Country singer Pat Green enjoys the ascent, even without touching the top 

Pat Green with Kevin Fowler and Mark McKinney
6 p.m. Saturday
Frontier City
11501 n.e. Expressway
Free with park admission, $19.99-$36.99

Everybody has their limits, and for Pat Green, it seems like the ceiling is set at second place.
A perennial bridesmaid, he's been poised on the brink of stardom for ages. He's toured with Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews, and scored several big hits, including "Wave on Wave," "Feels Just Like It Should" and "Let Me," off his latest album, "What I'm For," but outside of Texas, he's just not yet an arena-size artist.

Not that he's complaining.

"I really look at my life as more of a whole, as opposed to one thing," Green said. "I've never had a No. 1, but a lot of records that have gone to No. 2. OK, I get it. This time around, I wasn't meant to be some mondo superstar. To have a 15-year music career that has done as well as it has for me and to have as big a following as I do in the biggest state in the union, to expect to be the next Keith Urban or whatever, as far as size, I couldn't expect that."

The success he enjoys is well-earned. He spent five years playing wherever would have him, from honky-tonks and nightclubs to frat houses. Green self-released his first few records, which helped build a substantial following and sell more than 200,000 copies. Inspired by artists like Robert Earl Keen, Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson, Green was more intent on doing it right than doing well for himself.

"I like telling a good story and not only that, but telling it in an intelligent way and having people get into it that way, as opposed to just by sheer volume on the radio," he said. "Certainly, anybody that wants to play my music on the radio, I love them, but I think when I set out to make music, it was really much more along the lines of getting to be a part of people's lives."

By the time Green joined Universal Records for 2001's "Three Days," he'd already established a style, allowing him to avoid the all-too-common Nashville makeover.

"I had to wait a while until I had enough clout on my own to get the people following me. That way, when I walked into the record labels, I said, 'Hey, look, we've got this thing going. I really don't need you to put a hat on me and give me a shiny belt buckle. I already know what I want to do,'" he said.

Green recorded his first few albums with Lloyd Maines, as well as his major-label debut, bringing out the acoustic side of his personality. But as time went on, Green gravitated toward the rockier side of the country road, going back to his childhood love for Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and The Kinks.

He brought in Don Gehman " who produced John Cougar Mellencamp, R.E.M., Pat Benatar and Hootie & the Blowfish " to helm his breakthrough release, 2003's "Wave on Wave," and help hone an increasingly rocking sound heard throughout his next couple of discs.

"I feel like my music will always have room for violin and a mandolin, and a lap steel and all the country elements, but I certainly feel like the electric guitar is what I think of as a home-base," Green said.

For "What I'm For," he enlisted session guitarist/producer Dann Huff (LeAnn Rimes, Reba McEntire, Keith Urban), and together they created Green's most polished, pop-ready record to date. It's also a more adult album, leaving behind the crazier, drinking, hard-partying tone of earlier efforts. ("I already did that, and if you'd like to purchase it, it's available in most Walmart stores," he joked.) Green just felt he had to take a shot.

It wasn't the breakthrough he hoped for, and acknowledged "What I'm For" may have turned off some of his fans.

"Obviously, in the long run, people weren't used to seeing me like that," he said.

Green is self-producing his next album, and will use some older songs his label discouraged him from including before. He's without a label, although he said several are interested, but he won't sign a deal until the album is finished.

"We've been putting out a record a year for forever. It's kind of one of those things where I'm enjoying not having to be kissing radio's ass every day for months ad nauseam," he said. "This is kind of a nice time for me to be doing nothing." "Chris Parker

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