10 Questions with ... Charlie Daniels
September 27, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
During Charlie Daniels 50-year career, he has scored hits on the rock, country, pop and Christian charts and counts his awards from the Country Music Association (CMA), Academy of Country Music (ACM), TNN/Music City News Awards, and the Gospel Music Association (GMA) among his many accolades. Born in Wilmington, NC, he was raised on a musical diet that included Pentecostal gospel, local bluegrass bands, rhythm & blues, and country music from the radio, including Nashville's 650 WSM. In the late '60s as a young studio musician, answering a call from producer Bob Johnston to add his creativity on guitar to three of Bob Dylan's Nashville produced projects ("Nashville Skyline," "Self Portrait," and "New Morning") set Charlie on the first steps of the journey to his own destination as a musical icon. During his 50 plus years of creating his own new definitions of music, he has scored hits on rock, country, pop and Christian charts. Skilled on guitar, fiddle, and mandolin, his contributions to country and southern rock are legendary on the path of platinum that's carried him to virtually every music industry award and accolade presented across multi-genres. In Charlie's 50 plus years of entertaining, he has had a song recorded by Elvis Presley, toured with the Earl Scruggs Review, Leonard Cohen, produced the Youngbloods, played with two former Beatles (Ringo Starr and George Harrison) and that was all before he became known as the "Kingfish of Southern Rock" in the 70s. His signature song, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," topped both country and pop charts, bringing him international acclaim. When he's not on the road, it's hard to get Charlie off his beloved Twin Pines Ranch. He loves fishing, golf, Titans and Vols football, NASCAR and relaxing with his wife of almost 50 years, Hazel. Charlie's longevity as an artist is almost unparalleled. His greatest success? Keeping 25 plus people employed for over 40 years. Earlier this year, Charlie and the boys of CDB returned to one of their old stomping grounds, Billy Bob's Texas, to record a special CD/DVD combo live album. "The Charlie Daniels Band: Live At Billy Bob's Texas" CD and DVD hit stores Friday, October 16th.
1. Heading back to Billy Bob's Texas for the taping of this CD and DVD project had to be special. Can you share a little bit about your history with Billy Bob's Texas and why it was important to do the live show there?
The first time we ever played Billy Bob's, I don't even remember when it was. A long, long time ago. I couldn't even tell you - back in the 1970s some time, I'm sure. We have played there quite a few times over the years. And we were approached - there's a company that's doing a series of these "Live At Billy Bob's Texas" live albums - and we were approached to do one. And, you know, it just seemed like a good thing for us to do! So we went down and cranked it up, and did one.
2. What is it about Billy Bob's Texas that makes it the right atmosphere for a live album?
It's a great place to record. The crowd really comes to have fun. It's just a big ol' Texas Honky Tonk, and everybody's there having a good time! It's just conducive to doing a live album. It was a lot of fun to do it there. We had a great time.
3. Looking down the track listing for "Live At Billy Bob's Texas," we see everything from a great Gospel song in "How Great Thou Art" to your signature hits like "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" and "(What This World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks" to your rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues." With such a vast catalogue across your career, how did you select these fourteen tracks especially for this show and this project?
We just went in and did the songs we're doing in our shows right now. That's what it is; it's just a CDB show. That's our set - well, basically our set - for 2016. There were a couple songs we left off, because we had enough songs without a couple of them. But that's basically what we're playing this year. If you come to see us tomorrow night or tonight, that's what you'd see.
4. When "Live At Billy Bob's Texas" drops in stores and digitally, what do you hope fans take away from listening and watching? What was the overall tone and theme you were hoping to portray to your fans with this project?
We just want it to sound like us, what we do on stage every night, a hundred and something times a year. We just wanted it to be a true representation of the band, and what the band sounds like live - the excitement that the band creates live. I think we did it; I think we managed it on this album.
5. Aside from this show at Billy Bob's Texas, which you taped back in February, you hit over 100 dates in 2014 and have been touring throughout 2015. You also just packed the crowd in one of the best Volunteer Jam's I've ever seen! We have to ask - do you ever plan on slowing down?
I am slowed down! I've slowed down from what I used to do. I used to do a couple hundred dates a year, and I can't handle that anymore. But I can handle a hundred plus. That works real well for me.
6. Speaking of Volunteer Jam, at the show this year, you mentioned bringing it back next year, possibly on a Saturday. What does the future hold for Volunteer Jam, and what is your long-term goal for the event?
It's kind of up to the audience as to how long the interest stays in it. We had not done a Volunteer Jam - a full-fledge Volunteer Jam - in Nashville in a long time. And it was brought up with some of the folks that manage Bridgestone Arena, and we come to find out that the city of Nashville wanted the show back. And there was a lot of interest in it. When I sent the invitations out, the response was just incredible! That was kind of an encouragement to maybe do it again. So we are looking at the possibilities right now of doing it again. I can't definitely say that we will, but I will put it like this - if we do it again, it will probably be on a Saturday night.
7. How did you feel about this year's Volunteer Jam? What was the takeaway after the event from the participants, and how did you get so many stars on one stage?
I think it was a special event. Everybody has to kind of put their ego aside when they come in. We had superstars there that were only able to do one song. And everybody has to understand that. Of course, we got to play longer, because it's our show! But everybody has to understand that we're all in this thing together, and we're doing it for a very good reason - we're doing it for the Journey Home Project. So, everybody just kind of pitches in and understands that they're only going to do one song. It was a wonderful night for us. The community in Nashville, they seem like they're ready for another Jam, and we're ready to give it to them.
8. Volunteer Jam is a charitable concert in support of the Journey Home Project, and as you mentioned, the city of Nashville really wanted that concert back. What do you think it is about this format and this community that make them so willing to give back to others?
The Country music community, I have found to have a great heart, and to be very giving. And, well, I shouldn't just say the Country music community, but the whole community of Nashville. I think Nashville's true colors came out when we had the big flood back in Spring of 2010. People did not stand on the street and wait for somebody to come help. Everybody got out and helped each other! There were people feeding people, taking people - strangers, even - in to their houses. People setting up places so people could be fed. It was such a community effort. I guess because I live in Nashville, maybe I'm not as familiar with some of the other communities, but I don't know too many other communities anywhere that would do it with the depth of care and feeling that the Nashville community did. I was so proud of Nashville, and all of Middle Tennessee, after that thing happened, and we saw what lengths people went to in order to help each other. Even people who were hurt by the flood were out there jumping in and helping other people out. So it's just a great place to live! I tell people that when I leave Tennessee, I want to go to Heaven, and that's not a joke. I want to spend the rest of my life in Tennessee. But getting back to the Country music community, they are always available to whether anybody else shows up or not, they're always available when anyone needs anything. They always show up when someone is in need, especially if it's for the troops. They're always available; they're always there. It's just a big-hearted bunch of folks. And if anybody wants to find out how the money is used, they can just go to the Journey Home website. We try to keep up with what we do and let everybody know how we spend the money that comes in.
9. It seems that you are always working toward giving back to the community. Just within the past year, we've seen you at the Opry for "Country Cares For St. Jude Kids" in addition to the work with Volunteer Jam and Christmas 4 Kids. There are so many organizations that you are helping out each year. What would you say to the artists who have participated in these various events with you, and how would you encourage others to get involved?
That's kind of an individual decision, I think. The main thing I would say to anybody that came to Volunteer Jam this year is just "THANK YOU!" Thank you for giving your time, and giving your talent, and helping us raise $300,000 for some people who will make sure this money is put to a very, very good use. My two main things are children and veterans. I was born, and I remember when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I was raised in a sea coast town where shipping came out to go over to the war effort in Europe and was sunk just off our coast by German U-boats. So the war was very real to us, and I came up knowing and believing, and what I always say is there are only two things that protect the US - the grace of God, and the United States military. So, I feel we owe them a debt. We can't ever pay back our people who have gone over and put their own lives between us and our enemies. I just feel beholden to our veterans and our people who serve. That, and then children - helpless kids that can't take care of themselves - and places that take care of them - abused children, sick children, children with any kind of needs. I am all for.
10. You've always done it your way, Charlie. After this live project, what's next for CDB? Is there more studio music coming? Are more live albums on tap?
I have got more ideas about stuff that I want to do and projects that I want to do. And they go in all kinds of different directions. There's children's things, there's just a lot of different directions that I'd like to go in, but I just don't have time to do them. I will be doing a cowboy album! That's my next thing; the people who did the "Live At Billy Bob's Texas" project want to do a cowboy album with me. And I was thinking about Western-type cowboy stuff, so I'm going to do that. And I'm writing songs. I'm always writing songs! I've always got something going on like that. And there's no telling where I may go from here. As far as having something to do and having ideas and stuff, if I live to be 150, I might quite possibly get through at least half of them! I've always got something going, always got an idea.
You've worked with some of the top musicians across every genre throughout the decades, both as a touted session musician, a songwriter, producer, and collaborator. Throughout the span of the years, who was your favorite artist to work with in any of those capacities? And who of the new breed of Country artists would you still like to collaborate with?
I would have to say Bob Dylan, as far as somebody I have worked with that had a profound effect on my career. Bob Dylan had very direct effect on my career, and on the way I looked at music. Here was a guy that wrote his songs and sang them and performed them with such a freedom, that he just literally changed - he was the original innovator, before the Beatles, and before all the people we usually think of as innovators - and he just made the music world different and opened a lot of doors for people like me who wanted to do that but didn't know how to go about doing it. And it was an eye-opener for me, working with him. Plus, it was just such an honor. I'm just a big Dylan fan. But, as far as the new people are concerned, I don't really know, because I don't really keep up with it that much. I'm sure there's some fine young talent out there. One of the things that I would very much love to see happen is, there are quite a few young folks out there who are doing exactly what a record company is telling them to. They pick the songs, they pick they players, they pick the performance, they pick everything about them. And they don't take in to consideration the talent and the individual contributions that a lot of these young artists could make to their recordings. And then they chew them up and spit them out, and never sample the talent that they have. They head on to the next. I would very much like to see at least some of these guys and gals that write their own songs, that have their own things that they want to do. Look at Taylor Swift! Taylor Swift found a niche, but she was herself. She's not a figment of someone's imagination or the product of some producer's idea about how she ought to sound. She was herself, and that's the point. Let people be themselves. Some artists aren't capable of that. They don't write, and that's fine, and they need someone to direct them like that. But there's some untapped talent out there that is not being looked at, not at all.