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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 indentify 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!

Part II of our interview with Kenny Rogers:

(CSC) 1. Great to speak with you again! After 57 years of entertaining fans across the globe, you’ve decided to officially retire from show business. As you reflect on your illustrious career, what have been some of the most significant and memorable moments for you?

(Kenny Rogers)

Well, I would think that my mom was a big fan for a lack of better words. She loved to come out. My dad hated to go anywhere and my mom would get on a boat to go somewhere. She just loved to travel. So, I bought her, her own bus and a driver and he used to drive her when she wanted to go from concert to concert. I remember her sitting out there in her little seat and waving at me and that was really important to me. It was great fun to know that she was happy because I had a couple of brothers that worked on the tour at the time and so she got to see a lot of her family; she would be out for a week or ten days at a time.


(CSC) 2. As you prepare to embark on your last world tour, what kind of a theme or elements do you plan to incorporate into the farewell show?

(Kenny Rogers)

It's turning out to be harder than I thought. We’re just in the thought process right now because we’re in the middle of our Christmas tour. But I’m trying to start at the first and maybe do one of the jazz songs with my band; I can’t play bass anymore but maybe we can sing one of the jazz songs and then do a First Edition song and then kind of go through my career chronologically. Now I don’t know if that’s going to work out, but it’s a thought as to how we might approach this.


(CSC) 3. You’ve mentioned having a bucket list for your 11-year-old twin sons…what are some of the goals on that list that you’d like to accomplish?

(Kenny Rogers)

Well, you know I took them to Africa on an African Safari and they had the best time. I talked to their teacher at school and I said, we’re going to have to take them out of school some and she said, “you know that life experience is so much greater than anything they’re gonna learn in this school” and she encouraged it.

So then when we started this Christmas tour, we were in Niagara Falls. So, I brought them up to see the falls. I thought that was an important thing. I’m looking for things that someday they’ll look back and say my dad took me there; that’s all I ask. I’m hoping they’ll learn something in the process.

On my farewell tour, I’m going to go to several other countries and I’m going to take them with me on that as well.


(CSC) 4. In your autobiography you wrote about the fine line between being driven, being selfish and choosing success over your family… do you regret that chapter of your career where your successes got the best of you and your family?

(Kenny Rogers)

You know it's hard to say. I have a great relationship with my two sons and they turned out better than probably if I’d been involved with them (Laughs) so I don’t know. I also don’t know that I would be where I am today if I hadn’t chosen to do that. My older boys are great kids and we have a great relationship. They are both studying filmmaking. Surprisingly enough they live in Los Angeles and they’re good friends and they work together on projects.


(CSC) 5. You’ve had many famous duet partners over the years, notably the late great Dottie West, whom you recorded some of the biggest hits in the history of music with. What do you treasure from the opportunity to know and record with her?

(Kenny Rogers)

I think she was so incredible. I think she was so underestimated by the Country Music Association. That is one of the things that I deal with the most is that she’s not in the Country Music Hall of Fame. I think that to work with her was a great gift for me. She was a great singer and she really put out everything she had in the process of being that.

(CSC) Did you make Dolly jealous when you went off and recorded with Dottie?

(Kenny Rogers) (Laughs) Oh no! I recorded with Dottie first and then Dolly. I think they were good friends. You know you get to know someone so well when you record with them. Then Dottie of course traveled with me on the road for two years, so we got to know her and her family really well once we got out on the road. I just loved her! I think she had a great heart and a great spirit; she was country music at its finest.

It just breaks my heart that she’s not in the Country Music Hall of Fame. If anybody deserves it, she does. It’s like my boys were talking to me, you know I got voted in about three years ago and they said, “Dad, I thought you were in a long time ago” and I said son, let me tell you something; it's not when it's that! It's not when you get in but that you get in! Because hits come and go but the Hall of Fame is forever.  


(CSC) 6. Tell us about the set of photography books, American Beauty (waterfalls/canyon shots) and the other which features shots from your travels around the world; China, Africa, Europe, Switzerland that you plan to release next year!

(Kenny Rogers)

Well, I have about 500 pictures I just went through the other day and one of them was going to be called “American Beauty and All Shots in This Country” and the other is called “Places I’ve Been and Things I’ve Seen.” It's from all over the world in China and Africa, Saudi Arabia; all around the world! One of the things that I think has kept me sane on the road is that I’m kind of an impulsive, obsessive. I impulsively get involved with something, whatever it is and then I obsess with it. I just want to see how good I can get and I learned from the best. I had two teachers, John Sexton who was Ansel Adams’s assistant for three or four years and Yousef Karsh, who is the best portrait photographer that ever lived; he was from Canada. He came down and worked with me and taught me lighting and stuff. So, I think if you have that kind of instruction, you can’t very well not learn, if you want to learn.


(CSC) 7. Where does your passion for photography originate from?

(Kenny Rogers)

You know, it’s somebody you won’t know. When I started out my mentor was a guy named Kirby Stone, of the Kirby Stone Four. He had a little Brownie Hawkeye and he let me use it to go out in his backyard in the fall and it was spectacular! I took a shot and I thought wow that's really something! In school my major was Commercial Art. So, I understand composition and I learned pretty quickly that the difference between a snapshot and a photograph is where you take it from. You know you can just shoot a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge or you can get down on your knees and get down at the bottom and find an interesting angle and more people can enjoy it.

Kirby was kind of a mentor to me and he took me under his wings. He’s the guy that had the line in my book (autobiography), “This is not all wet towels and naked women.” I was terribly disappointed, but what he meant was this is a business and if you don’t treat it like a business, you will never survive. I thought it was all wet towels and naked women!

You know the front of my latest Christmas album cover, I shot that picture, the one with the orange tree. It’s a beautiful photograph and they asked me about using it and I said I just can’t imagine an orange tree being a great Christmas album cover and it really is! It’s beautiful and they did a nice job with it. 


(CSC) 8. Congratulations on releasing your sixth Christmas album and first in 17 years, “Once Again It’s Christmas” … this record features intricate songs that pay homage to the true meaning of Christmas! What did you take from being able to record these special songs in the studio?  

(Kenny Rogers)  

Well, you know I love doing that. The record company taught me a lesson. I had all these wonderful songs and they said people who go to buy Christmas albums, if they don’t recognize the music, they won’t buy it and I had never thought about that. I think I would and I found a group, this young group called Home Free and they are an acapella group and they are unbelievable and so I have a chance to really show them off on this album.


(CSC) 9. Aren’t there other artists on the album like Alison Krauss and who else?

(Kenny Rogers)

Alison Krauss and Jennifer Nettles, a group called The Time Jumpers and their guitar player is Vince Gill. I’ve really been able and lucky to get the people that I want. You know you don’t start with the artist; you start with the song and you say, who could do this song well because you want to make sure that that person is proud of it as well.


(CSC) 10. I remember as a young boy watching you and Dolly’s Christmas special in the late 80’s, have you ever thought of doing something like that again with her or another album? The Christmas album you two did was wonderful!

(Kenny Rogers)

You know, she wrote nine songs on that album. At the time David Foster was producing us and I talked to him about co-producing and I said Dolly do you mind if I co produce? And she said, “Not if you don’t mind if I write some songs” and she went on for about two weeks and she wrote nine songs and they’re all incredible songs; she’s a great songwriter. You know we’ve talked about doing something together and our schedules are so screwed up. I’m about to start Kenny World and she’s got Dollywood so we're gonna be busy, busy, busy!


(CSC) 11. Having been a part of so many people’s Christmas celebration year after year, what kind of significance does this current Christmas tour hold as you perform alongside your friend, Linda Davis?

(Kenny Rogers)

This is my 35th straight Christmas show. First of all, she is a great help. I mean she pulls me through every night; she’s a good girl. I’ve known her for years and years. We've worked together before and I’m so thrilled to have her out this year. I give her a chance to mention Hillary (her daughter from Lady Antebellum) every night, she loves that!


(CSC) 12. When you think about 35 years does anything stick out in your mind when you look back at all those Christmas tours?

(Kenny Rogers)

For me it's all the towns I’ve been in and you know we use to go out with like Garth Brook’s group and The Oak Ridge Boys and different people. We use to play football or basketball; we had some sport that we played with those guys every year when we went out. That’s what made it fun for us. The music made it incidental.


(CSC) 13. In closing, what would you like to say to your fans and our readers who have been with you since the start?!?

(Kenny Rogers)

Just, it's hard for me, I know this sounds crazy, it's hard for me to imagine, why anyone would want to listen to me that much! But I’m very flattered that they care that much and they’ve shown it for that many years and I do appreciate it. I think the greatest respect I can show them is to do this farewell tour and let them know that I’m not coming back; this is going to be it.


Well, you deserve to spend your time with your sons and your wife.

(Kenny Rogers)

I really want to do that. I think that's something, like I said before, I missed with my other kids and it gives me a chance to do things on my bucket list with my boys and my hope is that they look back at it someday and they say, “my dad took me there.”  



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