George Strait Rides Into Town

George Strait announces his mini-residency at MGM Grand on September 22. | Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery

George Strait announces his mini-residency at MGM Grand on September 22. | Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery

“King of Country” George Strait will play four dates, April 22-23 and Sept. 9-10, at the Las Vegas Arena, located at New York-New York.

MGM Resorts and AEG announced the multi-date gig, Strait to Vegas, on Sept 22, as the kickoff to programming for the new venue.

“My first gig in Vegas was at the Frontier … back when two shows a night was common. And I filmed parts of [my 1992 movie] Pure Country at The Mirage,” Strait says. “It’s fun to play Vegas. The crowds are great, and they come from all over the place.”

Strait hasn’t officially performed a show since the closing date of his The Cowboy Rides Away tour at AT&T Center in Dallas, which set the North American indoor concert attendance record at 104,000. The Las Vegas Arena will hold about 20,000 concertgoers, and its executives are banking on Strait’s major star power to pack the house.

Strait has released 42 studio albums and sold 68.5 million records with 60 No. 1 singles. Country music fan or not, you should be able to identify his 1987 song “All My Exes Live in Texas,” as its catchy title has made its way into the vernacular. (We probably have an Urban Outfitters T-shirt emblazoned with this saying stashed somewhere in the back of our closet.) His new album, Cold Beer Conversation, will be released Sept. 25.

Genre devotees are no doubt kicking up their boot heels over this addition, which further solidifies Vegas’ status as a country music destination.

Vegas Seven sat down with Strait after his big announcement and he shared details on what it’s like making music with his son, how the live performance game has changed and what he considers a good audience.

Your son Bubba is a songwriter, and he worked with you on your new album, Cold Beer Conversation. What’s it like working with your kid?

Good. How many people get to do that with their son, you know? Write songs and then have them become hits on the radio. That’s so special for him as well as me. We butt heads sometimes, for sure, but that’s normal. He’s a lot more grammatically correct than me, so I’ll always go with him on things like that. But if somebody asked me who has the last say, well, it really doesn’t ever come down to that. If you are going to co-write with someone, you have to be open to their ideas and if you are still butting heads maybe it is time to change direction.

Because I have so many hit records, he is not going to argue with me. If I really tell him, ‘I know I’m right on this Bubba, you know you’re just gonna have to go with me,’ he’s gonna say, ‘OK I think you’re probably right.’ But at same time he’s been right so many times, too, where I’ve been totally off.

How do you quantify what’s a good audience and what’s a bad audience? 

You can tell when they are really into the show—the excitement level just goes way up, the noise level, you can just feel it. Not every show is that way. There are times when, whether it’s your fault or whether it’s late, that the crowd is frickin’ worn out and it might not go as well as I expected. Then there are times when that works out perfectly. But, yeah, you can definitely feel that. That’s what I feed off of. That makes two hours seem like 30 minutes.

Early in your career you faced tremendous rejection and you still pressed forward. What advice would you give to kids coming up? 

It’s not easy to get a major label to sign you. It’s a tough business, and there are so many talented people out there. You just have to believe in yourself, and if you want it bad enough you just got to stick with it. Yeah, a lot of times I thought, ‘Maybe I don’t sing as good as I thought I did.’ You just start having doubts. You just have to hang in there and meet all the people you can and try to be at the right spots at the right time. If it were easy, everybody would be in it and doing it.

How have concerts changed since you started out in the late ’70s? 

The sound has improved over the years, for sure, and the lighting as well. Having video screens and that sort of thing helps an audience, especially if you don’t have the greatest seat in the house, to be able to feel like they are closer than they are. We try so hard to make the sound good wherever you are in the building. That’s tough sometimes because so many buildings have bad acoustics, so that’s a battle. But it’s getting better with the technology that the engineers are using.

Band-wise, over the years I have added players. For years and years, I didn’t have backup singers and now I’ve got two. I have three guitar players, and I only used to have two.