With such a long career under his renowned country music icon Gayle CrystalThe little free time since 2020 is just one blow to his touring record. Last September, she gave her first three performances since the start of the pandemic and will be heading to the Brauntex Theater in New Braunfels for her fourth on Friday, October 1.
âWe are happy that things are starting and I hope we will continue to get back to normal,â Gayle told CultureMap. âIt’s good to see the friends I’ve made over the years. I’ve been in the business, oh, only a few years.
This is certainly an exaggeration, as Gayle began her career decades ago, following in her sister’s footsteps, a revolutionary country star. loretta lynn. The young singer started out as a solo without a band, playing hits that house bands already knew how to play.
“I have never been a backing vocalist,” adds Gayle. âI read where people wrote that I was in my sister’s band and did some backup for her, but I never did. It wasn’t that I didn’t want it; that just did not happen.
With 19 years between sisters and a totally different upbringing in two states, Gayle had all the basics she needed to distinguish herself separately. It was ultimately Lynn who encouraged Gayle to step away from comparisons, stop playing her sister’s music, and develop her own style.
âShe said, ‘You will only be compared to me,’ and that was the truth,â Gayle recalls, no doubt in countless accounts during her five decades in the music industry. “At first a lot of people said to me, ‘So-and-so tells me you’re Loretta Lynn’s sister, and I’m saying you’re not … because you don’t look like her!'”
Gayle’s style focused more on the blues, with full, mellow vocals and slow instrumentals. While she stayed true to country, it was softened by smooth strings, spacious electric bass, and piano arrangements. The style earned her 18 No. 1 hits, according to Billboard, the fourth-highest number of country singers in 2018. In 2009, her star appeared on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2016, she was officially invited by Carrie Underwood to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, where she sang for decades.
“My sister, Loretta, was actually the one who brought me into the family,” Gayle says of her induction into the Nashville institution. She laughs at her roundabout route to official membership, a final level of recognition that she is nonetheless still honored to receive. “As I always say, I thought I was always [in the family]. I’ve been on the Opry stage so many times.
Part of developing and maintaining a strong voice, Gayle says, involved questioning one’s own tastes. She credits much of this personal development to producer Allen Reynolds, who encouraged her to listen carefully and develop opinions about the music she needed to record. Carrying her personal brand’s attitude outside of music, she turned down recommendations for products she wasn’t already using on her famous long hair. Resisting a sold-out sale is a timeless concept, but since Gayle started the industry has changed.
âPeople are asking how to get into the business. Today is so different from when I started, âGayle told CultureMap. âIt’s almost like they’re releasing a record and then if you don’t do anything in that first half of the year, you quit the label. There are a lot of good deeds. I’m just telling everyone to sing along wherever you can.
After an illustrious career, this is also where Gayle settled. She’s making the trip again and tweaking each performance for different moods across the country (and every now and then for a fan or friend who requests it). Without hesitation, she names the moody, folksy song “Ready for the Times to Get Better” as a song she never tires of singing.
The lyrics of Gayle’s 25 studio albums began to slip away, a byproduct of “diploma,” in his words, to the blowers. But she has not finished enriching her repertoire. His most recent release, with Swedish rock musician Sulo, is nostalgic and upbeat, and opens up potential for further recordings together in the future. She travels with her husband, Bill, and every now and then her grown children come out to watch. (Sometimes her son, Christos, a studio engineer and producer, comes in to help with the live mixing, and her grandson, high school student Elijah, helps sell merchandise.)
âWhen you’re starting out, you’re looking to have those bestselling records. You worry about a lot of things, âsays Gayle. âFor this time in my career, yes, I could retire tomorrow if I wanted to. But I love to be there and keep playing, so, you know, until that moment happens, I’ll be there.
Crystal Gayle will be performing at the Brauntex Theater on Friday October 1. Tickets are available on brauntex.org. She will also be visiting a few other locations in Texas during the tour, including Waco on December 2, Corsicana on December 3, Greenville on December 4, The Woodlands on December 12, and Fort Worth on December 13.