NASHVILLE Daryle Singletary knew he was on the right track when he began to hear feedback that his cover of Savage Garden's pop hit "I Knew I Loved You" was "too country" for country radio these days.
The traditional singer and refugee from Nashville's major-label, mainstream-radio brand of country music recorded the Savage Garden hit at his wife's recommendation. He included it on his re-entry album, Now and Again, released July 11 on Audium, the so-called second-chance label.
"She heard [the song] on the American Music Awards," he said, "and called me in Denver and said, 'I've found something that will make a great country record.' We had been looking for something that we could take and make our own. This song lent itself to that. I didn't want to make a pop record. It's just a great song. I wanted to grab it before anybody else did."
The 29-year-old singer found himself a victim of changing country times in late 1997 when he and Giant Records parted ways during a career slowdown. After having #2 hits in 1995 and 1996, he couldn't reach the top 10 with his singles; his departure from Giant was described as are all such Nashville divorces as amicable. Then Audium Entertainment was launched in early 2000 as a sort of second-chance label for country artists who had left major labels.
"Daryle is a great country singer," Audium President Nick Hunter said. "We were really glad to get him."
"Nick is responsible for my being here," Singletary said. "Nick left Giant in the middle of [the single release] 'Too Much Fun.' He had gotten me a #2 hit with 'I Let Her Lie' and then unfortunately was relieved of his duties. We stayed in touch. Nick has always wanted his own record label. Then I was released from Giant. I can't tell a lie I went to every major record label in Nashville and was turned down. Friends started callin' me 'bedsheet' because I had been turned down so many times.
"Nick wanted me to go to every label first, because he emphasized that Audium is an independent label with major distribution. He told me, 'Go to all those labels and if you get a deal, great! If not, call me.' "
Singletary said he had already recorded the Savage Garden song in his drummer's attic studio and took it to Hunter to hear it. "He listened to it and loved it," Singletary said.
Once he signed with Audium, he said, the label left him alone to make the record he wanted to make, and he was able to include "I Knew I Loved You" (RealAudio excerpt of Singletary version) as well as his own traditional country sounds. "Nick Hunter just flat laid it out to me that it was my career and if I wanted to make it or break it, it was my deal," Singletary said. "We wanted to prove something not only to ourselves but to Audium as well that we could make a record and make it sound good and pick good songs."
Singletary consciously included some previous hits on the album, he said, partly to remind people of who he is and partly to remind himself. Especially compelling is the most acclaimed song of his young career, "The Note," his last single release on Giant Records, which stalled after getting only to #28 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.
" 'The Note' was a great impact record for us," he said, "even though it didn't get played that much. When we do it live, with that great big steel [guitar] intro, people really react. That's real country music it's like, 'Let 'er go, boys!' "
Of one offbeat newer song on the album, Singletary said he recorded it almost as an afterthought. "I was writing with a friend one day, Billy Lawson, and he said, 'Man, let me play you something.' It was 'Dumaflache' (RealAudio excerpt). I found out it had been on Tim McGraw's 1997 Everywhere album, as a bonus cut, and he called it 'You Turn Me On.' I still have not heard Tim's version. It's just a great old redneck anthem. The first line is 'I swore off love, and I swore off women, devoted my life to huntin' and fishin'.' You don't get much more country than that."
Singletary said he's proud of his country version of "I Knew I Loved You," especially when he's heard criticism that it's too country for mainstream country radio. "I'm a traditional singer, you know, and I think that's a flattering thing. Because here's someone in country radio who doesn't know that this was a major, major pop hit. And I've made it my own song, and made it a very traditional-sounding country song. I have succeeded."