Pat Green recalls the day in 1997 that his stepfather, Jack, gave him the final nudge into the music business—by firing him. “I was singing on weekends and working in his office during the week,” Green says of his day job at his stepdad’s fuel wholesaling business. “After my first really big week on the road, I was counting the money in the office. He walked in and said, ‘Is that my money?’ I said, ‘No sir, it’s my money.’ I was subsequently released. He decided I hadn’t made him that much money in the entire year I’d worked for him. It was obvious to him I needed to go chase this.”
He not only chased it, he caught it, and today the fair-haired 34-year-old is arguably the highest-profile Texas singer-songwriter not named Willie. With a new album, Cannonball, a hit song, “Feels Just Like It Should,” and a nationwide supporting tour, the charismatic Green has chased that dream all the way into country music’s mainstream, but vows that his Lone Star roots and his family will keep him firmly grounded.
Born in San Antonio and raised in Waco, Green caught the performance bug while watching his father, Craven, act in local theater productions. The musicals, in particular, made an impression, as did his dad’s comedic timing.
“He really held the audience’s attention,” Green remembers. “He’s a naturally funny person and his delivery was so smooth.”
He credits his mother Patty Burgess, 59, for his sense of optimism. “She married a guy with five teenage daughters,” says Green, who grew up as the eighth of 10 children in a blended family. “So she stepped into the lion’s den. The estrogen levels in that house were off the chart, but she never lost her cool.”
At 18, Green turned his focus to music while attending Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Inspired by the singer-songwriter tradition of Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen and Willie Nelson, he began writing songs and performing at dance halls and honky-tonks across the state, eventually selling a self-released album, Dancehall Dreamer, financed with the help of family and friends.
Green graduated to larger venues following an explosive 1998 appearance at Nelson’s annual Fourth of July picnic. Over the next three years, his shows began packing ever-bigger venues. Dancehall Dreamer and other independent releases helped him sell more than 200,000 albums, and major record labels took notice by 2001. He signed with Republic/Universal Records that year, scored a top five country hit with “Wave On Wave” in 2004, and sold out the Houston Astrodome twice. This year, the three-time Grammy nominee signed with the Nashville, Tenn., record company that’s home to Kenny Chesney, Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson.
Even as his popularity soars, Green keeps his ego in check. His parents, stepparents and siblings make sure of it. “I don’t put a whole lot of stock in money,” Green says. “I don’t think it’s real. Fame, stardom—that’s all perceived. And I don’t have a family that buys into it.
“I have to have an island where I can find myself and realize, until the time I leave again in that big metal bus, I’m home in Texas. If the pool’s low on water, I have to put the garden hose in it. And if someone let the trash fall over in the front yard, I have to go pick it up. It’s much better to be that way than to have people hand-and-footing you.”
A self-described Texas transient, Green has lived in Austin, Lubbock and Dallas, among other locales. Today, he and his wife, Kori, 30, who hails from Lockney, Texas (pop. 2,056), reside in Fort Worth. “It just moves at my speed,” he says. “Dallas moves about 35 miles an hour faster than me, and Houston, well,
I’m a big guy. I can’t take the humidity. But home is wherever Kori is.”
The couple, who wed in 2000, have two children—4-month-old daughter Rainey and almost 3-year-old son Kellis. Green’s dad sees his son made over in Kellis.
“We were at a wedding recently and Kellis worked the room pretty well,” says Craven, 62. “He charmed all the girls, danced and generally attracted a lot of attention. Pat was always able to do that. His mother and I once took him on a Caribbean cruise when he was 5 or 6, and I think he shook hands with everybody in Haiti.”
Green says fatherhood has changed his life. “It made me realize that life isn’t about partying all the time,” he says. “Those little newborn buggers don’t care if you stayed up drinking last night. They’re going to get up at 3 for a feeding and mama’s going to need your help. And if I’m on the road, I’m going to hear about every time mama got up.
“I used to be concerned about having enough beer money for the weekend and getting a good nap in on Sunday afternoon. Now, I can’t go out drinking tonight because tomorrow morning I want to hang out with my kids and I don’t want to waste that time saying, ‘Daddy’s tired.’”
Green’s new focus comes through on Cannonball, in which the singer reveals the full breadth of his maturing-but-always-entertaining personality. “I feel like I made a record that’s challenging enough to be listened to however deeply you want.”
Despite critics who say he’s “sold out” by taking his music to the masses, Green says he’s being true to himself.
“I’m not going to sit up on that stage an hour and a half a night, 300 nights a year and tell a bunch of lies,” he says. “I don’t know how to do that.
“I’m just writing the truth, telling you exactly how I feel at precisely this moment. Right now, I’m crazy in love, happy to be a dad and I’m excited about the turns that come along with that.