The AngryCountry Interview - Added: 03/11/04
Big and Rich
By: Christine Bohorfoush - Angry Country.com, Staff Writer
Country Radio Seminar: A Week Of Delight
Angry Country was very fortunate to be invited to attend this years Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, Tennessee. This is an entire week long event dedicated to bringing country radio together with the artists they play. For we at Angry Country it is one of the finest weeks that we have ever spent in Music City... after all, what could be better then an entire week of hob-nobbing with your favorite country music artists? In fact, we interviewed over thirty artists; and over the coming weeks, we plan to bring these interviews to our readers... giving you the latest news on your favorite country music artists.
I would like to begin these interviews by introducing our readers to the HOTTEST new country duo to come along in quite some time... Big and Rich. It is my belief that once you, the radio listener, hear this duo's single debut of Wild West Show, you will immediately agree that this duo is bringing a fresh new sound to country music. Indeed you will hear a mix of rock/ soul/ blues/ and even rap in their music; however, they manage to mix this in and still remain true to country music. It is exciting for me to introduce this pair to you, as I am excited about their music... give it a listen and I think you will agree. Let me warn you, however, that this duo is unique and ahead of their time; but like any new artists who pioneer into new ground, is is often those who are unique and different that become tomorrow's legends (much like that of Elvis, The Beatles or Garth Brooks.)
Big and Rich are a horse of a different color... two guys, thirteen songs. The kind of genre-hopping, fence-busting, gully-whumping statement of purpose that does not burst out of Nashville or New York or Los Angeles, or anywhere else too often these days. It may well be that true rarity in the music business: something new under the sun. "Country music without prejudice," they call it.
The universe of Big and Rich is a rollicking moveable feast inhabited by a cast of indelible characters, starting with Big and Rich themselves. One is a six-foot-three former carpenter with a rep as Nashville's universal minister of love and a backlog of songs ranging from country laments to psychedelic rockers to something called "Disco Ball." The other is shorter, slyer and younger, a Texan with an angelic voice and a wicked gleam in his eye.
Surrounding them is a batch of remarkable sidekicks: the Wild Bunch meets the Rat Pack, you might say. There is Cowboy Troy, the world's only six-foot, five-inch, 250 pound black cowboy rapper, who throws down in three languages and has a degree in economics to boot. There is Limo Larry, once a homeless drug addict and now a local legend who uses his limousine to ferry off-duty strippers and inebriated musicians around Nashville every night. There is Tim the Electrician, a tough little guy with a big mustache and a beer-swigging red macaw named Santana who clings to his owner's shoulder, while Tim practices the sport he has invented... championship chair riding. (Apparently, it is harder than it sounds.) There are songwriters and drifters, millionaires and ne'er-do-wells, punk rockers and bluegrass pickers and young ladies in Catholic schoolgirl outfits. There is the reigning queen of country music, Martina McBride, a fan and a friend, and there is a truckload of unknowns who might well make it big themselves someday.
When John Rich met Big Kenny in 1998, both had been through the record industry wringer. The stories are typical, the details unimportant. John was in a band, he had hits, he went solo, he scrambles for attention and a new deal. Big Kenny, who did not become a full-time musician until he was in his thirties, got a big record deal but saw the ensuing album go nowhere, then fronted a wild outfit called luvjOi.
When they finally did get together, they liked the first song they wrote and loved the second, I Pray For You. They were not ready to record together quite yet, so the song became John's first single in a solo deal he had gotten. His subsequent album was adored by the listeners who heard it but not many people did, because the record label dropped him via e-mail before they actually put the thing out.
A friend tried to drag John to one of Kenny's shows at a Nashville club; John's response, he says, was "Big what? I do not think I want to see anybody named that." But he went anyway whereupon he was whacked in the face by one of the many pieces of bubblegum thrown from the stage into the audience. ("I thought that everybody who came to one of my shows should leave with something," explains Big Kenny, not unreasonably.) Despite the tensions caused by this aerial assault, the two men met after the show and made tentative arrangements to write songs together. then one or the other of them blew off the first three appointments. "As John has said, we were like two old bird dogs sniffing each other out," says Big Kenny.
John and Big Kenny became friends and writing partners, and they kept jamming at each other's shows and clambering onstage with singer-songwriter pals like James Otto and Jon Nicholson. The causal sessions soon turned into a weekly Tuesday night gig at a small Nashville establishment called the Pub of Love. "We wanted to do it on the worst night of the week in the weirdest place in town," says John. "So that if anybody showed up, they would be there because they wanted to hear the music, not because they wanted to schmooze."
The sessions were dubbed the Muzik Mafia, and they grew to involve far more than just John, Big Kenny and their immediate circle of friends. "It was every style of music," says John. "We've had everyone come in from Randy Scruggs to Saliva. We had fiddle players, jugglers, guys blowing fire out of their mouths."
Big and Rich: The Interview
Big Kenny: Why the name ANGRY COUNTRY?
Michael: We want to see better coverage of country music, all of it. All the
artists; the unsigned bands, the ones who are trying to make it...
not just Alan Jackson and Shania and the couple at the top that
everyone talks about.
Big Kenny: Well, ya'll shoulda been interviewing us about ten years ago
Michael: We didn't know you were out there... but I tell you guys, your
eight minute video on the website is the funniest thing I've seen
in a long time, with some great music on it!
Big Kenny: And that's so cool! You know, John and I were gonna go up to
Deadwood again and hang out in our favorite little wild west
gunslinger town. We had another show booked up there and
we were just gonna go up early and take a couple of days and
ride around the west... I had never seen Wyoming or Montana
or any of that. And than Mark, our manger, gets wind of it and
he says "Hey, I wanna go. As a matter of fact, lets take the bus."
Than the label gets wind of that and says, "Oh if ya'll are gonna
go up there, lets send a photographer." Than we get a couple
of our buddies; one is a photographer and one is a videographer
guy. We shot the whole thing... you know, we went horseback
riding in the Grand Tetons, [ area of natural interest, in north-
west Wyoming, in Teton County, about eleven miles south of
the southern boundary of Yellowstone National Park , including
Jackson Hole, a former national monument.]... that was what we
were gonna do. So, we took them along and had to get a couple
of extra horses so they could tote their gear; but ya know? We're
back under Granite Falls in the Tetons... it was way back in the
wilderness and riding in the mountains and just finding a pretty
place to sit down and play our songs.
Michael: Well, it's very cool! You know, a lot of times with a freshly signed
artist, you get that one single and that's all you have to go by...
but you guys really gave us "here we are" content. Being web
based, we loved that.
Christine: Big and Rich, I understand that you met each other six years
ago... how did you meet?
John: (laughing hard) Through a dating service...
Big Kenny: Yeah, I think it was something Date.com; wasn't it?
John: You'll find it at BIG DATE.com...
Big Kenny: I was playing a show here in Nashville and the way John says;
his girlfriend and some of her friends, at that point in time...
John: ...Had quite an infinity for Big Kenny...
Big Kenny: Well, they dragged him out to a show; and he was like "Well, I
don't know if I wanna go see anybody who calls himself Big
Kenny." But any way, he showed up there; and about three
quarters through the show, I always thought that everybody outta
leave with a little something... so I generally brought a bag of
candy or something. That night I had a big bag of bubblegum;
individually wrapped pieces, proceeded to grab handfuls
and sling them out across the room. And in slinging it to the
back of the room, I nailed John right in between the eyes with a
piece of bubblegum. So from that point, John says "Well by
God, I really knew I didn't like him than."
John: But we got introduced after the show, by a mutual friend of ours. She
said "Hey you know, ya'll two oughtta get together some time and
write a song... you both are so different in what you do; God only
knows what would happen, if ya'll ever sat down to write." A couple
of weeks later, we did; we sat down and wrote a song... and it was
pretty good. So, we got together the next day and wrote another song;
and it was really good. From that point forward, we became best
friends and we have written almost three hundred songs since than.
Big Kenny: And been through a lot of hell, too, man. I mean for the longest
time, I had a record deal at the time; and John had record
deals... we've lost record deals... we've just struggled. We
realized that there isn't any sense in gong out there and trying
to knock the walls down; all you have to do is be as great as
you can, sing your songs as great as you can, the walls will fall
down; ya know? One of the greatest things that I have
figured out is that you can either fight the dark or you can be the
light. Well in being the light, that's the one thing the dark can't
stand; so it goes away and everything just becomes as good as
it can be all the time. That's all we want... enjoy life as much as
we can and spread as much love with our country music to as
many people as we can... telling real stories.
Christine: Well of course, being new to country music, our readers are
going to wonder who you are... could you tell them more about
John: I was raised in Amarillo, Texas... which is in the panhandle of Texas
and is flat as a board... windy, farmers, cowboys - real ones! My dad
was somewhere between a Baptist and a Pentecostal Preacher;
played guitar and sang in church. We moved back to Tennessee,
when I was fifteen because my mother's from here. I did not want to
move back here! My goal, at that point, in Texas was to be a
professional team roper... that was my dream. When we moved to
Tennessee, there wasn't much business for team ropers in the hill-
billy hills of Tennessee. But the one cool thing is that I started to see
all this music everywhere. I remember when I was seventeen years old,
the first talent contest that I ever entered was in Nashville. It was Judy
Martin Talent Contest; she had every week at the Broken Spoke, which
is a bar. And I'm seventeen and had to beg the lady to let me in...
she said "Alright, but you have to sit over in the corner and you can only
drink Cokes... you aren't even supposed to be in here, but I'll let you
in here." Well, I entered the contest against Daryl Singletary, Rhett
Akins, Tracy Lawrence, and a guy named Darren Norwood...
Big Kenny: (in awe) All of those guys that night...
John: We're all in that contest, and me, and other people who never made it.
All these guys, man... and I was up against Tracy Lawrence and I'm
seventeen, with my mo-better shirt and standing there singing Billy
Big Kenny: That's crazy! You know, we have played a couple of shows with
Tracy Lawrence in the past month. That's pretty wild...
John: So anyway, I ended up working at a place called Opry Land, back
when that was around, I was eighteen years old. I did Country Music
U.S.A. That led to being in a band that did pretty good... that led to
a solo deal... and the solo deal led to Big and Rich, which is home
plate, as far as I am concerned. This is where we're gonna knock
home runs from... everything I have done, thus far, has led up to me
being ready to do this.
Christine: Well guys, I LOVE your song Wild West Show... the minute that
I heard it, I said 'Mike, we have got to talk to these guys!' I predict,
right now, that as soon as radio listeners hear that song... you will
find yourselves at the top of country music in Nashville.
John: Oh, what a nice thing to say! What gets you about it? What do you
love about it?
Christine: It's totally different... totally unique. Everything that you do has a
sense of humor, it tells a story, and it's country. That is everything
that we ask for here at Angry Country.
Michael: Now see, I prefer your song Kiss My Ass... that's a great song!
Big Kenny: There you go!
Michael: I'm waiting to hear that one live!
John: That song is a true story too. But anyway, Kenny's from Culpepper,
Virginia... if you wanna know where he is from.
Big Kenny: I was raised a corn fed - farm raised country boy... my dad is
a cattle farmer; so I was brought up working on a farm, since
as young as I can remember. He still is a farmer there in
Culpepper, Virginia on a farm that has been in our family since
before the Revolutionary War. I was exposed to music, for the
first time, when I was like two or three years old. My mother was
a choir director for the kid's choir in our church and played
piano... gospel music was the predominate music that I knew, as
a kid. Other than that, it was AM 1490 on your radio dial...that
played just whatever was popular in music. They played George
Jones and than The Beatles, back-to-back. I started a
construction company right out of high school and ran a con-
struction company into my late twenties, while I was farming
also with my father. Got up in a bar one night, on a whim, with
a couple of friends that were sitting in there having a beer. There
was a guy in there playing guitar and singing songs and he
asked if somebody else would get up and sing a song with him.
Well, my friends were like "Kenny will do it!"; so I got up and
sang a song. I went back and sat back down and another guy
came up from the back of the room and taps me on the shoulder
and says "Hey man, you sing pretty good... would you like to be
in a band?" So I was like why not, sure I'll be in a band. I'm in
this band for about a year and the guitar player in that band
says "Hey Kenny, you're pretty good... I hear that they pay you
to write songs in Nashville, you oughtta go check it out." So I
went, why not... so I packed my car up, locked everything up in
my house and came to Nashville to check it out; never went
back! I was so inspired with everything that I saw here. I wrote
songs for about a year; got up early every morning because I
thought that was what you were supposed to do - work. About
a year later, I got a publishing deal... about three years later,
I got my first record deal. About a year after that, I met John... we
start writing together; wrote songs on his solo album; wrote most
of it together... wrote songs on my records. Than we stated
doing the Muzik Mafia; and every chance we got, we'd play
with each other wherever we'd be doing gigs individually and
hanging out. We met Cowboy Troy down in Texas eleven years
ago... introduced him to me about five years ago. And than we
would bring Cowboy Troy up on stage with my band, whenever
we would play... bring John up, we'd all be jamming together
John: Do you all know about Cowboy Troy?
Christine: Isn't he the rapper?
Big Kenny: Yes, Cowboy Troy is the first 250 pound six-foot five-inch
black rapping cowboy, as we know it in the human race
today... and he is on our record, he's on The Ballad Of Big
John: He has been one of my best friends, since 1993.
Big Kenny: I mean, it's like standing next to a building... he is so massive
and he can rap in three different languages and has a
master's degree in economics. He looks like a professional
football player or a professional wrestler. He has these
expressions on his face that are just outter-worldly... it just
takes it galactic. I mean, you get all three of us on stage; it's
just absolutely galactic.
John: Have you heard The Ballad of Big and Rich? It's the first song on
our album Horse Of A Different Color; did you hear the rap?
Christine: Yes, I have listened to it... another great song!
Big Kenny: Yeah, it's where he does country rap; he calls it "Hick Hop."
Christine: (laughing) Hey, I like that.
Big Kenny: Hey, he raps about country stuff; ya know? Dum diggity
dum... diggity diggity dum... dig this! Slicker than the
grease from a barbeque brisket... got more chunk then a
fresh potato salad...
John: Cowboy Troy is something else, man... I cannot wait to see what
the world does, when we unleash that boy on 'em.
Big Kenny: You know to us, it is just entertainment... country music is the
greatest - most inclusive format ever. The largest artists ever;
the largest selling artists have come out of this format... Garth
Brooks, Kenny Rogers, Alabama, Shania, The Dixie Chicks,
Patsy Cline... I mean, people who have sold tens of millions
of records; more so than any other format. You can put them
right up there with the biggest anywhere. We think that this
genre is going to expand even more in country because it has
got to become the most inclusive format of music in
Michael: That is what we think also... because with rock music basically
gone, it's all heavy metal and rap. Everyone who feels displaced
by the drying up of genres, is finding country. I did in the late '80's,
when rock turned to alternative.
John: Well, we hope that we have something to do with driving people back
to turning it on to the country station...
Michael: Absolutely! I mean, you guys have such a variety of sounds to
your songs that there is, at least, one track on your album that
everyone is gonna crank.
John: Good! Thanks man...
Michael: You're welcome.
Christine: You have a very unique and loyal group of friends called the
Muzik Mafia... could you tell our readers more about these
John: The Muzik Mafia was started about three years ago, when
Kenny and myself and a couple of other friends of ours...
Big Kenny: Jon Nicholson and Corey Garmen... Jon is kind of a soul/
rock artist here in town and a buddy of ours; we used to be
roommates together. Corey is a publisher here in town; but
Corey was the tape copy guy at my first publishing
company and that is where I first met him; he was a farm
boy too. Corey left that and was running another publishing
company than that publishing company went out of
business... for about a year, he was just scraping around.
We had actually started up a little thing called the Muzik
Mafia and we were gonna try making it like our own little
publishing group; ya know? And than we were all out hang-
ing out one night in a club at 12th and Porter and we were
just going... you know we've been writing all these songs
all this time, we ought to be playing more together. No
matter what type of music you like, lets just get together
John: The thing was that this group of friends that had formed here were
all different styles of artists... we would never all be able to play at
the same place and at the same time. We all can't play at a
country bar because we aren't all country; and we can't all play at
the rock bar because we aren't all rock. So we decided that we
seemed to find our own place; lets do our own thing and that way we
can all play together. We found this place called the Pub Of Love...
we went down there and started doing it on Tuesday nights from
ten to one. Within about two months, we were running
about two to four hundred people through like a place that only held
seventy-five... it was just nuts. Everybody from Jackie
Stroud to tape copy guys were hanging out and drinking
together and partying... we did it every Tuesday... every
Tuesday... and continued doing it every Tuesday right up til
present day. It now encompasses, I mean... Kenny and I came up
through it, James Otto came up through it, Grethchen Wilson on
Sony Records; she has a song called Redneck Woman that is
coming up this month; she is bad ass. It has people in it like Martina
McBride and Kid Rock.
Big Kenny: We are going to Memphis tomorrow night (Saturday March 6th)
and doing the first Muzik Mafia/Kid Rock After Party. It's going
to be a dozen country artists from Nashville, a dozen rock artists;
we are all getting together on the same stage and make music.
John: Hank, Junior is gonna be there... Brett Michaels from Poison is
gonna be there... I mean it is like the Rat Pack times a thousand!
It crosses like every genre; the thing is with the Muzik Mafia and that
philosophy is that everyone comes in here and makes their music
and no one is competing with anyone. It has meandered its way up
the ranks into the guys running the labels... John Grady, Paul Worley;
these kind of people have adopted that way of thinking. They are
putting their knifes down, when they walk into the room, shaking hands
and having a cocktail and saying "This is the greatest thing that we
have ever seen; can you believe that your artist is doing that? Your
promotion people are talking about my artist... and my artist is talking
about your artist."
Big Kenny: We have had so much support across the board from the music
industry here in Nashville. I mean, other promotion guys at other
labels are out promoting us. It has been so awesome... and I
think a lot of that has just come because all of those people have
been coming to the Mafia the past few years.
They all just came out and loved the music and
hung out... and I think they were as happy as we were
to finally see us get some opportunity to have our
John: Everyone wants to see country music get to the place
of prominence that it deserves to be; everybody does.
And so they are beginning to realize that maybe the
Muzik Mafia guys have something figured out because
they are all doing great... maybe it is because they all
support each other; no one is out cutting anyone's throat...
nobody is talking down about anybody... everybody is
lifting everybody else up. Maybe if we adopted that
philosophy, the whole format might just take off... that is
what they are starting to think and that is going to come
true and it's going to happen soon.
Michael: That's very cool!
Big Kenny: Jesus loved everybody around him... he did not care if it was
a hooker, a whore, a drunkard, a robber, a tax collector... he
did not care what they were, he loved them and he gave them
unconditional love no matter what. And I'm telling ya what, it is
hard as hell to walk in the footsteps of that man; but it's a heck
of a thing to try. And as an artist in music, I mean, music is the
most awesome thing that anybody can do; it's just creation all
the time. If we can, at least, try to support each other I think we
will come a whole lot further doing that then anything else that
we can try to do.
John: And there is Big and Rich... what do think about that?
Christine: We love what you are doing! That's the thing... I hear all kinds
of musical influences in your music. Like with the Wild West
Show, the reason that I love it is because I heard so much soul in
Christine: Because I grew-up listening to Smokey Robinson...
Big Kenny: Oh yeah, Motown, Baby! We have a song going on our next
record called Never Mind Me... that will melt you! I mean, we
tracked it; but we said 'No, we're not gonna put it on this record
yet... we're gonna wait and do this next... so we can keep taking
it places; ya know? And also we had this group of songs and
had so much that we wanted to say in this first record; so we
tried to kinda cover the camut of what we wanted to say on this.
Than the next one, we will cover the camut of what it says.
Country music has got so much soul in it; at least, it has... you
know, the history of country music has a lot of soul in it.
Christine: Well that's the way I felt about Patsy Cline; her music was always
filled with emotion and a great deal of soul.
Big Kenny: (proudly) Another good Virginia girl; ya know?
Christine: That is what I like in any music format, for it to have soul and bring
out an emotion in me.
John: Loretta Lynn said stuff that nobody has said since... I mean, no woman
has acknowledged her flaws and put it in their music. It seems that a
lot of the female artists have gotten - or they are making them do it -
where they want them to be as perfect and brushed and polished as
they can possible be... not say anything offensive because you need
to be beautiful. What is really beautiful is when a girl steps up and
says "I may not be a ten, but the boys say I clean up good!" That's
what Gretchen is saying... her first single says "I ain't never been the
Barbie doll type - I don't drink that sweet champaigne - I'd rather
drink beer all night in a tavern or a honky tonk or a four-wheel drive
tailgate - hell, I've got posters on my wall of Skinard, Kid, and Strait -
some people look down on me, but I don't give a rip - I'll stand bare-
footed in my own front yard with a baby on my hip cause I'm a redneck
woman." Mark my words now that she is going to do what Shania did
but do it in a real bold ass country way; she is going to be the next
reincarnation of Loretta Lynn.
Big Kenny: And this girl can sing... she has the most incrediable set of pipes
on any woman that I have ever heard... total control.
John: She even dips Cherry Skoll... that's country! I cannot wait for you all
to hear; we are so excited for her.
Michael: Actually, someone told me the other day to be watching for
John: It's coming... they're shipping it today to radio.
Big Kenny: Where ya'll from?
Christine: Birmingham, Alabama by way of Boston.
Big Kenny: Didn't we play in a comedy club down there?
Christine: You mean, the Stardome?
Big Kenny: Yeah, that's it... we did an acoustic show in the Stardome; it
Christine: Now see, this is what angers me... we heard nothing about your
playing in Birmingham.
Big Kenny: I would think that the radio stations would like to have ya'll even
in it so you could help promote it.
Michael: Both of our stations are corporate; we have Cox and Clear
Channel... they don't talk to us because we do not much
like corporate radio. We have been pushing XM Radio because
XM will play anything good that comes across their desk.
Christine: You wrote a special song She's A Butterfly for your friend Katie
Darnell, a victim of brain cancer, that Martina McBride recorded
and you sang back-up vocals for... what was the experience like
of working with Martina on this very special project?
John: It's working with the reigning queen of country music...
Big Kenny: She's fabulous... she is beautiful and has the most incredible
incredible voice. She is a perfectionist; by far, a perfectionist.
I mean, she definitely gave us a good working over when we
went in and sang backup vocals on there; and vise versa, she
sang on our record; she sang on Live This Life and did the most
angelic voice that you have ever heard; and we got to give her
a good little working over. She is such a perfectionist... John
had one idea on a third verse in the song; for her to do this little
lick. She goes, "John, I just don't know if I can do that." And he
John: I thought that winning female vocalist of the year meant that you can
sing any damned thing that you want to.
Big Kenny: And she goes, "Well, turn the mike back on."
Christine: We know that you probably need to wrap this interview up; so
I'll get right to our signature question... what is the one thing that
your fans would be most surprised to know about you?
Big Kenny: That John can shoot thunderbolts and lightening out of the ends
of his fingertips and that I can levitate on stage.
Michael: That should make a good show!
John: (as we all laugh) Pretty much... or at least that is our goal.
Big Kenny: That's what we're hoping for; ya know?
Christine: Well, I feel that it has been a real honor to sit down with you...
because I truly feel that when everyone hears Wild West Show,
they are gonna be crazed about it... I know that this is how we
felt about it.
Michael: I know that we have to let you move on; but when will the album
Big Kenny: May 4th it's gonna be in stores; and in April, it will be available on all
the download sites.
Well as they said... "And there's Big and Rich." You will find them to be two of the nicest guys in country music, with a great sense of humor to boot. Like them, I hope that what the Muzik Mafia does indeed bring to country music is a big wide open door to the acceptance of all types of music genre that keeps it country in the process. It is a wonderful thing if Nashville and the industry can realize that getting back to the music is the most important thing here... not the selling of certain songs and artists to country radio or the greasing of a radio disk jockey's hand to get certain artists and their music played. Lets just make it about great music! Here again and as Big and Rich have said "Country music without prejudice!"
NOTE: Angry Country wishes to extend our sincere
thanks to Big and Rich for their time and for
the honor of interviewing with them.
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