Big and Rich’s Big Kenny Dishes On Making ‘Xtreme Muzik,’ the ‘Footloose’ Soundtrack and Being a Dad
This year marks the triumphant return of the multi-platinum duo Big and Rich. Their current release, 'Fake I.D.,' is their first new single in over three years to impact country radio. The song is part of the remake of the new movie 'Footloose,' set to hit theaters next month, and it will also be included in the movie's soundtrack, which will become available for purchase in stores on September 27.
Throughout their career, Big and Rich's Big Kenny and John Rich have sold more than five million records worldwide and have scored multiple ACM, AMA, CMA and CMT awards, as well as Grammy nominations. The dynamic duo is currently in the midst of their Xtreme Muzik Tour, also featuring Gretchen Wilson and Cowboy Troy.
Taste of Country recently caught up with Big Kenny on a rare day off in Nashville to talk about their three-year hiatus, their 'Xtreme' return to the spotlight and life at home with two young sons.
This year you and John made so many music fans happy by announcing the return of Big and Rich. During the hiatus, John was doing his own thing with ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and raising his new baby. What was going on in your life?
I think [the break] gave both of us time to work on our families. We’d gone so hard since 2003 -- you just can’t imagine the rocket ship that we were on and that we’re on again right now, honestly. John was getting married, and he started a family in the meantime. In the beginning of 2010, John had Cash. His birthday is January 7 and Cash’s is the 8th. My son Lincoln’s birthday is the 2nd of November, and my birthday is the 1st. Isn’t that nuts [laughs]?
There was a lot of stuff that John was dealing with that I wasn’t necessarily dealing with. He had to take time to do that. I went out and toured my [solo] album, but primarily to go from place to place around the country and help out a lot of my friends that had been asking me to do charitable events for them. I put up a band together, and went out and did my stuff. It was just easier for me to go out and try to cover all this stuff in the time I can.
You also released a solo album during that time, ‘The Quiet Times of a Rock and Roll Farm Boy.’
[John’s] the son of a preacher man; I’m the son of a farmer. You have to do both ends of the spectrum. He released his album ‘Son of a Preacher Man,’ so I put out ‘The Quiet Times of a Rock and Roll Farm Boy.’ I’m actually getting ready to re-release it and put it out on iTunes. All the digital stores are going to put it out.
You released a song from that album, 'Long After I'm Gone,' and did your own music video, which you shot at your family's farm in Virgina. Talk about the inspiration behind the song and video.
That song was inspired by the farm, so I wanted to shoot a video there. I wanted to show where I was born and raised … show my parents and people can kind of see where I came from. I just did it myself, me and my crew guys. It turned out absolutely beautiful. In that video, you will see me a month after I had neck surgery. Those are my parents standing there with me at the place I was raised. It’s over 200 years old. It was built before the Revolutionary War ... it was used as a hospital during the Civil War ... it spawned Big Kenny [laughs]! There’s not a piece of fence that you see in that whole video that me and my brothers hadn’t painted at least a dozen times. There’s miles of it!
Watch the Big Kenny 'Long After I'm Gone' Video
Then you're also gearing up to release another solo album this year ...
In a duo, you can only put out so many songs. I can’t stand to keep writing this beautiful stuff and feel like I’m locking it in a closet and not giving it to my fans. I want to give my music to my fans. That’s what radio does; it gives your music to the fans. There has got to be new ways to give music to your fans. We’ve been involved in some pretty creative stuff at the Last Dollar Studios. I think we’re going to figure out how to give it to our fans. There’s projects going on all the time. I’ve just been making so many songs and experimenting.
It’s funny you mention “experimenting,” because so much of that was the attitude of the Muzik Mafia.
That’s what was so good about the days of the Mafia. We were all just experimenting with music. Then you get into the business and you’re having to narrow yourself down so much to fit into a format so that people can hear your songs. It’s like you’ve got to point an arrow that hits the bulls-eye to get through all the gate keepers to get to the people. At least that’s one way. The way the Mafia came up, it was just grassroots. It was people calling people, and it just blew up on its own. It spawned all these great artists.
You are currently in the midst of the Xtreme Muzik Tour. When did the idea come up that you and John wanted to get back out on the road together?
Last fall, John and I were kind of getting an itch to get back out and tour again. Gretchen came up with this idea, and our manager was all about it. We were sitting there with our agent, and he’s all about it. We didn’t know how we were going to do it because we all had hits at this point … we all had our own bands and everything. It took us a few months to figure it out.
Now we’re probably halfway through 50 tour dates since the end of June, and stuff’s still booking into November and December. I hope everyone gets to come to a show and join the party with us … I hope that we’re "coming to your citay!" I want to play everywhere I can. We’re having so much fun doing it. It really has been an 'Xtreme Muzik' tour. It's been out of this world fun.
How did you guys get involved with the remake of 'Footloose' and have the opportunity to get ‘Fake I.D.’ included?
We were approached by the director for ‘Footloose’ who we had known for quite a while. He knew us from the Muzik Mafia, and we knew him from ‘Hustle and Flow,’ which is an amazing movie that was kind of music driven. I met him, and he said, "Man, I’d really like to do a movie and have it be like the music of what the Mafia is about." The Muzik Mafia is about music without prejudice … without prejudice since 1999! He wanted us to be in this movie. He was like, "Is there any way that y’all and Gretchen would sing a song together?" They’d already heard ['Fake I.D.'] that John had written years ago with John Shanks when they were both out in L.A., and he thought that would fit perfectly in this scene in his new rendition of ‘Footloose.’ He was trying to get us all together. We had three labels involved. That’s not easy to do, but everybody desired to see it through. We finally got it done.
‘Fake I.D.’ is like the lead song on that soundtrack. It’s a cross section of music on [the soundtrack], from the Dirty South to Blake Shelton … all these amazing artists are on it. It’s a real Muzik Mafia kind of soundtrack. It’s definitely “Muzik Without Prejudice.” There are artists from all formats. I can’t wait to go sit in a theater with my family and watch everybody watch that film … we’ll get halfway through it, and we’ll all be singing along to ‘Fake I.D.’!
Talk about life as a father to two beautiful boys.
Dakota was put in my arms in the middle of July [last year], and I knew nothing about him. He was 6-months-old, and he was my new adopted son. We were standing in front of a judge in January [of this year] right here in Nashville, and he was proclaimed there in the courtroom that Dakota was our son as if he was born from our own loins [laughs]. I thought that was an amazing statement. We’ve got Dakota Jefferson Holiday Alphin and Lincoln William Holiday Alphin, so we’ve got a Jefferson and a Lincoln in the family [laughs]! I figured that’s pretty good to have in the family.
Are they pretty musical like their daddy?
Both of my kids love music. Lincoln, the 5-year-old, plays drums and messes around on the guitar. He’s got some really great grooves. He’s been onstage since he was born. I had three days off for him to be born from a tour. For him to see me, he had to come out [on the road] and see me because I was going so hard. I was lucky enough at that time that I was able to have my family with me as much as possible.
Dakota is now a year and a half old. I’ll say, "Hey mister, won’t you sell me a fake …" and he goes, "I.D!" Then I’ll sing, "There’s a band in the bar that I’m dying to,' and he’ll say, "Seeee!" He’s been singing that song from the moment he wakes up. That’s been his lullaby and his dance song since he was born with us on his day of coming into this family. He just loves music.
What kind of qualities or traits are you trying to instill in them this early on in their lives?
I’m trying to teach my kids how to garden. I need to take them up to the farm and teach them about animals and horseback riding and the machinery and chainsaws … all that stuff. They’ve got to learn. You’ve got to spend time with your children. Man, my boys are amazing. They inspire me constantly. They are compassionate and faithful and fun and all that stuff at such a young age. It’s beautiful because I think they’re going to turn out a hell of a lot better than me [laughs]! That’s a good thing! I’m lucky I’m alive right now just from high school [laughs]!
Big and Rich and Gretchen Wilson Xtreme Muzik Tour Dates:
9/22 - Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada | Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre
9/23 - Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada | Interior Savings Centre
9/24 - Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada | EnCana Event Centre
9/25 - Prince George, British Columbia, Canada | CN Centre