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John Rich ‘Running on Adrenaline’ After ‘Apprentice’ Win

Neilson Barnard, Getty Images

John Rich is enjoying his reign as the new ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’ He was crowned with the title by Donald Trump Sunday night (May 22), and the most important item he wanted to achieve over the course of the show — raising more than $1 million dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — was accomplished. In fact, the country star raised more than his goal amount, with hopes of pulling in even more donations through the download of the song, ‘For the Kids,’ which he and the show’s runner-up, Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, performed during the live finale. In addition, one of his big-ticket contributors, Dollar General, has even stocked their store shelves with the six-song CD of the same title, with proceeds going to the hospital.

Not having time for any shuteye following the show, the country singer-songwriter-producer started making the media rounds following his win, appearing on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live‘ Sunday night; the ‘Today‘ show and ‘Live With Regis & Kelly‘ Monday (May 23), as well as an appearance later this week on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show‘ Thursday (May 26).

Following his appearance on ‘Regis & Kelly,’ John called The Boot to chat about his feelings about winning ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and what it means for his charity, his competitor Marlee Matlin, who he feels should be the next country competitor on the show and how he celebrated his win.

You didn’t go to sleep at all, did you?

Absolutely not! [laughs] I’m on a marathon run! Running on adrenaline. What an incredible night. Nashville was in the house last night. Of course, Trace Adkins was there. Dave Ramsey was there, [U.S. Representative] Marsha Blackburn [and] Larry Gatlin. Some really cool friends of mine and great Tennesseans to support me, [and] Two-Foot Fred, of course. It made a difference to know they were out there in the audience. You could feel it. When I put that black Stetson on the desk in front of Trump, and he put it on his head and looked into the camera … that was a huge a touchdown for country music because it’s Donald Trump! He doesn’t even listen to country music, as far as I know. He did that because he respects the fan base of country music, and he respects the work I did on the show. I thought that was an awesome gesture.

What were your feelings right before your name was announced?

You’re up against Marlee Matlin. Here is someone who is an Academy Award winner, who is deaf, and who has overcome her deafness. She has become a success in the world. She is a mother of four and raised a million bucks. How in the world do you beat this person? There is no way to beat her other than to make your case, and I truly felt that my body of work, what I was calling it the whole season, was superior to hers. I felt she flew under the radar a lot, and I never did. I went for the throat every single time. At the end of the day, that was what Donald was looking for. I also raised a million bucks! That last $250,000 that came in was from Dollar General. They wanted to do it earlier, but we couldn’t get all the ducks lined up. So, the finale task wasn’t a fundraising task, but as far as I as concerned, every task was a fundraising task. That’s the reason you’re there. I think Marlee was a little taken back that I kept raising money, but I kept raising money because nobody told me I couldn’t.

She could have raised more money, but she said, “Nobody told me.”

Nobody told me, either [laughs]. You don’t leave $300,000 out there on the table when you can reel that in for St. Jude. That’s a lot of chemo.

What does it mean to you to be able to present more than $1,000,000 to St. Jude, an organization that has meant so much to so many people?

I have a 15-month-old son, and when you go to St. Jude, you see other people’s 15-month-old son and daughters in there with cancer. The thought of my son having something like that is the most horrifying thought I could possibly conjure up. St. Jude is not only treating the uninsurable, they’re also researching ways to knock down these new forms of cancer. This one girl I met, I said, “What are you in here fighting?” She said, “They don’t have a name for the kind of cancer I got.” I said, “What are they treating you with?” She said, “They don’t have a name for that, either. It’s just a serial number.” There’s your answer for St. Jude. These people go after cancer like mercenaries. We have to fund them. We have to give them our money. As I told Trump last night, he said, “Do you have anything else to say?” I said, “Yes sir! I want that check!” I looked at him and said, “I want that money.” He gave it to me.

What is your next task as the ‘Celebrity Apprentice?

All of St. Jude, all the folks that run it were there last night. Come to find out that Eric Trump (son of Donald Trump) is on the board of St. Jude. We’re immediately going to talk about an annual event that I can put on and make a goal of a $1 million a year. Hopefully, that’ll continue a long time. I have a song called ‘For the Kids,’ [and] 100% of the song goes to St. Jude. I performed it last night, and they said go to iTunes to download. I haven’t seen the numbers, but I would have to think a lot of people went to download the song. Stuff like that to keep the ball rolling. (Download ‘For the Kids’ here.)

You told us last week the performance was going to be a powerful moment, and it was, especially with the New York School for the Deaf in the background signing, as well.

It’s one thing to say we’re fighting for our charities, but to actually stand on stage, shoulder-to-shoulder, with St. Jude kids in the house and deaf kids in the house and a country song tying it all together, how do you beat that moment? That was the pinnacle moment for me.

So, how did you celebrate last night?

I had me some 7-up Retro with a little Crown Royal mixed in there. We were keeping it real with 7-Up Retro and Crown Royal, of course. We celebrated big! I shook hands for four hours, took pictures for four or five hours and just sat there with Trump and the other cast members, and said, “Wow! What a trek that was!” What a journey from selling pizzas on the street corner with Gary Busey to now. It feels like 10 years to me. It’s a lot to experience. It’s something I will always carry with me. It really was an incredible experience.

You have mentioned you think Dierks Bentley would be terrific as the next country contestant, and he has been watching you advance every Sunday night for the past several weeks. Why do you think he would do well on ‘Celebrity Apprentice?’

He’d be great at it, because he’s an understated kind of guy, but has a fire and passion for charity! He is a gifted songwriter and musician, and he is a country boy that doesn’t wear a cowboy hat. I’d like to see that, too. I’d like to see a country music artist out there that would represent another side of country music. I’d like to see a big country music singer consider going on the show because of all the money you can raise. I’d like to see Martina McBride on there or someone like that. Hopefully, after everyone saw how powerful it could be for your charity, maybe people like that will step up.

Download ‘For the Kids’ | Buy the ‘For the Kids’ EP

Neilson Barnard, Getty Images

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