You recorded your first track at 16 years old. What drove you at such a young age to get into the music business? Who were your musical influences?
When I was 16 years old I recorded my first song. It was a song I had written for my mom, actually. It had garnered a lot of local attention. A lot of the local DJs liked the song. It actually won a lot of local contests and I ended up winning a trip to Cancun at the age of 16. My musical influences at the time were Lionel Richie; he was a huge influence of mine in junior high and on into high school. Also, I loved Bob Seger a lot.
You have said that it took a year to find songs for your last album. When searching for songs to include on your albums what do you look for?
It takes awhile to find great songs. Sometimes they’ll fall in your lap but it’s a process that’s not easy. It can be grueling; you may look for a year to find eight or 10 songs that would actually make a complete album. In the 90s we recorded albums a lot quicker. You had about three months to get everything together and the process was a lot faster. There were some great songs that came out but there were fewer great “albums.” Now, I like the process more because every song needs to be chosen as if it were going to be a single. To me there is no such thing as filler material anymore, which was a term used in the 90s. There isn’t filler anymore because of the digital age. It’s really making people be more on their game because there is so much to choose from.
You have written many songs throughout your career and wrote two for the last album “Where Do I Go from Here.” What inspires you as a writer?
As a writer, I really look for deep feelings inside myself to write about. You can learn how to write creatively with literature and study. You can even call it a craft as some writers do. It’s like a movie, if it isn’t something that is hitting you in a deep place and causing you to have emotions than its probably not going to do that in other people. So, when I’m writing, the things that inspire me are real emotions.
You have been in the music industry for many years with your first single “What’s It to You” topping the Billboard Charts in 1993 and then in 2010 hitting the charts with “She Won’t Be Lonely Long.” What does it take to stay in the country spotlight for over a decade?
Being in the country music spotlight for more than a decade is a feat that I’m proud of. It’s not something that I think about a lot because I do always try to live in the present and try to look toward the future. I enjoy the music business, it’s just that if you get caught up in the past you can get left behind. It is exciting to be in this business for over a decade and I contribute that to people around me and that work with me, helping me find great songs. The songs are what keep you in the charts and also what keep you touring.
You recorded “When the Last Teardrop Falls” as a duet with one of country’s greatest legends, Freddy Fender. What was it like being in the studio with him?
Recording with Freddie Fender, who is a legend, is one of the highlights of my career. We did a song together that he was known for called “When the Last Teardrop Falls.” I’ve always had a love for “Latin” music, I love Spanish and I love Freddie Fender. I think that song is one of the most romantic of all time.
Do you plan on doing more duets? Do you have any other duet candidates in mind?
I would love to do another duet, with a girl. There are great female singers out there that I like. I’m a fan of Martina McBride, Faith Hill and Sara Evans. They all have incredible voices…and Kelly Clarkson with the song she did with Jason Aldean. Who knows? If something comes up, a great duet song, maybe one of those girls would do it with me.
You founded Band Against MS after your own MS diagnosis more than 10 years ago. You have also won a Humanitarian Award for all your efforts to cure this disease. Tell us more about Band Against MS.
Having a charity interest in Band Against MS, which is a charity that I started, balances my career. It reminds me how grateful I am to be healthy, to be able to tour and work, and also makes me feel good to give back to a cause that has affected me personally. It is also exciting that we are moving toward finding a cure for MS. A lot of other entertainers have helped out with that, too many to mention. Our charity has been embraced by the Nashville community as well as the national community. There are a lot of great doctors and a lot of great things going on with MS right now. It is my goal to have a cure and
I believe that we will definitely do that in my lifetime but I’m hoping that maybe we could speed it up and do that in the next four or five years.
You are more than just a country star. You have placed 7th in the cutting horse competition at the largest rodeo in the nation, at the Houston Livestock Rodeo. How do you train for cutting horse competitions? How often do you compete?
One of the loves of my life is horses. I’ve been riding horses since I was around 2 years old. One of the things I’ve gotten into over the last 10 years is riding cutting horses. They are a lot of fun, very fast paced, much like driving a race car except a little more reckless. I placed seventh in a competition at the largest rodeo in the nation at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. It’s not something where you can take off for a long time and then come back and jump on a cutting horse and do well. It is something you have to work at, but I probably give the horse the most credit. You have to have a good horse. It is exciting and I recommend horses to people who are interested in it. I think horseback riding is one of the most therapeutic things a person can ever do.
What inspired you to come perform for the Marines and Sailors at MCAGCC? What do you hope they come away with after your performance?
When I see the military, any military personnel, especially Marines and Sailors, it gives me a sense of pride in our country. I think we are unique in the pride we take in our military and the men and women in our armed forces. It’s necessary and it helps me sleep at night knowing that they’re there to protect us. I look at the recent victory we had in taking care of Osama Bin Laden. Seals are obviously a very decorated group but it’s not just them that are fighting the battle every day. It’s every man and woman in our armed forces and I feel very blessed to have them. Me being able to do a show for them is the least I could do. I will never be able to thank them enough for what they’ve done for us. It makes me feel proud whenever I stand up and salute our flag and take my hat off to sing the national anthem. The older that I get, the more patriotic I get and the more I realize how blessed we are to live in this great nation under God.