George Ducas, a country music star from the '90s with a second career as a Nashville-based songwriter, quietly released some of his best work throughout 2019 as a series of four three-song EPs that've been combined into the 12-song album Yellow Rose Motel.
By unveiling new music in digestible chunks, just as Erin Enderlin divvied up songs from her Faulkner County album, Ducas added his two cents to the ongoing debate about whether albums make sense in a musical climate dominated by digital streaming. In the process, such forward-leaning yet neo-traditional selections as "Eastwood" and "I'm All In" sneaked onto the radar of fans of Miranda Lambert, Jon Pardi and other like-minded stars.
'I hadn't focused on a digital plan until now," Ducas says. "As you're well aware, everybody's attention spans are just shorter than they once were. Nobody really listens to an album like they once did: sort of top to bottom. That being said, it's a 12-song record, and you've worked on it for a couple of years of writing and recording. If you throw 12 out all at once and people blink, they'll miss it. They might catch one song, but then they're going to move on. It's a smarter plan to kind of stage it, and I like the idea with 12 songs to release three songs quarterly in four different volumes."
Nearly 25 years ago, Ducas played the major label game well enough to land on Capitol Records: the historic home of The Beatles, Buck Owens and Willie Nelson. His self-titled 1995 debut album included the top 10 hit "Lipstick Promises" as well as "Teardrops," "Hello Cruel World" and other quality deep cuts.
Being on Capitol at the same time as Garth Brooks, who in 2001 would cut Ducas co-write ""Beer Run (B-Double E-Double Are You In?)" with George Jones, gives Ducas an interesting perspective on "Garth mania."
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing to stand back and witness," Ducas says. "It consumed all the energy and oxygen in that building. Just having the weight of and responsibility of a Garth Brooks really was as big as the Beatles at the time. Naturally, without any ill will or anything, every other artist on the label took a backseat."
Capitol parted ways with Ducas after disappointing sales of 1997 album Where I Stand and its singles "Every Time She Passes By" and "Long Trail of Tears." Despite the occasional live gig, including a chance to headline a soccer stadium in Brazil, co-writes and songwriter demos would start dominating Ducas' career.
"I moved more exclusively into writing for other people when my deal with Capitol went south after the second record was released," Ducas says. "There was a lot of change and a lot of turnover at the label at the time, so all people who originally were my biggest supporters were fired or were no longer there. I turned to songwriting as a refuge. I still had a publishing deal and started getting a lot of songs recorded by other people. It seemed like a natural next step, although three or four or five years into it, I realized how much I really missed playing."
During his songwriter-first days, Ducas and frequent collaborator Radney Foster co-wrote "Never Say Die" off the Dixie Chicks' Wide Open Spaces and Sara Evans' number one hit "A Real Fine Place to Start," just to name two. Others to cut Ducas co-writes include Trisha Yearwood ("Gimme the Good Stuff"), Josh Thompson ("Won't Be Lonely Long"), the Eli Young Band ("Always the Love Songs") and the Randy Rogers Band ("Kiss Me in the Dark").
While finding success co-writing country songs on Music Row, Ducas came to miss living his childhood dream as a recording artist.
"The creativity dries up a bit when I'm not thinking about things in terms of my own project and my own performance out live on the road," he adds. "Without getting feedback from performing songs live out on the road, songwriting somehow became less. Writing these songs and putting them on a self didn't seem right or rewarding for me."
As a new year begins, expect boundless rewards for Ducas as he promotes songs from a creative well that's far from empty.