How did you end up trying out for the show?
Well, actually a friend of mine who’s a songwriter, Rory Feek, told me that I should do it. I told him he was crazy, but he said he really thought I should do it. So, I did, and it was a lot funner than I thought it would be. It was busy, and I didn’t have time to do any other stuff, but it was a fun deal.
What song did you audition with?
I did a song of mine called “Right.” Rory’s idea was for me to go over there and play some of the funny songs I’ve written through the years. I knew I wasn’t gonna out-sing none of those people over there.
How does it feel to be the oldest person on the show?
Ha ha ha! It feels old. I figured I would be the oldest going into it. I know how these shows are and that it’s mostly, you know, twenty to thirty five year olds. Shoot, I’m just proud to still be here!
Who are some of the people you bonded with?
I liked everybody on there! I guess I bonded with Matt Mason. He was kinda my roommate there in the house. I joked with him quite a bit. He’s a pretty good ol’ boy. They’re all good folks. I like that little ol’ gal from Texas, Bri, and I like Danielle, Courtney, and Steven. And of course Matt Dame he’d sung demos for me before. He was on there. Pretty much just everybody. We all got along pretty good.
How about Adrienne Beasley? What do you think of her voice and her music?
I think she’s great. Great singer. Big powerful voice. I heard her singing in the living room for the first time, and thought, “Good gracious. That gal can wail.”
What’s it like sharing a house with these people?
Well, you know twenty or thirty years ago it probably wouldn’t have been no big deal cause I always had roommates, but when you’re fifty years old going into it it’s a little strange. I told ‘em I was gonna have to have some conjugal visits from my wife. They allowed me a couple of them. So, that wasn’t too bad! You get used to doing things the way you wanna do ‘em when you wanna do ‘em. So, when you get up there in lockdown like that it’s a little tricky, but it worked out alright.
Did you ever watch American Idol and other reality shows?
No I never watched much of that. I don’t want a whole lot of TV anyway. My wife and girls watch it all the time, but it never was my thing really. So, I didn’t really know what to expect going on a deal like this, but …
As somebody who’s already been around the block, did you find yourself still learning a lot from the industry people you interacted with?
Well, you always learn new stuff, but most of it I’d already been through one way or another. I learned as much from the other competitors as I did from the people in the industry, you know? Watching them reminded me of when I first moved to town. They had that fire lit up under ‘em, and they was going at it hard.
Tell us about covering Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.”
That was the challenge on the first episode: to take a pop song and make a country song out of it. I wasn’t too tickled about that. I don’t know any pop songs really. So, I looked through the list, and I seen that one and remembered one of my girls or someone saying they’d heard it. They laughed and said, “You oughta do that!” just joking around. I listened to it and I thought, I might could do that! I just turned the lyrics back around to the way they probably ought to have been to start with, if a fella kissed a gal, and just countried it up as much as I could, you know?
Do you think Katy Perry’s gonna dig it?
I doubt it! She sings the fire out of it. I wasn’t trying to beat what she did by any means. I just tried to do what they asked me to do you know?
Why do you think you should be the one to win the competition?
Well, I don’t really. Ha! I’m trying to make a market out there for lighter fun stuff like I used to listen to when I was a kid: Ray Stevens, Roger Miller… I think I did that. I think if I was to win it that’d be great, but I know how these things go. I think they might pick somebody that’s a lot younger and prettier and can sing a lot better than me. I’m kind of a niche-market, myself.
Are you prepared to become a part of pop culture, with everybody writing about you and talking about you?
Ha ha! We’ll see about all that. I don’t really know what pop culture is, but I reckon it’ll take care of itself.
Do you have any underlying strategy as you were going through the show?
No. I decided that once I got on there I’d just try to have fun and try to keep it fun for everybody. I think I did that. I’m not a real competitive kind of person anyways. I just went on and did what I do.
How did you first break into songwriting and music? I heard a story about you trying to find Willie Nelson…
Well I went out to Texas. I had a little trouble with the law down in Georgia. I’d written a few songs, and thought maybe I could get out there and get one of ‘em to Willie and make a little money to get myself out of trouble. But I got thrown out of his place cause I kinda showed up unannounced. You know, just a green kid. Shoot, lookin’ back it was a pretty stupid thing to do, but when you’re young and got dreams you just go after it any way you can think to do it.
And he eventually end up cutting one of your songs years later?
Yeah. He cut one about three years ago, and got to meet him and talk to him. I got to sing on the record with him. It was big fun.
“Ain’t Going Down On Brokeback Mountain?”
Yeah, that’s the one.