Restless Heart's Larry Stewart on the band's relationship with Texas and his decision to perform for Trump inauguration
Last Updated by
"The Bluest Eyes in Texas," Restless Heart
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
"Thank goodness for Texas."
Restless Heart frontman Larry Stewart wasn't always singing that tune. In fact, early on in the 1980s-era country-pop band's career, Texas was anathema.
"Texas was a hard get for us early in our career," Stewart said in an April 3 phone interview. "We had had a couple of No. 1 songs and couldn't get arrested in Texas."
Stewart attributed that to a reluctance on the part of traditional country fans around Texas to get behind the band's pop leanings.
"Then, we put out a little song called 'The Bluest Eyes in Texas,' and from then on, Texas has been our best friend," Stewart said. "Now, we do more shows in Texas than in any other state by far."
That includes an 8 p.m. Saturday concert with fellow country star John Michael Montgomery in the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Auditorium, 401 S. Buchanan St. Tickets are $44.50 to $64.50, plus fees. Call 806-378-3096.
"Bluest Eyes in Texas" was released in 1988 as the lead-off single for the band's third album, Big Dreams in a Small Town. It was written by Tim DuBois, Dave Robbins and Van Stephenson (the latter two later helped form the country band Blackhawk), and it came to the band's attention at a fortuitous time: Its label was pressuring the band to get a follow-up to breakthrough album Wheels as soon as possible.
"We went flying back into the studio to record (Big Dreams)," Stewart said. "I remember hearing 'Bluest Eyes in Texas,' but at the time, I wasn't thinking it would work for us in Texas because we really weren't working there that much anyway.
"But four or five months later, we released it, and our shows exploded in the state of Texas and remained the same," he continued. "It looks like we (planned it that way), but we didn't, I promise. It's just the way the cards landed, and boy, that song has been a blessing to us.
"It doesn't matter where we play. Even more so than 'I'll Still Be Loving You,' 'Bluest Eyes' is the song that identifies Restless Heart."
The band released four gold records and six No. 1 hits in its heyday, making it one of Nashville’s hottest acts in the 1980s. After splitting in 1994, the band reunited briefly in 1998, then for good in 2002.
"I feel like we're so lucky to be able to get up on the stage 33 years later and with all the hits we've had, we're not tired of doing them," Stewart said. "It's just really a lot of fun to hit the stage ad play and sing together. Even if somebody's mad at somebody, when we hit the stage, it just goes away.
"We just really feel blessed to be able to hit the stage and sing every night."
That's what Stewart predicts will occupy most of 2017 — touring the country. Unlike in 2016, when the band released a cover of Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman," Stewart doesn't anticipate releasing any new material this year.
But the band is still going strong, despite some rumors that it might be splitting up again — prompted, apparently, by Stewart's performance with Little Texas' Tim Rushlow and Lonestar's Richie McDonald as the Frontmen of Country for President Trump's inauguration. Stewart released a statement a week later to dispute "a few news stories implying I was no longer the lead singer of Restless Heart."
"People were writing about (the inauguration), and a lot of people were not too happy about that, if you know what I mean," Stewart said in the phone interview. "A lot of country fans may not be as in tune with us as our fans are ... so I thought I needed to clarify."
Stewart acknowledged the difficulty Trump's inaugural committee had in booking entertainers — "That's why I got to, to be quite honest" — but said the opportunity was "the experience of a lifetime."
"I've never said 'no' to my country. I've traveled the world playing for our troops," Stewart said. "I don't understand why somebody wouldn't want to do that, but I guess that's the polarization of politics today."