The silence didn’t last all that long.
Guitarist Jimmy Olander was outlining his vision for the next Diamond Rio project to the group’s lead singer, Marty Roe. Rather than just another album, Olander thought, perhaps the story of Roe’s struggles with vocal problems and their simultaneous impact on the band needed to be fleshed out in book form.
“I went to (Roe) early because if he didn’t agree to it, I wasn’t about to go force one of my partners to leak this information or do something that was going to put him in an uncomfortable situation,” Olander says. “There was a bit of a pregnant pause on the phone when I hit him up with what my plan was. But there wasn’t any backpedaling, and in a real somber tone he said, ‘OK, what would you like me to do?’
“Within that pregnant pause, I think he saw that this was not going to be fun often, but I see him go back into that story again and again, and it’s courageous and I commend him for doing that.”
The entire band partnered with writer (and former Tennessean staffer) Tom Roland to craft the book Beautiful Mess: The Story of Diamond Rio, a combination biography/redemption story that used Diamond Rio’s disastrous 2005 Fourth of July performance at Riverfront Park as the jumping-off point.
“I think everybody realized, right off the bat, that this was a real story that all of us had gone through together, even though it was my personal problem,” Roe says. “But we’re not disconnected and they all went through it with me, actually suffering some tough stuff that I didn’t go through.
“The feeling of the lack of control had to be much greater with them than it was for me, especially at first when I was going through some denial,” he continues. “I was at least working on it, they had to be in the bleachers watching and hoping that it works out OK. That may be a tougher place to be than actually being in the problem.”
Band finds ‘Reason’ for excitement
The book emerges simultaneously with Diamond Rio’s latest recorded project: an album titled The Reason, the band’s first for Christian music label Word Entertainment. The record marks another first for Diamond Rio: releasing an album for which the band’s members wrote most of the tracks.
The end result of both projects is a revelatory period for a band that has played things pretty close to the vest over its 25-year career.
“There have been a lot of different things that have made what we’re doing on this record completely new for us, even though we’ve been doing this for a long time,” Olander says. “We’ve kinda always been a little nondescript; we’ve always gone through a very laborious song-selection process, turned over every rock looking for the best possible material that other writers have written.
“We’ve had a career of that, and I’m not going to say Diamond Rio is soulless or has been, but we were kinda technicians in that and there wasn’t as much heart in those projects as there is in this one.”
Roe agrees that it’s easier for him to get excited about this new material, because of its origins and purpose.
“I have loved almost everything we cut (over the band’s career), and had an emotional connection, but it was not our words and there’s a difference,” he says. “But there’s a difference between doing an ‘I Believe’ that someone else wrote and doing ‘God Is There,’ which we wrote. You have a little more personal story to tell of how that song got created.”