Hi Darius, are you excited for Country 2 Country?
Very excited! C2C – I got to play the first and to just see how big it has gotten – I just can’t wait to play it again!
The country landscape has changed a lot in the UK over the last few years. Were you surprised by it’s growth?
I guess surprised. When I played C2C, I was really nervous about whether people would know who I was, or even know any of my songs. But people did and they got up and were singing along and I realised country music was getting somewhere over here. Now I know it is just getting bigger and bigger so I just can’t wait to walk around and see what’s happening and to learn about all the exciting new acts over here.
Have you been keeping a close eye on any British country acts?
I have. He is Irish but Nathan Carter is really good. I am very excited about him. I have heard of a couple of other bands too, I am mad at myself for drawing a blank but I have downloaded a fair few songs.
Would you say that British and American country are the same thing?
I think they work hand in hand, but of course they are a little different. That is a good thing. The one thing I will say is that you can hear all the songs are country as it is such a broad spectrum from trad country to pop country these days. I really think that is a good thing.
You have had a run of #1 albums on the US country chart. Do you feel the pressure to continue that run with you upcoming fifth album?
I’d like that success again. I don’t know if I feel pressure though as I will always be the guy that makes albums. I would love that success again, of course, as that is a sign of longevity and people wanting more records.
What can we expect from the release?
I got a new producer this time, I am working with Ross Copperman, so I am excited about it. It is sounding like something I have never done before. Ross has a lot of energy, so there won’t be a lot of ballads this time. I recorded a song with Charles Kennedy and Luke Bryan, so I am excited for people to hear that. It is going to be a great record.
The song we are doing is one I wanted to cut for years, and Charles called me one day and said he thought we should cut it. When we did it, I thought we needed a third guy. Luke is a good friend and I thought he’d be perfect. He said he’d love to do it, so he just came in and did it.
You just mentioned collaborations. Is there anyone you dream of working with?
I want to sing with Reba, Carrie and I’d love to sing with Garth. You always have that wish list of guys you want to sing with, but it just has to be the right moment.
Do you ever pinch yourself to check the success is real?
All the time! In my mind, my heart and soul I am just still that kid from South Carolina that wanted to sing. I guess that’s why I still live in South Carolina. I was 4 years old when I wanted to sing. It’s now been 25 years since I started getting big in the music industry and I am still here and still wanting to sing. People still play my records. That longevity makes me pinch myself and check it is real!
What would you say is the secret behind your long career?
If I knew that reason I’d be teaching it in my class. I don’t know what it is that let me have two careers. Nobody gets a second act, yet here I am having my second act. It’s amazing. You want to say it’s hard work, but everybody works hard. I just thank God it works.
What ambitions do you have left unachieved?
My next goal, and people think I am joking, but I want to be a regular on EastEnders for a year. I’d love to live in England and be on my favourite show. I keep telling Shane Richie he has to help me out. We’re good mates and he’s a great great guy. He covered one of my songs on his last record and I was blown away. Shane is one of the guys I am really proud to know.
What is it that you love about EastEnders?
I’ve loved it since we started coming over here 25 years ago. They used to show it on the BBC America back in the States but they stopped showing it. It’s the only time in the history of my life that I’ve written a letter to a TV station as I was so angry it wasn’t on. You know when it is on that I will be in my room watching it. I need my fans to start a Twitter campaign to get me on!
You have of course shown your skills across genres, would you say that country is now your home?
Country is my long-term home. When I am done with country, it is time for me to go home and hopefully play with my Grandkids. I am a big Sinatra fan and so maybe one day I will cut one of those style records, but for the long-term country is where I want to stay.