When William Clark Green was too young to attend concerts, he says, he soaked up live albums to get a feel for the experience. Among his favorites were discs by Jerry Jeff Walker, Pat Green and Jack Ingram, and they all had something in common: They were recorded at Gruene Hall.
Green, who spent part of his childhood in College Station and now calls Eastland home, just released his own live album, and he headed to the legendary venue to record it.
"There are a lot of other places that we've played in the past that I'd love to do live records at," he says. "But for me, especially with my last name being Green, and how important it was for us to start playing there a while ago … it just felt right. It felt like that's where it needed to be."
The live album was a logical next step for the singer-songwriter, who performs with Turnpike Troubadours and Shane Smith and the Saints at Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater on Saturday. His fourth and most recent album, Ringling Road, came out last year. Green says it was a matter of timing.
"I didn't want to go and do a 10-track live record," he says. "I wanted to do an actual show, front to back. To do that, I really wanted more albums under my belt. I felt like after Ringling Road came out, with our previous four albums, we could have enough material to do it. And the band was kicking ass, too. The timing felt right."
To prepare for the two-night stand at Gruene, Green and his band gathered in Eastland to run through the set multiple times a day for the better part of a week. Green says the band "had it down" but was focused on "honing in everything" in hopes of providing the best possible show.
"When I go watch a show, I don't like to go in a packed bar," he says. "I like to go and listen to the band. And a live album gives you an opportunity to do that. It makes you feel like you're there. You'll never get the experience of actually being there. You can only kinda come close. But nothing beats seeing a show live."
Among the highlights on the two-disc set are the crowd belting out parts of Ringling Road and Rose Queen, and a new addition to Green's breakthrough song, She Likes the Beatles. He throws in a brief interlude of With a Little Help From My Friends, then moves into Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones, who serve as the contrasting reference in Green's song. He says the band had been performing it that way for several months and didn't want to go overboard on adding "too many tricks."
"I don't know if it was the right decision or not," he says with a laugh. "That's what separated the live record from a studio record, because you get to hear stuff like that. You get to hear extended solos, banter in between songs, kind of get an idea of where the song came from."
One significant twist comes at the end of the second disc. Rather than close it out with one of Green's crowd favorites, he brought out one of his favorite artists, Jack Ingram, to sing Goodnight Moon.
"It's definitely an unusual way to end a record," Green says. "Jack ends every show with that. For him, being such an influence to me in my younger years, to close out our live record with Goodnight Moon -- that was for me. I literally sat on stage, drank a beer and watched him sing that song. That was the perfect way in my head to end the show. ... I thought it was awesome."