Driving back and forth to Los Angeles with his wife Alicia to work on a film, John Schneider couldn’t help noticing all the trucks on the road, truck stops and rest areas, and wanted to honor who he calls the “highway heroes” with Truck On (BFD/Audium Nashville and Maven Entertainment).
“We realized beyond a shadow of a doubt that this country really has held up during hard times on the shoulders of our truck drivers,” says Schneider. A portion of the proceeds of the sale of Truck On will benefit St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund, a nonprofit organization that offering COVID relief and other assistance to over-the-road, regional semi-truck drivers and their families.
“We really would be nothing without our truck drivers during these insane times,” says Schneider. “If you don’t get out on the road, you don’t realize where all this food and toilet paper comes from. They sacrifice an awful lot in order to bring us our stuff and make sure that our shelves are not empty. I thought it was about damn time somebody said, these are truly our highway heroes. They keep moving on.”
Truck On captures the vitality, dependability, and steadfast spirit of the truck driver. Written with more than a dozen of Schneider’s writing colleagues and friends—Keith Burns, Andrew Pope, Anthony Smith, Johnny Gates, Bill Shore, Jacob Lyda, Brian Maher, Keith Allison Mark Lindsay, Cody McCarver, and Kenny O’Dell—who he met or reconnected with during his 2018 Odyssey recordings, each track uncovers a different tale of life on the road, from the heavier country rock of “Truck On,” its video featuring footage from Schneider’s most recent action-comedy Stand On It, inspired by the Burt Reynolds-starred Smokey and The Bandit—with a young Schneider in an early “role” as an extra—and The Dukes of Hazzard, which he starred in from the late ’70s through mid-’80s.
Still in constant motion, Truck On finds Schneider swerving through the more raucous “Roy,” written by Jeffrey Steele and Anthony Smith, and “Born at a Truck Stop” through the more heartfelt “Cowboys Don’t Get Old.” A slower crooned “Drinking Buddy” and “Bottom of the 5th,” and lovelorn “Comin’ To,” move through some sweltering Louisiana-root beats on “Haulin’ Hell and Bayou Bound” and the fiddle-driven “Free Born Man.” Inspired by the road warriors and the Southern rock Schneider grew up on, the uptempo “Stand On It,” co-written with Cody McCarver, segues into Truck On closing ballad “Behind Closed Doors.”
Intentionally sequenced in a cinematic flow, Truck On was conceptualized with a film score in mind. “It’s been a dream of mine and my wife to put our music in our movies” says Schneider. When starting the project, Schneider initially called writers like Pope, who ended up writing “Haulin’ Hell and Bayou Bound,” and Keith Burns, who already had a trucker-themed song in the works, initially singing the chorus of the title track to Schneider over the phone.
“He texted me some words, then I texted him the bridge, and we had a song,” says Schneider of “Truck On.” “He’d been thinking about the chorus before he called me, but from the time I heard it until the time we had it finished writing the song took less than a day.”
Recorded at Benchmark Studios in Nashville, and produced by Schneider’s wife Alicia Allain and Sawyer Brown’s Shane Hill, the entire album was cut live (and socially distanced) in 2020, which was a must for the actor and musician. “We can write through texting, but when it comes time to do the music, I am not a believer in sending somebody a bass or vocal part over files,” says Schneider. “We’ve got some great entertainers, great singers and songwriters that are coming up right now. I wish they’d get out of that sending emails to each other business and go record in their garage. They call it a garage band for a reason. That’s where the real juices flow.”
Schneider, who is currently working on music for his next film Poker Run, a loose take on 1977 comedy Cannonball Run, is refocused on making music with movies in mind. “I always loved very visual songs,” says Schneider. “I’ve been around enough to know the songs are the ones that put you in the spot where the singer is, in the hotel room or in the bar or in the car driving back after taking a long way home, and that hasn’t changed.”
He adds “Having a visual lyric is one thing, but putting pictures to that visual lyric, not just in a music video sense, but in a cinematic sense, becomes something entirely different.”
Turning his dream into reality, Schneider insists this new musical run is long term. “This isn’t an album every couple of years,” he says. “We make movies, and our goal is to put our music in our movies. We’re not interested in inventing something new. We’re interested in bringing back something tried and true with new storylines and new music.”