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Kenny Rogers Interview

(CSC) 1. Please tell us about your latest release “The Love of God,” your first ever inspirational record. Why did you wait all these years to create such a wonderful album?

(Kenny Rogers)

I have been asked to do this for about 20 years. I have this thing about preaching religion to a paid audience, I don't know why. Plus I never felt there was a market for it but it has been something I have felt very strong about. I had this opportunity with Cracker Barrel. They said, "We will take a chance on this if you want to do it." We did it and it was tremendously successful. I think primarily because Cracker Barrel knows their audience and it's not a single download audience, it’s a group of people who buy physical albums. It was great fun doing it.

One of the guys in my band, Warren Hartman, I asked him to produce it. He brought in Kyle Lehning, who had worked with me on some other things. Kyle produces Randy Travis and several other people. He has a good feel for the commercial market. They did a phenomenal job. We would go in and cut the track, then I would leave and they would fill in the holes, adding vocal parts and such. They did a great job making that record come to life.


(CSC) 2. Having a very personal connection to each song on the album, what was your mindset like in the studio during the process of creating this record?

(Kenny Rogers) 

There is something different about it. This is not a religious album, it's an inspirational album. So when you sing it, it is inspirational as well. Plus they are songs I have known all of my life, so I have a different comfort level than doing ten songs that I'm learning as I go. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed the fact we went to groups like The Whites, who are so pure in what they do. We kept their purity with the songs. I personally have received more comments from this single album than any other album I have ever done. The concept of this album has been so widely received.


(CSC) 3. You’re currently working on your autobiography; what has been the most challenging part about gathering all the details from your life and career and putting them into writing?

(Kenny Rogers) 

The thing I've learned is that I am 73 years old and a lot of crap happened in 73 years. (Laughs) What we did is kind of a chronology of where I was as a kid. I was working with a woman named Patsi Bale Cox; she was the premiere autobiography writer in Nashville. Bless her heart, she had stage four lung cancer and she passed away last November. Her theory was, "If they like you as a kid, they will love you as a man."

We really focused on what happened to me as a child; how I became who I am. My mom had a saying that I think was so true. She made us go to church three times a week. I finally one day said, "Why?" She said, "Because son, you can never be anything more as an adult than what is put into you as a child." I think it really speaks volumes. She insisted that we have a good foundation. I think that has helped all my brothers and sisters and certainly me.

The book will probably be released in the fall of 2012. Right now the problem is I just realized I should put a disclaimer in the front that says, "If I forgot anybody or any event, I am so sorry, but a lot has happened to me." (Laughs) I am trying desperately to get the people who deserve to be mentioned, mentioned. But I get off on these little tangents where I start talking about playing tennis or I talk about my photography, then I talk about certain musical projects that don't necessarily include other people and then I have to go back and say, "Wait a minute, there were other people that were important to me at the time.”

Originally, it started out that I was going to have 5 or 6 three hour sessions where I sat down with Patsi and told her my life, and then she would put it in book form. That is generally the way it is done. I realized, as beautiful of a job as she did, she didn't speak in my voice. There is a way that everybody refers to their mom whether they say, "Mom, mother, my mom, or call her by name." She didn't do it the way I would do it and I felt uncomfortable so I started rewriting these moments. I found out I really enjoyed it. I hate typing and I don't like writing, and unfortunately you can't do one without the other.


(CSC) 4. You’ve had many famous duet partners through the years, but one in particular, Dolly Parton, seems to have played a very special role your life. What fascinates you most about her?

(Kenny Rogers)

The fact that she is so consistent; I have never met anybody like her. I have never seen her when she wasn't totally made up to the nines. She never overdresses, she is always Dolly. There is a process when you go in to record an album with her where everybody does a scratch vocal. That is so the band knows what you are going to do. Then you go back and clean it up. Her scratch vocals are as good as her finished vocals; I have never seen anything like it. Either she over-prepares or she just has this talent. It is very impressive as a singer to see someone who comes in and sings in tune and does all the licks she wants to do and does it well the first time around. 

(CSC) Are you looking forward to her new movie, “Joyful Noise” with Queen Latifah?!?

(Kenny Rogers)

Yeah, I think she is so refreshing in anything that she does. She picks those parts well that wrap around her personality. The older you get and the longer you have been in this business the more you look for unique ways to say the same thing. She is really great at finding those moments to do special things that touch and inspire people.


(CSC) 5. So many people would love to see the both of you tour together again, would you ever consider the idea or has it been discussed as a possibility?

(Kenny Rogers)

I would do it in a heartbeat. I think in her heart she would like to do it. The question is, is it the right thing to do? I don't know. We are both at our best when we screw up. There is a fine line between spontaneous and sloppy and you have to know where that line is. I think both of us know that line. I think we worked together for so long that people started to identify us. The part I am starting to write in my book is, “Where's Dolly?” That is the most often asked question. They think we hang out together, and we don't. I see her once or twice a year. It's funny how people associate you with somebody and that's hard to get away from. We both have really great careers that have spanned, in my case 50 years, and hers close to that.


(CSC) 6. What do you attribute to the fact that you have been privileged to successfully record and perform various genres of music throughout your storied career?

(Kenny Rogers)

I started out in jazz. I played the upright bass and sang jazz for ten years – from the time I was 19 until I was 28 years old. I learned a lot about the music in the 30's and 40's but my heart has always been in country music. That is what my mom listened to and my dad played as a kid. I think I am a country singer with a lot of other musical influences. Which allowed me to do songs through the years like, “She Believes In Me” and “You Decorated My Life,” where with other singers that wasn't their preference. It wasn't necessarily my preference, but it was an ability I had, and I could relate to that music. You either have to do what everyone else is doing or do it better than them or you have to be different enough to stand on your own. That is what I chose to do – to try to do something different, but intersperse it from time to time with songs like “Coward of The County,” “Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town,” “The Gambler,” and “Lucille,” which really are country songs.


(CSC) 7. Looking back on your musical legacy, besides your family, which professional accomplishment are you proud of most and why?

(Kenny Rogers)

I have either the most or second most People's Choice Awards. Those awards are so wonderful at the time, but when you look back at them somebody will replace you inevitably, that is how it goes. I have also been able to sing a variety of music and sing in a variety of places. I have also worked with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. If you are asking for a single accomplishment, I remember when I was 28 years old I did the Ed Sullivan Show with the First Edition. I remember we walked out on that stage and starting singing, and I remembered thinking, "WOW, this is where all the big stars were when I watched television." I really felt like I had done something with my life when I did that show.


(CSC) 8. What motivates you to continue such a hectic touring schedule and what is your daily regimen like when you’re on the road? 

(Kenny Rogers)

I work about 7 or 8 days a month, which is easy to do. It's mostly weekends. My hardest part of the year comes in November and December when I have my Christmas show. I will do 26 Christmas shows in about a 30 day period. That is harder to do, but it is like everything else, you adjust to it. Because it is Christmas music and I get a chance to do something different, it is fun! This year we did 26 shows, a majority of them in the Northeast, and didn't have one flake of snow, which made it much easier. With Christmas music there are certain songs you need to do. You have to do “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night,” and then you have to weave them into the show. We also made use of Billy Dean, the kids and the choirs; I thought it was really great.

(CSC) Thank you for incorporating the true meaning of the season and saying “Merry Christmas” at your shows. That is a wonderful thing that you are doing!

(Kenny Rogers)

Doesn't it just drive you crazy when somebody corrects you from saying, "Merry Christmas" to saying, "Happy Holidays?" I know if you work for somebody you are bonded by their rules, but I think we need to bring attention to saying Merry Christmas. During my shows I say, "Say Merry Christmas to somebody on the way out of here." We just can't lose that!!


(CSC) 9. Moving forward, what would you like to share with your fans that have been with you from the beginning?

(Kenny Rogers)

I'm happy. I have 7-year-old twin boys, so if everybody can say a little prayer for me that would be great. (Laughs) You get to re-live your life through your kids. I'm not sure if they have musical talent. I know they love to sing. They love to dance. They get on stage and they start doing all this stuff I guarantee my body has never done. It is fun to watch them. It is easy to get them on stage and hard to get them off. I think that is a good sign.

We try to bring out the twins for rehearsals and then they stay for the first show. Last year they went to the first show in Columbus, Ohio. They are always trying to get out there, they love it. They say having kids at my age either makes you or breaks you. Right now I am leaning heavily towards break. (Laughs) It is a joy. My life is good, and I can't ask for anything more.

I am also doing a new deal with Warner Brothers Records. We are going to do an album with them. The whole idea is to have another hit record, and I am looking forward to it!


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