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Jonny Lang Talks About Signs

Posted February 2018

F Jonny Lang Photo Credit Daniella Hovsepian bxw croppedPhoto By Daniella HovsepianBoomerocity thinks that there’s nothing like a great rock and blues artist. One such artist is Jonny Lang. We’ve been tracking Jonny for a few years now and we’ve finally had the opportunity to chat with the young guitarist about his new CD, Signs.

We started out with Jonny sharing what the reception to “Signs” has been so far and which songs seem to be fan favorites.

“It’s been really positive, man, for the most part, I think. Yeah! We’ve been having some really good reviews about it. It seems to be reflecting at the live shows. Some more people coming out. A lot of people seem to know the lyrics. They sing along. Those are all the things you want, you know?”

And what are the fan favorites?

“Man! It’s all over the place, really! I haven’t seen one that people have tended toward. When people write in or at the shows or anything like that. It seems to be pretty evenly dispersed – maybe five or six of them. So, that’s pretty cool!”

With several albums under his belt, I asked Jonny how “Signs” was different to put together as compared with his previous discs.

“Man, I can’t say that a whole lot was different about the approach other than just life changing for me. You’re just growing as a person. What that did, naturally, to inform the style and subject matter of the songs. I guess I never really go into making a record or writing a song – or anything else in life, really, for that matter – with a plan, really. I guess, man, the first time I felt that feeling of whatever you want to call it: this inspiration; that unbridled sort of inspiration where you can just let go.

“All of a sudden, you’re not thinking. Something’s happening and it’s just flowing. It’s like, ‘Wow! I can experience life like this! It’s crazy! I don’t have to strive or struggle or think my way through it. I didn’t know this part of life could exist.’ And when I first felt that, I just chased it for the rest of my life! It continues to be that way. As a lot of the people that I work with can probably tell you – and my wife and a lot of my friends – they could probably tell you I could stand to be a whole lot more proactive about the way I do things. And they’re right, I’m sure. I think that I have to learn how to do that because I tend to get in my own way. That was a pretty long answer to your question and I really didn’t answer your question.”

EverythingKnoxvilleLogoEditedI interjected, “You kinda did! Because you inspired a subset to that question because I’d read that, like me, you’re a Believer, too. The question you inspired to me was do you feel that God gives you songs in the process?”

“I think God’s influence in my life – in anybody’s life – we shouldn’t really designate it to the moments that feel magical. I think it starts when you arrive here on this earth. He builds a lot of it into you. It’s my thinking, anyways, we’re built with the tools that we need to accomplish what our purpose is. Agreeing with the plan with that purpose, on our part, is a tricky part. But, yes, I do. There are moments where it’s, like, I feel there’s another person at work. There are times where I feel, ‘That didn’t come from me. I never even come close to thinking this or feeling that way before or conceiving of what just came out of me. So, yeah, I mean, I would definitely give God the credit for something like that even though I couldn’t give you empirical data, empirical proof. But it just seems there’s these – I don’t know, man! It’s like there’s this radio signal that’s constantly going and sometimes your antenna picks it up.”

Lang is touring in support of “Signs” so I asked what fans can expect from his shows during this tour.

“Shoot! I don’t know what to expect from our shows! Ha! Ha! A lot of new stuff off the new record. We have a form of each song. There’s a basic form, arrangement wise, that’s in that. There’s a lot of room to change things – the intricacies of it within the song. We all know each other so well, musically, and trust each other with those moments to where most of the time it ends up being a cool thing. Sometimes, we fall on our face real quick and then pick ourselves up and hope nobody saw! Ha! Ha! We just go with the flow, man, and have fun with it.”

I hadn’t planned on asking Jonny this, but it popped into my aging, feeble mind so I did. I asked him if he were to be made music czar, what would he do to fix the music business - or does it need fixing.

“Man! I would immediately redirect that responsibility to my second. Okay, ‘music business’ – to me, that has nothing to do with any reason that I do what I do. It’s a human system, right? All kinds of different humans have all kinds of different ideas how that system ought to work. Yet, there’s got to be a G Jonny Lang Photo Credit Daniella Hovsepian ReducedPhoto By Daniella Hovsepiansystem. The ones that don’t like it grit their teeth and get through it. The ones that love it try to preserve it and make it work so that they can benefit from it – really because of the motivation. I would hope that people can be motivationally sincere when we’re conducting business. Then we would be fine. But that’s just not the case and it never will be. It’s always going to be messed up in one way or another for one group or another. Gotta just go with the flow and keep remembering why you’re doing it. Hopefully, it’s because you love it!”

Lang is thirty-seven years old, so we expect him to be around for many more years to come. However, to close out the interview, I wanted to know how he wanted to be remembered and what did he hope his legacy would be when his life is over.

“Ha! Ha! Oh, man! I hope if there’s any hope or a thought that I’ve ever given to leaving behind something, I definitely don’t want to be remembered for some sort of greatness or some sort of way that I was personally amazing or something like that. I just hope that it can be said that I loved more than I didn’t and helped people along the way when I could. Something along those lines. I hope my kids turn out to be lovers of people. I guess they would probably be the legacy if anything was.”

Keep up with Jonny Lang at

Collin Raye and Max T. Barnes

Posted January 2018

CollinRaye Approved Publicity Photo croppedIf you’re a country music fan and, more specifically, a country music fan in the nineties, you are quite familiar with country star, Collin Raye. His music dominated the country air waves with hits like, ‘Love, Me’, ‘In This Life’, ‘My Kind of Girl’, and “I Can Still Feel You’.

Recently, Collin and the co-writer of ‘Love, Me’, Max T. Barnes, re-teamed for one of Max’s songs, “I Can Sleep When I’m Dead” from Max’s album of the same name.

The three of us had the privilege of meeting up in Nashville to discuss the song and other subjects.

As we settled into our chairs at one end of a very long conference table in the cavernous conference room that the interview took place in, we engaged in a little small talk about getting older but these being the best times of our lives. Collin was enthusiastic about where he is in life now.

“I’m having a lot more fun than I had in my thirties forties. The pressure’s gone. There were so many things that happened between 1991 and 2003, let’s say, that I didn’t get to enjoy ‘cause the business – everything was so competitive and you’re trying to win this and you’re trying to win that and you’re trying to outdo this and you’re trying to outdo that because there are so many people pushing you to do that. So, it’s easy to say, ‘Oh, I love the fact that I don’t have big label pressure.’ And people say, ‘Oh, sure, I bet you miss it.’ No, I don’t.

“Aaron Tippen and I were talking not too long ago. He was talking about one of the labels that sprang up - a Nash Icon or something like that – there was going to be some money thrown at. There was going to be some albums from some of our generation. I said, ‘I think that would be nice.’ And he said, ‘Really? Do you really want to do that again at this point?’ And I started thinking about it. I thought, ‘No, I really wouldn’t’ because you give away a lot of everything including your creativity. Do you really want to do that dance again to gain what? And the answer is, ‘No.’

Since both men have been in the music business long enough to see a lot of changes, I asked them if the business is broke and EverythingKnoxvilleLogoEditeddoes it need fixing. Max shared his answer first.

“People ask me this a lot. Music changes. It always does. It comes through cycles. Everybody knows that. It’s nothing new. I remember when there was a time where we thought country music was so hot with Lee Greenwood and Barbara Mandrell. Looking back, they seem traditional. “And, then, Randy Travis and Ricky Skaggs broke it wide open with traditional stuff and everybody was, like, ‘Ah! That’s water to a thirsty man!’

“We’re going through a time now where there’s a certain music going on and I don’t begrudge those folks at all because it’s their time. There’s some good music going on. There’s time for everything and we had our time.

 “Though I can say this: you were saying before about there’s still room for folks who love Collin Raye and Aaron Tippin and I would venture – I don’t know what’s in their pocket, but you can do as well now where they are as, maybe, when the big record companies had their hands in their pockets. They’re probably still doing very well and with their hands out of their pockets. Now they’re enjoying life and getting to do what they want. Now, all these young artists have the record label’s hands in all their pockets – not just the front one. They got t-shirts, the touring, otherwise, nobody’s selling CDs.

“It’s a very different time and I applaud anybody who sticks their neck out – including the record companies – trying to sell music because it’s a very tough time with all the digital streaming, what’s available. Nobody knows what’s going on. Nobody knows who’s going to be the next Blockbuster Video – shut down and irrelevant. We’re going through a very unusual time. I don’t begrudge any of the new music.”

Collin chimed in by adding, “Yeah, I think that’s it exactly. I think, for me – I’m glad to hear you say that, too, because I don’t understand it, either. Because, I mean, I don’t know – and I think there’s a lot of people at the major labels that don’t know what’ we’re supposed to do. All they’re thinking of is the bottom line. ‘Therefore, I’m going to take a piece of your touring. I’m going to take a piece of your publishing. Because they’re thinking, ‘If we’re going to risk any money at all’ which, from what I hear, they’re not even willing to do that. They expect you to bring your own money. So, to me, you think, ‘Well, what good is a major label going to do for you, then?’

MaxandColin001 credit JamesPatterson ReducedPhoto by James R. Patterson“Okay, they have a machine. They have some control at radio and stuff but even that, radio doesn’t have the power that it had when we were out there. You know what I mean? There’s some acts – some rock and roll and alternative acts – that did it first. But that internet is a powerful thing if you know what you’re doing.

“My granddaughter – her and her mom went to L.A. for a little three day thing to see Brooklyn and Bailey live at the Roxy. I played at the Roxy back many years ago. It’s just a cool place to play. Roxy is like the Whiskey (a Go-Go). They went to see them. Brooklyn and Bailey are these two YouTubers – two sisters. Their mom had a thing called Cute Girls Hair Styles. It reached millions, right? Then, Brooklyn and Bailey started their own little thing and they’re way more. They’re, like, the biggest YouTube sensation. They’ve got 11 or 12 million followers. They both sing a little bit and now they’re putting music out.

“They went out and the place was packed. A big buzz about it. They didn’t do that with a record label. They did it by building a brand on the internet for free!”

I said that maybe what we’re seeing is the way it was in the original days of country and gospel music. You did your own recording, marketed out of the back of the car, and you were in charge of the whole means of production from soup to nuts to which Max piped in and said, “There’s a scene in Coal Miner’s Daughter that I think about all the time. It’s when Loretta was in the back of the car with the kids and her husband, Doo, was driving around to all the radio station, giving them all records. Everybody remembers the scene. Now, we couldn’t get buzzed in the door. It would be hard because there would be so many layers to stop these people from coming in. And even if we got in the door, there’s nobody in there.

“So, like you’re saying, the internet, Collin, it’s the Wild West and you can do just like Loretta Lynn did in those days – while the other’s going on.  It’s very strange.”

So, what has been the response to the new video, “I Can Sleep When I’m Dead”?

Max: “People hate this song. Ha! Ha! We’re here to squash and to put it to bed for good. Ha! Ha! This is the front end of the launch. People seem to get a kick out of it. Bobby Bare said, ‘There’s two middle aged guys who don’t give a crap.’ That’s not what he said but he said there’s two or three laugh lines in there that he loved. I didn’t ask him what he thought. He just offered that up.”

Collin: “He liked it, though. That means a ton.”

Max: “I think people just enjoy it because like we said before: it’s not that we don’t care. We do, but we don’t. We’re having fun. Collin’s doing great. He’s got a lovely life. I’m blessed. I’ve got a great life. We’re having fun. I think you can see it on the video.”

Collin: “You might have heard Max say earlier, talking about the buddy songs are kinda gone by the wayside. There hadn’t been anything like that in a while. The George and Merle – the album they made back in the eighties; these buddy/party songs. So, it’s kind of refreshing. And what I’d say about it, too, is when you get to those up-tempo kind of rowdy ‘we’re going to go out on Saturday night and have fun’ songs, often in recent years, in my opinion, they haven’t been well written or they were written quickly to where it was basically a hook. ‘This is the hook. We’re just going to keep repeating it over and over and over again.’

“This song’s a well-constructed song. Very clever. It’s got a lot of high points. Musical hooks happening. Lyrical hooks happening as every song that he writes does. Again, the big push has been a real push in Europe, you know, and the one thing I’ll say about European fans is they pay closer – right now – they pay closer attention to lyrics; to things like that than our American fans do. They’re like what the American fans were, say, back in the nineties. I mean, Rodney Crowell. Rodney Crowell couldn’t get arrested today in the United States because his songs are just too deep; too clever; too well written; too poetic. Over there, it’s a different story and they don’t care what you’ve done lately. It’s like, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen you on the late-night talk shows in a long time so we’re not interested.’  They don’t care. They like music! They like good songs and good music. It’s a joy to play over there and I think they’re going to eat this up.

“Don Williams, who we just lost, as big as he was here, he was a giant over there. Why? Because he was good!”

I couldn’t help but notice that their first hit, “Love, Me,” has the imagery of death and now, “I Can Sleep When I’m Dead” obviously alludes to it, too. I asked if this was coincidental or did they consciously plan it that way.

Collin: I think it was coincidental. Ha! Ha!

Max: Part Two!

Collin: “Our last collaboration, if you will, was a heavy song. A beautiful song about love beyond the grave. I thought it was kinda nice that we get together all these years later and do something that, for me, compared to hits that I’ve had, it’s far more ‘that’s my story and I’m sticking to it’ than it is, ‘Love, Me’. I think that’s kind of refreshing. For people who know that Max wrote ‘Love, Me’ and here we are, all these years later, instead of trying to redo that again . . .”

 MaxT JeremyWestby reducedMax: “Just wait until our third song, in twenty-five years . . . “

Collin: “Of course, you’ll have to come see us at the home to see us perform!”

Warren Zevon wrote a much darker song with a similar title, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”. I had to ask if his song was on Max’s mind while he wrote and recorded this song.

Max: “No. Leslie Satcher and I wrote this song many years ago. As songwriters, we don’t fully research. It was totally innocent. Back in those days – which is not the same way today - back in those days, writers would never write a song if they’d even heard the title before. So, no, I’d never had that thought.”

Collin and Max go back a lot of years, so I asked them to tell me about that relationship and how much of the new video reflects that relationship.

Collin: “We’d never hung out and done that before. Although I’d be up for it if you wanted to. Ha! Ha! With Max and me, we’d always been friends and I think there’s always been a mutual respect since “Love, Me”. I mean, obviously, he handed me a career, basically. I remember when we found that song, it was over at Opryland Music Room is where I’d heard it. Jerry Fuller and I – my first producer – we were going around. There was a lot of artists – I remember Davis Daniel, Rob Crosby had records come out that same week or two that my All I Can Be – my album – was. Looking back on it – and I remember the feeling of, ‘Man, this is just a dice roll because no matter what we did, no matter how good or not good this album is, either people are going to dig it nor they’re not going to dig it. It’s either gonna break through or it’s not.’ and that song was the reason it broke through. All of a sudden, I was legitimate overnight. People started taking me serious. ‘Oh, he’s an up-and-comer’.

“It’s weird how this business is. It’s the song, right? Period. But, yet, if you’re the guy that sang the song, all of a sudden, it legitimizes you, too. I never felt the feeling, ‘Oh, he’s going to be a one hit wonder.’ They attach it to me even though I didn’t create that piece of music, you know. He handed me a career on a silver platter. I’ve said often times that any number of artists would’ve had a hit with a song like that and I was just the lucky guy that got it, so my sense of gratitude has always been really, really strong. So, when we reconnected again and just saw each other, ‘Man, we gotta do something! We gotta do something together!’ Plus, I respect Max not only as a writer but as a singer and he’s a great artist in his right and love to hear him sing and he’s just an idea guy. That’s one thing – as I’ve gotten older – I’ve run dry on those. I don’t have a lot of fresh ideas – not just as far as the songs – but a lot of fresh ideas of things to do because my professional life has become so automatic. I tour eighty-five to a hundred dates a year. I’m gonna sign my songs. I change the set list just to keep it from getting boring, but that’s what I do.

“Once in a while, I’ll do an album. I did a tribute album to Glenn Campbell three years ago. I just have these little projects I do but I don’t have a lot of fresh ideas. He’s (Max) is full of them.”

Max: “Full of it. Ha! Ha!”

Collin: “He’s always got something cool going on. Always has a cool idea. A very creative, fertile mind so I just love getting to do anything with him at all. I hope we have a lot of success with this and they’re going to be screaming for a follow-up. It would be kinda cool, like I mentioned earlier, the Mo and Joe, just a more cerebral version of Mo and Joe. No offense, Mo!”

When I asked if there is another “Love Me” in there between the two men, Raye chimed in first.

Collin: “Wouldn’t that be sweet?”

Max: “It would be amazing. You know, ‘Love, Me’ or the songs of that era, I’m not sure that they would go or that they CollinRaye Approved Publicity Photo reducedwould make it. I think there were so many things that lined up for us on that song. We don’t want to forget Skip Ewing as a writer on that song, too. The lay of the land was just right for it. Collin’s an amazing artist. He did a perfect job on it. It was produced wonderfully. He was with a great label who could put it out there. A year later or a year before or a five or ten or nine, I don’t know if it would’ve worked. But we had that one, didn’t we?”

Collin: “We had that one! I’ve heard people say, too, like we were talking a few minutes ago about doing an album. If you could get onto a major label and someone wanted to do an album with retro artists or whatever, and the say, ‘Wouldn’t you love to have another hit?’ and you go, ‘I got plenty. I got plenty of ‘em. I got more than I can play in a show.’

Max: “That’s when you’ve done well.”

Collin: “We don’t play half of them! We play the big ones. The ones people want the most, you know? I don’t know even know what a hit would look like today. It would probably be an internet hit. The window of country radio is so small now. I mean, some of them are playing ten songs; twenty at the most. It’s not like in the old days. I don’t even know if Max came up with a song like that again, where the home would be for it. Online, iTunes that promote that. And great things can happen from that. It really is like the wild west. You don’t really know what to do. So, let’s just throw stuff out there and see what happens.

“Right now, a song like ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead has a pretty good upside of what it could do worldwide because it’s fun but it’s clever. Like I said, I think it’s going to do really well in Europe. You never know what might happen here. Because, this thing here I’m pointing to – laptop – it levels the playing field for the entire planet. Everybody’s got one. Most people do. And the internet is there for everybody. So, you just never know.”

Max: “Love, Me’ is a good case of this, not to keep going back to it. ‘Love, Me’ took off and it was very big. It went five or ten years. It had this very, very long tail where it’s played, now, a lot, still even. Somebody said on Facebook the other day, ‘Would you rather write a number one song that people kinda forgot,’ which I’ve written those, too – ‘or would you like to write a number thirty song for Glenn Campbell in 1967.’ Well, that number thirty song was ‘Gentle on My Mind’, which is the most performed song of all time. So, in the end, they one. Imagine the airplay on something that’s been played 7, 8, 10 million times or more.”

Collin: “I’ve had a lot of number ones and a lot of number one parties but several of those – I can name two or three number ones that I had and you’d go, ‘huh?’. But, ‘That’s My Story (And I’m Sticking To It’ - the Lee Roy Parnell and Tony Haselden song. I think it peaked at number 6. Next to ‘Love, Me,’ that song everybody knows. It will keep on going – it became kind of a catch phrase with people. The number? It’s always beautiful when it happens but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to last.”

As to what kind of album would these two legends would like to make that they haven’t done yet – individually or together, Collin answered first.

Collin: “I always have these pet projects in my head of records I’d like to do. I love the creative process of  making new music. So, right now, I’ve redone the greatest hits called, ‘The Big Twenty-Five – Twenty-Five Hits. Twenty-Five Years.” We re-cut everything, which was a chore. That’s coming out hopefully the first of December.

“I’d love to do a bluegrass album. Why? To show that I can. My thing as a singer, I consider myself a chameleon. I like to do different things just to prove to myself that I can because I won’t make a record that I don’t think is quality. I wouldn’t do anything just to cash in on whatever. I’d like to make a really cool bluegrass album because I love bluegrass music and I’ve never got to ever record any of it. I’d like that. I think that would be a challenge for me. Singing bluegrass music, it’s putting to the side everything I’ve learned to be a singer over the years. It’s a whole different thing and I’d love to try that.

“Also, to do a big band album, which is a total opposite of what I just described. Why? Because I can. I love to be that sorta guy, ‘Oh, Collin can sing anything.’ Our shows, we do a couple of rock and roll covers towards the end because it excites the crowd. I always pick songs that I don’t think anyone else can sing. If you’re going to do a Bob Seger cover, don’t do ‘Old Time Rock and Roll’. Don’t do that. Do something like – we do, ‘Get Out of Denver’ or ‘Rock and Roll Never Forgets’ just so that people will go, ‘Wow! I didn’t know he could do that!’ That’s not an ego thing. I feel that’s the kind of thing that keeps me fresh. ‘Not only can he still sing his songs, you never know what he’s gonna do.’

“I could do some records like that and then I would love to do another kind of an Americana record like Don Henley did – Cass County. Even he – this rock icon – wants to be in that world. I would like to make a record – tap into my favorite writers and say, ‘What’s something that you don’t think anybody else will cut but you think is a really, really good song. Let me cut it’ and make a record like that with no vision of trying to get radio. Nothing like that. Just make a really good album full of great songs and I think my fan base would love that. So that would be the new music record that I would like to make. Those other projects would be just fun little sidebars I know people would love.”

Max: “I’m gonna stick with country. My fan base is in Europe. I’m over there a lot. I have a home full time there now. Ireland. People tell me – I’m hooked up with some of the people in the business like I am here – probably the top guy over there was just over here last week and he said, ‘They’re sending us music people country to country we don’t want.’ That’s why the anonymity. It’s not that they’re bad. It’s just not who they want. They want country music. They want that good ol’ Don Williams that just gets your heart with the thud of a kick drum. I grew up with that stuff, stuff. So, I’m gonna stick to with that and try to give them what they want because I love it, too.”

As I stated earlier, both men have been in the country music business a very long time. With so much accomplished, I asked both of them how they want to be remembered and what they hope their legacy is after they’ve left this earth.

Max: “I’ll jump right in there. I raised two great kids. I stayed married my whole life. The rest of it, you can have.”

Collin: “I agree. I’m not married but I’m really, really proud of my kids and I’ve got an awesome granddaughter. That’s my world. I think everybody has an identity. I think that’s where so many people go wrong, today. They don’t have an identity, so they turn to gangs or drugs or whatever because they don’t know who they are. They don’t know what they’re supposed to be. You have to see yourself what you see yourself as. And, like Max, I don’t see myself as an entertainer. That’s just my job. Ken Craig had told me at one time – he managed me for a while – and he said, ‘Your career is not your life. It’s a means to a better life.’ I think as long as you see yourself – what would you want on your epitaph. What would you want on your tombstone, it’s not going to have anything about music or anything. I hope my family loves me. They love spending time with me. And I hope people always say, ‘He was a great dad and granddad, you know? And let the music – which is a whole separate entity – live and breathe on its own and that’s up to the public whether how long something’s going to be remembered.

“I think back on some people – some great people. I’m a big history guy. I’ll be reading about somebody who did something just earth-shattering that we needed. We homeschool Maddy and I teach history and social studies and I was teaching her this week about the industrial revolution – Eli Whitney and Jethro Tull. Not Ian Anderson’s band but the guy who invented these farm implements that changed the world forever.

“Let’s use him, for instance. When you think of Jethro Tull. If you’re a classic rock guy like me, you go, ‘Oh! Ian Anderson. Martin Barre. A great band!’ It’s like, ‘No! No! No! They named that band after a guy that changed the way we eat food and changed the way we produce food. But, he’s forgotten’ And What he did was far more important than anything I’d ever done. Eli Whitney making the cotton gin was way more important than my contribution to humanity. But he’s kind of forgotten, you know? There’s people who don’t know who Napoleon was.

“So, glory, as General Patton said, is fleeting. It comes and it goes and, so, you can’t put any emphasis or any value on that or what the work you did. That’s just going to be what it is.”

You can keep up with Collin at his website,, and with Max at

Dave Barnes & Christmas 2017, the Music Business & More

Posted December 2017


Barnes Image LargeIf you’re a current listener to country music, you are familiar with some of Dave Barnes’ work. Whether it’s his own solo work or Blake Shelton’s cover of his hit, “God Gave Me You’ or his current composition, “Craving You”, that is a huge hit for Thomas Rhett and Maren Morris. He’s also written or co-written songs for Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Billy Currington, Marc Broussard and many others.

Yet, for some of you, you may not have heard of him. It’s for you who haven’t that my first question to Dave during a recent phone interview that I asked for an introduction of him.

“You know, that’s a great question. Primarily, I’m an artist. I write and record my own music. I’m in the middle of making – I think – my twelfth album right now – which is absolute insanity. That’s primarily what I do. I write and record my own records and play shows and stuff and do these Christmas shows every year.

“But it’s interesting, though, as I get older there’s a chunk of what I do now is also writing with and for other artists. That’s also become a really fun, addition. Another lane has been added to the highway, if you will, which has been great. I just had a song called, ‘Craving You,’ which is the number one for Thomas Rhett that I wrote with his producer. It’s fun to flex all the music muscle that I can. I think that’s a real gift. It’s fun not to just stay in one lane.

“As I get older – I have a family now. I have three kids and I like being home. So, it gives me a chance to not have to be gone as much and it lets me do some different, creative things which I think is always good for creatives – to sort of be able to travel a little bit.”

Though relatively young in years, Barnes has accomplished a lot in the country music business. I asked him what are some of EverythingKnoxvilleLogoEditedthe biggest positive and negative changes in the industry, in recording, in performing – from the time he began his career to this point.

“You know, I think the thing – it’s actually the same thing, which is a really bizarre thing to say. It’s its own Ying and Yang. It’s its own Siamese twin. I think the best thing about what’s happening in music is so many people have access to doing it now. I’m always a fan of anyone getting to be creative. I think that’s a huge part of the way we’re made and it’s fun to get to see people that normally - maybe thirty years ago, twenty years ago – wouldn’t have really been able to do music because of the constraints that were happening there and really be successful and really have success at something that, traditionally, they wouldn’t have done if it weren’t for computer programs and things like that. Now, they can sort of do that.

“I think, on the other hand, that also is making it hard – I’ll use the word, ‘flooded’. The market is tricky because there’s just so – because there isn’t a huge disparity between entry and professional. It’s all so greyed out now because anybody can put music up on Spotify or iTunes. It’s tricky because it’s great but it’s also hard for people who are doing it as their profession and work so hard at doing it and getting really proficient and to feel that you’re really competing with people who haven’t necessarily put in their time. Honed their craft like a lot of people have. Oddly enough, it’s sort of the same thing.

“I do think – which is a different conversation, but it does address what you’re asking -  I think it’s tricky where music is business wise now with Spotify and what’s happening in the streaming world. But, I’m not a doomsday guy with that. I think it has a really, really, really awesome plus column to it where it’s not all negatives. I wish we were getting paid more but I hope that will change some day. But it does have a lot of positives, too. I think those are a couple of things I think about on the pros and cons of music these days.”

On that comment, I added that the late Sam Andrew told me that he and his peers were creating the sound that they’re now teaching in schools and cranking out clones by the hundreds every year. I also drew on the memory of the early days of album making and marketing in both country and gospel music. He concurred.

“I think that verbatim. I couldn’t say that more eloquently than you just did. You know, nothing’s new under the sun. That’s the thing all of us who have been doing it for a little while longer have to careful of is getting into this sort of like self-important ‘I paid my dues and I hustled. Now these young bucks are creating something in ProTools and Logic and put it out and they have the same success.’

“Man, there’s nothing new. I think that, for every time I kinda think, ‘God, this feels like a new dilemma,’ you have a conversation with a guy or a girl who has been in it for fifty years and they’re, like, ‘Oh! That was happening when this happened!’ Like, when the drum machines came out, we all got mad because you didn’t need a drummer any more. It’s like, ‘Oh, yeah! There’s always some iteration of a problem that’s happened before.’

“I think you’re exactly right and that helps me because I get less, again, doomsday by thinking, ‘Oh, god! This is the end of days we’re kinda coming up on.’ I think the hope is, man, the live show is the great equalizer – sort of like scimitar. It cuts through a lot of things and I think that’s why the market is so flooded. One, because music isn’t making for people what it used to, money-wise. Two, because that’s the litmus paper test. Literally, anyone can make good music now to sell that’s listenable. But, you know, not everybody can go make good music live or give a good experience, I should say. That’s still such an important medium. And, thankfully, it does keep everything as the great ‘leveler’ because it really does sort of remind you, ‘Wow! That kind has been doing this for a long time and he is fantastic at doing what he does!’”

With that all said, I asked Dave who’s commanding his attention, musically, these days.

“You know, a band that I love so much is this band called Wolf Pack that’s out of L.A. and kinda Michigan. It’s sort of like our generation’s Phish – a funkier version of Phish, I think. I love those guys! They’re always doing really interesting (stuff). They’re phenomenal players which is what I love especially about them. They’re so great.

“I just went and saw Mayer last night – John Mayer here in Nashville. He’s such a fascinating dude! John is just so consistently putting out interesting and inspiring music. I was reminded of just the magnitude of his skill set last night. It’s really cool, too, because he’s doing his show in he calls it three chapters, I think where it’s like the band, then acoustic, then the trio. It’s a worthy flexing of muscle. It’s impressive! You kinda go, ‘Yeah, man, if I could do that, I’d probably do the same thing!’”

When I interjected that I thought Mayer’s pairing up with the Grateful Dead members was brilliant, Barnes responded, “If I could be so bold, I really think it shows in his guitar playing, especially. John is such a great player. He’s such a talented guitar player. But, last night, for me, felt like he’d just settled into his skill set level. It wasn’t quite as meandering, I guess is a good word. We’re the same age – he’s thirty-nine. Just seeing him kinda go, ‘I’ve got control of this thing and I know what I’m doing, and I know what I’m trying to achieve and I’m achieving it at its highest level.’ It was really, really, really cool.”

Is there a legacy act that impresses Mr. Barnes?

“You know, I tell ya, Paul Simon, to me, is kind of the last vestige of that, in my opinion. My favorite music is legacy acts. That, to me, will never change. I really don’t listen to a lot of current music. I still wear out all of the music that I grew up on and, really, what my parents’ generation grew up on or, I should say, grew up with. The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers – all that stuff is still my favorite music. So, it’s been fun catching them as they come through Nashville. I saw Fleetwood Mac a couple of years ago at the Bridgestone. It was insane! It was so good, and it was so fun because Christine McVie was back. Just such an amazing show!

“You know, the trick with that stuff is not a lot of those acts, I think, are still really making super compelling music and it’s not bad. It’s like Tiger Woods at 80 years old is still going to hit a drive straight. It’s just not going to go as far, you know what I mean? It’s not like they’re bad at what they do. The fire’s not quite as hot as it used to be and rightfully so.

“So, it’s hard to find those bands that you still feel like they’re putting stuff out there, but Paul Simon does do that, somehow. I think his last couple of records are still really interesting. The gears are still kind of turning up there. He’s the only one of those, in my opinion, that’s still really – like James Taylor put out an album. It was great. It was really good but Paul, to me, is still inspiring. I love the guy and I love the music. The album is good. He’s the last one that I feel like I am hearing that I go, ‘God! That’s really interesting and I wonder what that’s about? How did he do that? What was he thinking?’”

When I shared that one of Boomerocity’s missions is to keep our readers current on the latest with our musical icons of our youth, he said:

“It’s insane! I love that you’re doing that. That’s one my favorite things that’s happening with that generation of music. It seems to be that there’s some sense from them to, ‘I’m getting up in age. Anything can happen, health-wise.’ And I really do feel like I’m seeing them go, ‘I really need to sort of be passing this info down. I haven’t thought about that, yet.’ Like James Taylor and Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, all these people seem to be doing a lot more podcasts and they’re writing their books and they’re doing more interviews. Some of that is because they want to stay relevant and I get that. But I also have to think that some of that is, ‘You know? I don’t know how much time I’ve got left even it’s just as a performer. I want to make sure that I’m able to tell my story and I communicate what my music is about and what it’s about and how we did what we did,’ because people care and it’s important.

“James Taylor did one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen an artist do. It was probably five or eight years ago. You could go to his site – and you may still be able to do it – you go to his site and he had showed you how to play something like five or six songs on acoustic. And I’m not talking like the one-shot camera thing. He probably had eight cameras that you could go between and see. One was inside the guitar going out. One was right on his fingers. One was at the end of the fret board shooting down the fret board. One was at the end of the guitar shoot up the fret board. One was ten feet in front of him. That’s the kind of benevolent thoughtfulness that’s really cool. ‘Here’s how you play Sweet Baby James.’ Here’s how you play Fire and Rain. That is so cool! It really is important in a weird way.

“And what I think is cool with what you’re doing is we’re getting access to stuff that you haven’t had access to. That’s kind of what I’m speaking to. People’s mortality is inspiring them to be more benevolent with information. I think that’s huge gift to fans of music. A lot of those guys couldn’t be bothered thirty years ago and now it’s like, ‘No, man, I want to talk about this. It’s important that I tell people this.’ It’s a real gift, I think, to all of us to get to be around for that.”

One thing that Dave Barnes does every Christmas season is perform a Christmas show in a few select cities in Tennessee and Georgia. I asked him to tell me about the Christmas shows coming up and what fans can expect.

“It’s always one of my favorite things to do every year. I think this is our sixth or seventh year doing it – which really wasn’t on purpose. I did the first tour – my first Christmas tour – with my buddy, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors – his band – and I put out a Christmas album - like I said – six or seven years ago. We had such a good time and the response was so good – and, thankfully, that Christmas album – I have two Christmas albums – that first one, when it came out, really resonated.

“I remember iTunes did a big feature on it at the time and did a free download of one of the songs. It really kind of caught. It’s fun to see a lot of fans who didn’t know my music to find me through that.

“Christmas music is so cool because it’s really maybe as much or arguably more than any other music becomes a part of your life because it’s every year. You can love a record but there’s not a schedule for when you’re going to listen to it all the time. So, you can easily forget a record and five years later go, ‘Ah! I loved Hotel California, but I forgot about it!’ But Christmas music, every year, it’s going to pop up.

“The most covered song of all time is White Christmas which people mistakenly say ‘Yesterday’. But the reason it’s so covered is there’s a venue for it every year. It’s been fun because we did this tour and then the next year we did another one on our own and then it sort of caught on because we realized that Christmas shows are sort of – in the best way – the lowest hanging fruit because people always want something to do during Christmas and they love to do the same thing every Christmas. It’s literally an algorithm that you can’t get wrong if you just have a good show. It’s the easiest things to do, in some ways, because people always want something to do. They always want the same thing to do. So, if you can give them something that’s good, they’re gonna go, ‘Yeah. We’re in. We’ll see ya every year!’ And you’re, like, ‘Yes!’

“We put a lot of effort into it. It’s not easy music to play. It’s really fun because it’s always engaging to us – the band – to remember how stuff goes. This is a really weird thing to say: It’s sort of like church music – some of it is church music because of the season – it feels like you’re sort of leading people through an emotional journey; like you’re the conductor of these emotional moments – which every concert is but I think especially a Christmas show. ‘I’m reminding you of what it feels like at Christmas when I sing this. Oh my gosh! It makes me think of my sixth Christmas when this happened and we . . .’ You know what I mean? It can almost feel like church in some ways. It can sound sacrilegious because it’s got such a tie to people and you’re guiding them there. It’s fun and every year it’s more fun because we’re slowly adding markets. It’s pretty easy listening to me, which I love. I feature a lot of special guests. The band guys do their own songs, too. It’s really fun. It’s really a benevolent show for me to play . . . in the best way. It’s a very communal show for us. It’s not something that I get too stressed out about because I’m always excited about getting up there and being a part of it myself.

As for how many cities he’s bringing his Christmas show to, Barnes said:

“I think we’re doing three. I think we’re adding a second Knoxville show (note: they have!), which is really fun. We do Nashville. Yeah, two Knoxville shows and Atlanta.”

Dave also gave me a little heads-up about his forthcoming album.

“You hear this as much as anybody does from artists. ‘It’s the best thing yet!’ We have to be (that way). And I mean that sincerely – not just like we have to be it’s in the script. If you’re not excited about it, you’re kind of doomed. But I am especially excited about this. It’s been a really fun last few years for me. I did the record before this one that was kind of tip of the hat to Laurel Canyon. It’s an album called Carry On San Vicente, which was kind of a throwback – kind of a concept album for me.

“But, I think in retrospect, I think my fans enjoyed it, but I don’t think it was necessarily – you are always assuaging these appetites, you know? I think people are, like, ‘This is what we need, and this is what you do for me’ and I think a lot of people liked it, but it wasn’t, like, ‘No, man, we need the Dave Barnes fix.’ But this album is that. My first two or three records were really diverse and random – kind of all over the place, which I think my fans like. ‘No, we like that you have a straight-ahead song next to a really funky song next to a ballad next to a gospel thing or whatever.’ This album, for me, when I started to write for it, I feel like I want to do that again. I feel like my people want that back from me again. This album is really musical which is super fun and probably the most vulnerable which is really cool because I feel like that’s something I’m not always great at. So, it was fun to – more than most times – to spill my guts on the ol’ page.

“I think – circling back on what we were talking about earlier, I thought about this with John’s (Mayer) show last night. You know, the challenge for any artist, in my opinion, is I think you get four to five albums before people kind of like – this may be a really drastic thing to say – but I think it’s true. I think people start to naturally discount the newer music because of their love for the old music. I literally think that fans give you this sort of five album path. ‘Look, we’re gonna love your first thing. We’re gonna love your second, third and fourth. The fifth, we’re still in. Sixth? We start to lose interest – not because we don’t like you but because we like what you’ve already done so much.’ Everybody kind of has a capacity for each artist. ‘Yeah, I can’t like more than twenty of your songs. It’s like the hard drive of my brain is full.’

“The challenge for every artist is to do your darnedest to create compelling music all the time. You’re fighting for people to be like, ‘Ah, man! There’s three on this new one that I really got to boot three off the other!’ I was thinking about that with John last night. I love his new album and it rivals Continuum for my favorite of his music. I really love what he does. That’s such a win for him! He’s going, ‘Hey! I’m fighting to keep my stuff in your head. Don’t count me out, yet.’

“I don’t think we mean to. I don’t think we do in a way that you’re dead to me. I just think there’s this thing that happens to all of us to where as people start to get older, we start going, ‘Well, this isn’t the young, vigorous whoever. They’re still great but, you know, I’ve got kids now. Vacation in Florida. I have a home in Crested Butte.’ It’s not the same and I think it’s always a struggle and challenge to all of us artists is to go, ‘No, no, no, no! I’m still as inspired. I’m still as relevant as I was and I’m still trying to do my best to continue to serve you through my music to have experiences with.’

“So, I think with this album, that’s a huge piece that, to me, is going, ‘Gosh! I really want you to give this a clean shot because I think it could do to you what music has done previously.’”

As we wrapped up our chat, I asked Dave Barnes how he wants to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy will be.

“That is, first of all, a wonderful question. Second of all, I think, for me, I think it’s twofold. I heard Jewel – this is so random – but Jewel got interviewed twenty years ago and a guy asked her that on MTV. I’ll never forget this and at the time I didn’t understand it. They said, ‘If there’s one thing that could be said about your music, what would you want it to be?’ and she said, ‘I hope that it inspires.’ And I remember being really let down. I’m, like, ‘NO! You want it to be amazing! Or innovative or genius or profound!’ I remember when I actually got that. Later in my writing. That’s the truth. I can’t think of a better compliment because there’s nothing better than feeling like what you’re creating creates more creating.

“So, I would say, one, I hope that it would be inspiring to whatever degree that is. And, secondly, I would say that it was a soundtrack – that the music served the purpose of making memories for people so that when the music comes on, it takes them back to that place or they can play it while memories are being made that are associated with those moments. I think that, to me, is really what music really does.

“More than anything, I think, especially in retrospect it’s about being connected to memories and that is really what cements music as being as important as it is. It’s sort of a retrospective goal. You can have music that attaches itself to moments that, then, immortalize those moments. And I think, now, when people tell me that, it’s profoundly more powerful than in my twenties.

“People say, ‘We walked down the aisle to your song’ or ‘That was the first song we played for our kid’. That’s cool but when you’re that age but I wanted it to be, ‘You’ve never heard something like this.’  Now, I’m, like, ‘That’s it!’ When you get macro on the thing and you pull way back, the fact that of every song in the world – and I mean every song in every genre that’s ever been written – you went, ‘You know what I want to remember this is that song!’ That is so profound! There’s nothing that can be said that’s more powerful than that about music. ‘We coulda chosen Hey Jude. But no. We chose God Gave Me You. We chose Until You.’ Whatever. I could lay down and just sort of stare at the ceiling for a day thinking about that. That’s just incredible! I think that, to me, is the ultimate compliment or goal or mission statement.”

Keep up with the latest with Dave Bares at his website,

Chuck Negron Discusses His Three Dog Nightmare & More

Posted December 2017


CNCasualOne would’ve had to have been living under a rock in out in the wilderness in the seventies in order to never have heard any of the music put out by the iconic group, Three Dog Night. Songs like Joy to The World, Easy to Be Hard, Never Been to Spain, One, and many other songs by the band dominated the airwaves of the seventies and reportedly enjoyed 40 million in LP sales.

Though a trio, the voice of Three Dog Night is often attributed to Chuck Negron. By the time the band disbanded in 1976, Negron had a very serious drug problem. In 1999, he chronicled his story in his autobiography, Three Dog Nightmare, which has been released in a revised version.

So, for the book: I know people are amazed that Keith Richards is still alive. However, if they read Three Dog Nightmare, I think Negron could give Richards’ reputation a run for its money. To that point, my first question to Chuck was: How on earth are you still alive?

“Yeah, well, I guess there’s a bigger plan for me. Ha! Ha! The book has become part of a program of many rehabs across America. I’ve ended up speaking. Several months ago, I spoke in Kansas for many judges and probation officers and incarcerated men about addictions. It seems that I’m helping a lot of people understand addiction. It seems to be a greater purpose for me.”

Three Dog Nightmare is an excellent read (I have a first edition hard cover copy) and really is a warts-and-all tale of his life. It stands to reason that with so many editions of the book out that many had to have been positively impacted by Negron’s story. I asked him to share a story or two that he had heard.

“There have been many people who have said that it’s touched them. One of the reasons is that it is so straight forward and honest and it’s not glamorizing or romanticizing something that is ugly and very, very sad. People see themselves in that – not only in addiction but in many other obsessions. It helps people. There’s no disclaimer in it where you can kind of get the side door out. It’s really just blatantly honest. I think people just relate to that.

“I wanted it to help people and I knew if I said, ‘Blah, blah, blah, but . . .’ that would give a lot of people reason to turn away and go, ‘Oh, yeah, this guy . . .’, you know? I didn’t want to do that. At that point in my recovery, that’s exactly where I needed to be and had to be was owning everything with no disclaimers, no pointing the fingers at anybody else. Just accepting that this is something that I did. At that point, it was very, very important to write it that way.”

Negron has been clean for quite a few years now, but I just had to ask if there’s any temptation, still, to go back to using.

“That’s been a blessing to me. I’m twenty-six years clean and sober and I have not had the obsession to use – EVER with my recovery. It’s been removed and the miracle of that is that was my burden. I couldn’t get sober because the obsession was with me every minute. I couldn’t shake it. So, it was a real blessing when it was removed.”

Chuck turned 75 back in June. To my ears, his voice is as good as it’s ever been and, from a show of his that I saw in 2009, he’s still an incredible entertainer. I asked him what he attributed this to.

EverythingKnoxvilleLogoEdited“It’s kind of you to say so. I think a lot has to do with genetics and has much has to do with preparation and work. I think for a singer, you have to sing. You have to work on your voice – especially as you get older. You have to train. You have to muscles strong. The breathing. The stomach in good shape. It’s a muscle that breathes. There’s a lot to do. I take voice. I never took voice in my whole life and I take in the last fifteen years. I started taking voice to learn as much as I can to keep myself viable and learn and I still am. Plus, I love to sing. It’s my - excuse the saying - but it’s my voice. It’s how I express myself – the very free part of me. I love it! I love to sing!”

I had to ask a question that I know he’s been asked countless times because everybody always want to know: Will there ever be a musical reunion between him and the remaining, living vocalist from the band, Danny Hutton?

“Nah. It’s not going to happen. There was a time when Cory and Jimmy were alive that it could work – especially if we go Floyd (Sneed) back involved because Floyd still plays and is a good drummer and a great guy. There was a time that was something I would’ve enjoyed. But once Cory and Jimmy died, there was no reason to do anything. It was me, Danny, Michael, and maybe Floyd. The name, Three Dog Night, besides all the genius that was the band and musicians, what made Three Dog Night special in my mind was three part harmony. How can you do three -part harmony with two guys? So, it’s over. There’s no reason. That was my reason was to hear that beautiful sound; that powerful, guttural sound. It can’t be done. It would just be an interference in my life at this point I don’t need.”

I shifted the topic of conversation over to the new CD, Generations, that he recorded with his daughters, Charlie and Annabel, and asked him to tell me about it and what has the buzz been like on it.

“They’ve performed with me since they were kids. Charlie – my twenty-three-year-old – she made her first record with me – a duet. Actually, it was her record that was a duet David Foster, many, many people that made ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ which is on one of my best of CD. At ten years old she performed with me at the Hollywood Bowl. She’s performed with me her whole childhood and her sister – who is now sixteen – followed suit. She’s performed. So, it was just a natural thing when I asked them, ‘Would you be interested?’ and they went, ‘Yeah! We’d love to!’ We sort of worked on the harmonies. It ended up being a really wonderful family thing. I was very, very pleased that they did as well as they did. It was great.

“We have a lot of support. And the community that are Three Dog Night fans are picking up some new fans but that seems to negron album cover reduced be the bigger challenge – not being with a big label, it’s difficult to get it out there. Although, it’s being played her and there. We’re still working on it and trying to get it out to a bigger audience. Everyone who does hear it likes it. I shouldn’t say ‘everybody’ but people do like it. We’ll see what happens.”

Do Annabel and Charlie ever perform with him in his solo shows?

“That’s a once in a while thing. Annabel is just sixteen. She’s in high school so I don’t want to interfere with that. I wouldn’t ever ask her. I want my girls to have a normal life. My other daughter just graduated from college. She’s figuring out what she wants to do although she would be ready to work with me at any point. She’s into it. But Annabel – she’s younger and she’s living the life of a teenager. I would not want to interfere. I’ve talked to them about it. If something happened. We had a real good show and the record was getting a little play, they’d be ready to do dates. We’ll see.”

When I asked Negron what was on his career radar for the next one to five years, he shared:

“I’m writing. I’ve got about four songs almost completed for the next album. I’m writing a book of short stories entitled, ‘Rock and Roll: Full Contact Sport’. I’ve got the book coming out this Fall – right around Christmas with eleven new chapters that I wrote that shows a different perspective of some of the issues I handled twenty years ago – from the perspective of twenty-six years later. Stories that show the other side of addiction. In other words, how it changes other people. How broken they become. How sick they become. How angry they become. And, in some instances, how they can be almost as evil as you are because they’re so disappointed and angry. There’s that perspective; a lot of different stories; very revealing stuff. Very, in a sense, topical. It wasn’t when I wrote it, but it is now – about pedophilia. That’s a chapter dedicated to. There’s a lot of fascinating stuff in there that you might not see in a regular biography.

“There’s my blog. I have another short story coming out that you should check out. It’s about Three Dog Night. It’s at A bunch of stuff. It doesn’t stop!”

With so many years in the music business, a new lease on life, and just celebrated his 75th birthday, I asked Chuck how he wanted to be remembered and what he hoped his legacy will be.

“Well, it’s probably too late to be remembered as a nice guy. Ha! Ha!” Then, more seriously added, “Someone who helped a lot of people. Turned his tragedy into someone’s victory.”

As we were wrapping up, some small talk led to us talking about the harassment stories that were making the headlines in the various industries. He shared a remarkable story that he shares in his book.

“You know what? There’s a chapter in my book. There’s these kids that were abused when they adolescents. I met them in their thirties and forties and they came to me because they ended up on a program – on AA. They needed a sponsor and they came to me and out of nowhere they told me they were molested and all this stuff. We’d work and everything and they said, ‘Well, you know the guy.’ And I go, ‘What?’ All of a sudden, they felt empowered because they were getting some help and someone was acknowledging that what happened to them was wrong.

“So, these people are coming forward because they have been relieved of the guilt – not completely – but the blame and they realize that they’re not alone and they feel empowered to say something because they need to not hide any more. That’s why it’s coming out. Unfortunately, they look like opportunists but they’re not! The sad thing is, a lot of them are going to look like schmucks.”

You can keep up with all the latest with Chuck Negron at his website,

Dolly Parton Discusses "I Believe In You"

Posted October 2017


Parton Dolly 001My earliest memories of the legendary Dolly Parton go way back to the mid-sixties while visiting my grandparents in East Tennessee and they would watch the Porter Wagoner Show on television.

I’m sure that I wasn’t the kid in early grade school who became instantly smitten by the attractive and talented country star. For those from East Tennessee (like yours truly), it’s been a joy to watch the East Tennessee native and legendary icon as she rose to dizzying heights in her country career, crossover into the pop genre, then over into movies and then into non-musical ventures like the globally popular Dollywood.

This overwhelming, consistent success has allowed Dolly to give back – not only to her native Sevierville, Tennessee, but to the entire world. Her most notable way of doing this is through the Imagination Library that she founded to help stamp out child illiteracy. She’s funded this through her own donations as well as through the donations of fans from around the world.

Her latest donation is with a little twist that we can all take part in: For the first time in her fifty-year career, Dolly has recorded an entire children’s album entitled, “I Believe In You,” whereby the proceeds will go to the Imagination Library.

It was to promote her new CD that I was asked to participate in a “virtual press conference” with a handful of other entertainment writers and journalists. The focus was to be on the new CD but a few questions on other topics were slipped in by some of those participating.

To those of us who’ve never written a song, the process appears to be a mystery. When asked how she goes about writing a song – especially for “I Believe In You,” Dolly said:

“Well, I have so many ways of doing it. My favorite thing is - if I have the time – is to take a couple of weeks and take off and

just go somewhere and just write songs. But that’s not apt to happen these days as it was in the past. But I can write songs anywhere. I always keep a notepad by my bed at night and a tape recorder. I’ve always got a note pad everywhere. I do my best thinking when I’m traveling. So, I can write anywhere and I never know when a song is going to hit me. I write a little bit of something every day. An idea. A title or a few lines and, if I’m lucky, I can write a few songs per week.”

The song, “Making Fun Ain’t Funny” is a tremendous anti-bullying song. Ms. Parton shared what the inspiration was for such a tune.

“Well, all the bullies in this world which I do not like at all. And, of course, I remember with the Coat of Many Colors being made fun of and made light of as a child and we always had to wear ragged clothes so we often got made fun of and it was never funny to the one that you’re making fun of. But, especially now people are trying to teach children not to be bullies – that it hurts and it don’t feel good and how would you feel if it happened. So, it’s the anti-bullying thing that we’ve been dealing with the few years with the suicide (among) kids and the kids being bullied to the point of committing suicide. It’s just terrible so I thought that needs to be spoken to. It’s for the little kids but it’s also for the grownups, too.”

To me, the most poignant song on the CD is “Chemo Hero,” which is about pediatric cancer. It seemed very personal so, when it was my turn to ask a question, I asked if she could share the story behind it.

“Yes, I can! When you do see the actual CD of the album, inside there’s a picture of two little girls kissing me on the cheek. They’re two of my little nieces. The one on the left is Hannah Dennison. She’s my sister, Rachel’s daughter and when she was four years old, she got leukemia and we almost lost her for years and years.

“When she was sick, I wrote Chemo Hero and Brave Little Soldier for her and about her and, at that time, I took a bunch of my little nieces and nephews and her friends and took them into the recording studio and recorded that and some other children’s songs and fun things for her to have a little tape to listen to while she was recuperating. I just thought that children that go through all of that – sick children - not just necessarily cancer patients but sick children in general (would enjoy the song).

“The Brave Little Soldier was about that, too – children with other diseases. But Chemo Hero - I thought was a perfect title Parton Dolly 002band I’m going to try to make something more of that. At some point, we may try to put that out as a single or, certainly, find all the chemo heroes with some of the children that have overcome the most – even some of the grownups that suffered that and won the battle.”

With all that Ms. Parton does regarding illiteracy, it’s obvious that it is a subject near and dear to her heart. She shared why that is:

“Well, it’s very important. I think all children should be able to read. I actually started the Imagination Library over twenty years ago when my father – I actually did it in honor of my father who was never able to read or write. My dad got to help me with it and he felt very proud for me to be doing that and to involve him in it. He got to live long enough to see it doing well. He got such a kick out of seeing people call me the Book Lady.

“I just think it’s important because if you can learn to read, you can educate yourself about any subject. You don’t have to have money if you can’t afford to go to school. There’s a book on anything you want to know but it’s not going to do you any good if you can’t read. So, that was the main thing: inspired by my dad and just knowing how important it is.”

When asked has her faith in Jesus made a difference in her life and in her work for children, Dolly’s answer was straightforward and unwavering.

“Well, I think that you need to have a great spiritual background. I grew up in a church. My grandpa was a preach and we were taught Jesus loved us and we loved Jesus and in order to do that we needed to love one another, as well. So, I think that my faith has played a part in every single thing that I do. I think that’s one of the reasons The Coat of Many Colors movie did so well. I think people who are Christians – I think it really spoke to them. I just think family based/faith based stuff is really important. Especially this day and time. Any song I write, whether it’s about a child or anybody else, I always pray that God will lead me to say something that will glorify Him and uplift mankind somehow.”

The book and movie, Coat of Many Colors, really resonated with Parton’s fans. One of the standout quotes from the movie is, “you’re only poor if you choose to be.”  Dolly feels that message needs to be embedded in children’s minds. When asked why – and why the movie was such a smash hit, she shared:

“Well, first of all, I think children love to see other children in movies. I think they love to see how other people live. Based on the question I was just asked before what I was talking about, I really think there’s a need for families to pull together more. I think we’re so apt to babysit our children with television or with games and all that.

“So, I really think to just pull the family together; to have more love – that kind of faith based story. I think people are kind of hungry for that this day and time. I know I miss things on television like Little House On The Prairie and The Walton’s and things that were simpler – when life was simpler, not as complicated and not so scary out there. I think the ratings were good because I think people are kind of longing for that.”

Opry City Stage is opening in New York City’s Times Square later this year so Ms. Parton was asked what she thought of New York as a home for country music.

“I think country music is so big any more. It’s worldwide. Use to, back in the old days, it was considered this corny music. But now, as you well know, it’s become, really, a very important thing. And I just think – kinda based on what I was saying about the Coat of Many Colors – I think there’s a simplicity about it. People like something that’s not SO complicated; easier to understand; easy to listen to. It’s ordinary stories about ordinary people. I’m sure that in that particular show it’ll be done in an extraordinary way. But people relate to it. I think families relate to it. It’s day-to-day living. It’s stories about real things.”

In the movie, there’s a great line where you and your mother were going through some tough times that said, “Mama ain’t sewin’ and Dolly ain’t singin’.” Dolly shared about the connection between sewing and singing and especially as creative outlets for her and her mother.

Parton Dolly 003b“I think any creative thing – like you said – we’re all good at something. I think that cooking and sewing and all those things that you do with your hands and with your mind – all those things that touch the senses. It’s like with me, I was always singing and that was a true line, ‘If Dolly ain’t singin’, sumpin’ bad’s wrong!’ And, ‘If Mama ain’t sewin’’ – ‘cause Mama sewed all the time because she loved to sew but she had to sew, also. So, I just think that whole thing of just doing things for one another. Creating things for your family. I just think that music and all those creative things are all part of our makeup.”

About halfway through the call, Dolly shared the story of her first guitar and the instrument that she dreamed of owning when she was growing up.

“Oh, well, music was such a part of our whole family. All of my mama’s people were musical. They all played some sort of a musical instrument. And, of course, I took my music real serious and I was always pluckin’ along on somebody’s instrument – whatever they would be layin’ around or whenever family would come. But I always loved the guitar.

“One of my uncles – actually, two of my uncles – my Uncle Bill Owens, who helped me get in the business (and) I had another Uncle, Lewis, who was also a great guitar player and he had this little Martin guitar that I loved. When he saw how serious I was about my music, he gave me his little Martin guitar. That was my treasure. When I left it home when I left when I was eighteen years old, I put it in the loft because it was beat up and I was going to – when I got money - when I got rich and famous – I was going to have it fixed up. The loft burned out of our house and burned up my little guitar. I only have the neck of that one but I have collected little Martin guitars all through the years. I have some really classic little guitars – especially the Martin’s – the baby Martin.”

The questioning veered back to Ms. Parton’s songwriting and if it differed for I Believe In You differ from other albums.

“It was fun for me because, actually, the biggest part of the songs on this album were inspired by the book that we give away through the Imagination Library. Every time we give out the book, we get a new book, I write a song kinda based loosely on what the idea of that book is about. The very first one, I Believe In You – the very first book that we give out is The Little Engine That Could – that’s the first book we give out through the Imagination Library. I use that line in that – just that positive thinking. I believe in you just like that little engine that we’ve all read about.

“These songs were fun for me because I love children and I have so many nieces and nephews and I practically raised five of my younger brothers and sisters. So, I’m very close to my family. I like to write things for them, too; to have things to entertain my little nieces and nephews when they come to visit and play. So, these were fun songs to write.”

Well into the call, Dolly was asked for the story behind her smash hit, I Will Always Love You, and what did it mean to her years later when Whitney Houston recorded it and made it one of the biggest songs of all time.

“That’s a very good question. That song is so deep-seated in my heart, in my soul. Back years ago – in my early days – I worked with a man named Porter Wagoner. We had one of those relationships that we were so much alike that we couldn’t get along – or we were so different we couldn’t get along. But we had a great love. It was kind of a love/hate relationship. I always wanted to have my own band and I told him at the start that I wanted to go out on my own. But it was very, very hard. He had a number one television show at the time and for me to leave was going to take a big hunk out of his show but I still wanted to get on.

“Anyhow, after much fighting with all of the love and the depth we had for each other, I wrote that song to try to say, ‘Here’s how I feel. I’ll always love you. I have to go but I have to leave.’ It was a very hard song but when I sang it to him, he said, ‘Okay, you can go but let me produce that record.’

“So, it was personal to us. Then, years later, when Whitney did it, I didn’t know she had done it. I had sent it out to L.A. when they had asked for some of my music. Kevin Costner – he and his secretary had loved that song. I sent it out but I hadn’t heard anything about whether or not they did it.

“I was on my way home and I turned the radio on and all of a sudden, I heard that acapella part and it was just like, ‘Woo hoo! What’s that?!’  I knew it was something familiar. Then, by the time it dawned on me what I was hearing when she went into that chorus, I had to stop the car because I almost wrecked. I thought my heart was gonna bust right out of my body. It was the most powerful feeling, I guess, that I’ve ever had. It was such a shock and it was so great and she sang it so good that I was just overwhelmed.”

Ms. Parton then her confidence in entering the country music world and determination in charting her own path in it – especially as a woman.

“I just had this burning love for music. I had burning desire to get out into the bigger world. I was a country girl and there Parton Dolly IBelieveInYouCoverwas some fear there. People always say, ‘Weren’t you afraid?’ We’re all afraid of something but my true line is that my desire to do it was always greater than my fear. I just believed that I had something that might do good. I would always go in, talking to people and say, ‘I think I have something that might make us all some money,’ or try to go at it that way. I never thought about it - whether I was a girl or a boy. I just had a gift and I felt that it was God-given and I felt that I was supposed to be doing something with it. So, I just had that attitude about it and I guess people responded. I had a lot of people help and I didn’t have as many problems as many of the young girls were having at the time, I guess, because I grew up in a house full of brothers and my dad and uncle so I understood men and they didn’t intimidate me.”

Favorite song on the CD?

“I like them all for different reasons. Of course, the Little Coat of Many Colors I’ve done in so many ways so many times and now we have a children’s book, also, so I did do the reading of that. Probably, on the more personal level, the little song, Chemo Hero, because it was about family – and Brave Little Soldier – about children facing a lot of fears and doubts – whether it be about illnesses or going through divorce with their parents. So, that one meant a lot to me. The little song, Making Fun Ain’t Funny, has such a good message for this time. They’re all like my kids. I always say my songs are like my children. I expect them to support me when I’m old. I have some that are prettier than others but I love them all.”

Giving back is, obviously, a huge part of Dolly Parton’s life. She explained why.

“I think that it was that Christian background – about giving. It’s better to give than to receive and all those sayings that we’ve heard through the years. But I really think that when you’re in a position to help, you definitely should help. You get a good feeling when you feel that you’re doing something for somebody else because I’ve been so blessed in my life that I want to give back. Whether you’re paying your tithes or whatever, if God’s been good to you, b good to other people! That’s how we spread the love around. It just makes me feel good to do it and I think it is my duty to do it.”

Fifty years ago, Dolly released her debut project and today, I Believe In You. She was asked the “I Believe In You” Dolly would say to mentor the “Hello, It’s Dolly” artist?

“Ha! Ha! I think I would say, ‘I think she’s in her second childhood!’ I didn’t realize that it was fifty years ago! Then, I was a young girl and now I’m doing a children’s album! I think I’m in my second childhood! Ha! Ha! That just hit me funny when you was sayin’ that!

“Anyway, I’ve learned a lot. In some ways, you learn a lot and in some ways, you’re always stupid. I think I’ve learned a lot about life and, hopefully, I’ve learned a lot about songwriting, too. I’m the same ol’ gal I was back then. Back then, I was just dreaming about being a star. I’ve been so fortunate and lucky I got to do so many things – the movies, do records, and writing songs for movies and do some business things and have Dollywood. But, still, the music is always right there in the heart of it all. But, now, all these years later, for me to even be in a position to have wonderful programs because of my success – things like the Imagination Library where you can give back and do things. It’s a good feeling that I can do that so I just think, ‘Well, I’m just happy it all turned out the way it did!’

When congratulated on Dollywood receiving the Golden Ticket Award, Ms. Parton replied:

“Well, thank you! We’re very proud of Dollywood and all the wonderful things we’ve got to do. Like I say, I’ve been blessed so I’m happy to give back and I really love this little children’s album because I love kids and the money’s going to a real good place to put more books into the hands of more children all over the world!”

Dolly later explained why it is important that she be such a strong advocate for children with Imagination Library and album.

“There’s an old Whitney Houston song – speaking of Whitney Houston who’s been good to me because of I’ll Always Love You – but there’s a song she had called ‘Children Are Our Future’. I loved that song and I think that’s such a true statement. We have to teach the children, like that old song, Teach Your Children Well, and if you can teach them to read – even if they never have the money to further their education – they can find something they can read up on anything they want to know and least learn it.

“But it’s really a handicap if you can’t read. I really think that that’s important because I know how children need to have self-esteem and that gives them confidence if they can do those little things. To put books into the hands of children – that’s the reason why we put their little name on it personally so that they get these books in the mail box with their name on it. They’re gonna wait there for the mail or they’re gonna get home from wherever they’ve been and go to the mail box to see if their little book is there. They have a sense of pride that makes them take some time. It’s important for children to have self-esteem and to know how to read and to feel important, that they can do something.

“I know that my father couldn’t read and write like so many of my relatives because they were poor people – country people – had to work at home. One room schools and bad weather and all that. But, anyway, it just means a lot to me to be able to do something in that area.”

Dolly shared how she keeps herself inspired to make music after all these years.

“Well, you’d think that you’d run out of stuff to write about. The same melodies and the same story lines but there’s always aParton Dolly 001 little twist in everything. You can kinda change it around just enough. Since everything is a rhyme to me and I love melodies, I love to sing or whistle or hum – and so I’m just always doing it so it’s easy for me to write. Whatever I’m writing about at the time – because the day’s new and fresh – there’s always a new and fresh twist to some song even though it’s about just ordinary things. You can make it a little special if you’re the least bit creative – and I try to be!”

It’s been almost 40 years since she recorded, “Here I Come Again,” which was a big turning point in her plan to breakout beyond country and catapult her into superstardom. There was industry uproar and fear of what that meant back then. What did she think about it back in that time and what did she know that everyone else didn’t?

“I just always wanted to do more than to just settle where I was. Even to this day, as I often say, I wake up with new dreams every day. People say, ‘Oh my god! You can’t possibly be thinking of doing something else!’ And I say, ‘Yes, I do! I wake up all the time with new thoughts. I’ve dreamed myself into a corner, in a way, because I have to be responsible for the dreams that I’ve seen come true. But that’s part of it. But it doesn’t stop me dreamin’. Just like back then, forty years ago, I was longing to get out and do stuff on a broader scale; do more world music and travel around the world more; to get into movies; go to California; to get big time management so that I could do more things. That was just my crossover hit and, like you said, I had a lot of flak from the country people saying I was selling out. I said back then, ‘I’m not leaving country. I’ll take that with me wherever I go because that’s just who I am.’ I think I’ve lived up to that and I was so happy that I was right about that. If it had flopped, I’d had egg all over my face, wouldn’t I?”

As the call wrapped up, Ms. Parton was asked if this children’s album connected her to her childhood in any way and, more specifically, any memories she might have had of her mom growing up.

“I have so many memories of my mom and, yes, I always think of my family, my brothers and sisters, and my childhood when I write any of these songs; think of just children in general, and I try to become that little child again the way that I was back then: the little musical child that did want to write and sing. So, it’s easy for me to put myself in that place. But, certainly, my mother – the older I get the more I realize how much she really meant to all of us and what all she instilled in us.

“I’m a lot like my mother and the older I get the more I realize that. I have my momma’s creativity and her spirituality but I have my dad’s work ethic. So, I’m proud to have a good part of them in me. I have so many memories of my dad and my mom and when I write these songs, of course I think of them and my brothers and sisters.”

To follow the latest on Dolly, you can visit or to learn more about her mission to stamp out child illiteracy, visit