Country music superstar Clint Black has been hooked on sonics for most of his life. "I started playing the harmonica when I was 13, riding my skateboard and my bike around, going up to the pool hall where the pinball machines were," said Black. Back then, he put his hat out on the sidewalk in front of the pool hall and played for tips.
Not much has changed since those relatively inauspicious beginnings. The crowds are bigger, and the pay is better, and he lives in Tennessee instead of Texas. On the other hand, Black, who will wrap Eagle Mountain's Pony Express Days civic celebration with a live show at SilverLake Amphitheater on Saturday, is still doing what he loves.
He started out playing professionally in a band with his brothers. The Black boys went their separate ways when Clint was 19, and he played solo in clubs until getting a manager and a record deal. "It took about two years to really get things going," Black said, "which seemed like an eternity in the bars. My lead guitar player and I were doing some shows as a duo and talking about it one day.
"I said, 'This killin' time is killin' me.' That was the title of my first album."
If he had six or eight arms instead of two, then Black could give an entire concert by himself. He sings, of course. And in addition to the harmonica, he plays the guitar, bass guitar and drums. "Anyone who has been to one of my shows in the last 10 years or so has seen me play the drums," he said. That's something that won't change in Eagle Mountain: "I like to play and we'll inflict it on the audience at some point."
Black writes all of his own songs, too -- music and lyrics -- making him something of a rarity in the country music world. Black compared writing songs to raising children. What parent would raise their own children, but decide to send a neighbor's child off to college? "I want to see what my songs are like when they grow up," Black said.
For Black, songwriting requires an intense passion. "It's tough to spend 14 hours a day in the studio on something if you're not really passionate about it," he said. He works ahead of his recording schedule and said that he always has "at least three albums of material ready to go."
The real trick, as Black sees it, is probably knowing when to quit. "There's a great Randy Newman song," he said, "about a dried-up old rocker: 'He's got nothing left to say, but he's going to say it anyway.'
"I just have to stop before then."
When he's on the road and has the occasional break in his touring schedule, Black enjoys a little light recreation. "I bring a bike with me, so I've done a little mountain biking," he said. "There are also opportunities for a terrible golfer to get out on some of the finest golf courses in the world." (Welcome to Utah, Clint. You're going to like it here just fine.)
Black said his musical roots are all over the place. He mentioned everything from Merle Haggard and Buck Owens -- naturally enough -- to Loggins and Messina, Deep Purple, The Beatles, Uriah Heep, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Leon Russell, James Cotton, Eric Clapton, Jim Croce, Dan Fogelberg, James Taylor, David Bowie, Sammy Hagar, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Steely Dan. He even knows jazz and '50s bebop.
At home in Nashville, Tenn., Black is a regular dad and family man, spending time with wife, Lisa Hartman Black, and the couple's 10-year-old daughter, Lily Pearl.
"We play games," he said. "I watch my daughter practice the piano, or sing and dance for us. There are lots of school functions, way more than we had when I was a kid."
For Eagle Mountain, Black is the star attraction of this year's Pony Express Days. City publicist Linda Peterson said that Black's show has sold more tickets already than any previous Pony Express Days concert. "Everyone has been very excited to hear that he is our Pony Express Days headliner," Peterson said. "He is the biggest name we have had so far for a concert and has been very good to work with."
Black stays active in charity work, in particular as an honorary chairman for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation -- Rett syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder -- which is linked from his website, clintblack.com. He's also acted in a couple of films, and wants to make a movie, based on his own screenplay, about legendary singing cowboy Roy Rogers.
The movie, if it gets made, will star himself and his wife. "It they take my script," Black said, "they have to take me, too."