How and when did you initially get in touch with Equity Music Group?
Our manager Mike Robertson was best friends with Mike Kraski - who at the time was general manager of Sony Nashville. He ended up leaving Sony. Clint Black had always had a dream of having an artist friendly record label. Clint Black said when Mike Kraski left Sony, he knew he found his guy to run the label. Well, our manager being good friends with him, before they even announced Equity as a label - set up a meeting for us. Mike Kraski came up to our managers office and we sang him one song and he stood up with this big infectious smile on his face and said "you guys are perfect for us." Then he explained to us the whole business model of Equity and how different it was. That was kind of the beginning of that.
What do you like most about being on an independent label?
The creative freedom that they give us. We got to go into Clint Black's studio and cut our record. We got to play on the whole thing ourselves. Do our songs that we wrote. This record really is us. So many things come out of Nashville built from the top down and it's all studio pickers, and they're great. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that but we wanted to create a new sound. That's why we wanted to play on our own stuff.
Do you have a favorite song on your new CD? If so, what is it and why is it your favorite song?
I think there's a song on there called "Sweet Virginia Kiss." I grew up in Virginia Beach, close to the ocean. I surfed a lot. I played in a lot of bands down there. I spent a good portion of my childhood there. The past is most certainly inspiration for songwriting to me. That's a special one that's just personal to me.
What is your favorite song that you've written overall and why?
Gosh, favorite song I've ever written. You stumped me.. I've written probably over 500 songs. Gosh, you know, I'd have to say there's a song called "I Still Do" that I wrote with a girlfriend of mine from Cincinnati named Mindy Shaw. I've been with my wife for 16 years now and we're closer than we've ever been. It's a special song to us. So I'd have to say that one - "I Still Do."
Where do you find the ideas and inspirations when writing songs?
I started a rough road fairly early in life. I started drinking a little bit, experimenting with that. I ended up quitting school 10th grade. I just took kind of a winding road to get to a point where the good Lord gave me a chance to change my life and I just really dove into music. Life really gives me inspiration. Plus, I'm surrounded by so many great people. My wife and my kids. It's not hard to find ideas.
How would you describe the whole process of recording your album and what is a typical day in the studio like for you?
Music has so many creative stages. When I write a song - that's a process that kind of pulls me to the edge of my seat. I just really get excited about creating something out of thin air. Then I bring it home to the boys and we work it up, it's almost like writing it again. It takes on a new life. And when we finally decide to go in and cut something in the studio - sometimes you go in with an expectation of what it's going to sound like and sometimes you're pleasantly surprised and sometimes things don't work out. In a lot of ways, it's just an experiment, until you find the sound that you know and all agree - yeah this is the sound we want. There's a couple songs we cut that didn't make the album. We just didn't feel strong enough about those. It's all just a wonderful process how it works.
What goals do you feel you have accomplished so far and what do you still hope to accomplish with your music career?
Wow... well, first of all, we're still together after 7 years. (laughs) We've certainly had occasion to look at each other and say well we've given it our best - let's move on. You know, more than one occasion. We've walked away from other record deals that wanted to turn us into something different. You know, wow... Other goals? - gosh. We get to go out everyday... I thought I was going to be doing hard labor the rest of my life (quit school 10th grade) - so getting to do this for a living. I get to see beautiful places in the country, meet great people, play our music - it's just a dream come true. So that's one goal. It feels really good to have a lot of my songs on this record. Because it feels like I get to share my experiences and my life. And maybe it's some kind of therapy for me.
If you could collaborate with anyone musically, who would it be and why?
There's a couple. Alison Krauss and Union Station to me are the best live band that's ever been. Her melody is just so unpredictable but when they get where they're going, it makes sense. I would love to do something with her sometime. But one of my all-time favorites from when I was a kid is just the Eagles. If we could do something with those guys, that would be amazing.
What do you like about touring? What do you dislike?
I'll just get the dislike out of the way - one word. AIRPORTS. I've had my feel. I'd take a 12 passenger van and a u-haul anyday. What I love most is people. Really, the inspiration for all the songs has to do with people that you've come across throughout your life. It really is a thrill to get to go out and just meet new friends. We've got new friends in every port now. Everywhere we go. I've asked God to increase my circle of influence in my friends and he's done that, beyond belief.
Do you have a favorite song to perform live?
I do. It's a song called - "Let's Get It On." I wrote it after a show in Kansas City. Kansas City was one of the cities that played us more than anyone in the country when our first single came out. We went out there and we were like a Top 5 act so when we came out, the crowd just went wild. It was probably 60-70% young female college age girls. They were screaming so loud I couldn't hear my monitors. The song is just about the thrill of being backstage. You know you're getting ready to go out and you're fired up. Your adrenaline is going - there's just no thrill like that. No rush like that.
What do you like to do on the road in your free time?
We've played hacky sack at just about every airport in the country. (laughs) I now play golf; the other guys are pretty darn good. One is I dare say - a scratch golfer. I stay pretty busy out there. I like to write songs a lot. When I get home, I like to disappear into the woods for awhile and go deer hunting or fishing. As a matter of fact, I'm sitting in my driveway as we speak and I just came out of the woods 'cause it's raining.
While you're on the road, how do you balance your career with your family and friends?
You know, like I said, my wife and I are closer than we've ever been. I think part of the case is... we all have the same goal. Our families - their support is great. But when I come home, I try to guard my time pretty heavily. I don't run in the door and say you should have seen what I saw - this or that. I try to jump back into their world and hear how her weeks been, let the kids show me their homework or help them with it or what have you. That seems to have worked so far.
What is the most difficult part of the music industry in your opinion?
I think the most difficult part of the music industry is knowing that in the scheme of things, a handful of people have control whether the entire country is going to hear your music or not.
What advice would you give to those who plan to get into the music business?
I would say it's an all or nothing thing. I've sacrificed many, many years of my life to chase this dream. I've always said - one thing that has gotten us through is our positive nature. I've always said - the cream always rises to the top. We've been persistent. If you really want to do it, you just have to jump in with both feet and be persistent. Be willing to learn.
Is there anything you would like to say to all your fans and all our readers?
Absolutely. You have no idea how much we love you guys and appreciate you. I love what I do with all my heart and I couldn't do it without them. When I see people sharing the same experiences that I shared through my song and it means something to them - it just makes it all worth it to me. It makes every single airport and every other layover worth it.
Special thanks to Jensen for setting up the interview... and to Rhean for taking the time to talk with us!
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