to Strait in his sound), as well as the continued rise of more independent country names such as Sturgill Simpson and Cody Jinks, it’s hard to argue with Strait’s assessment. The pendulum couldn’t have swung in any more opposite direction in recent years with Bro-Country and superstars like Sam Hunt.
Strait goes on to explain how he was a part of another pendulum swing.
“I think it’s just a natural thing,” Strait says. “I don’t know why it is. When I got signed at MCA records in 1981, you had all kinds of things going on, shows like ‘Pop Goes the Country.’ The thing was to get a crossover hit, and that would sell more records. They wanted a pop sounding country song to get the pop music lovers and country music people to buy it. And I never was into any of that. But I came around at the right time. Traditional country music kind of came back and there were a lot of artists who started doing it, like me, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis.”
Some other interesting nuggets from the interview include that Strait listens to SiriusXM’s Outlaw Country or Willie’s Roadhouse instead of country radio, and likes Kacey Musgraves, whose been opening his shows in Las Vegas for him.
He also dropped the interesting nugget that he’s been recording with another country music traditionalist who it seems to have dropped off the face of the earth when it comes to new material.
“I just recorded a song last week with Jamey Johnson,” Strait says. Whether it’s for a Strait record or a Jamey Johnson record remains to be seen, but it’s promising to hear Jamey’s in the studio at all.
Undoubtedly country music works in cycles, and the recent years we have seen that cycle trend more towards pop and music of less substance than ever before. But the music is changing once again, and the influence of artists like George Strait could be coming back to the forefront, or at least get a proper seat at the mainstream dinner table. At least George Strait seems to think so.