Just like the title of his last single, Keith Anderson was somebody who needed a hug earlier this year. He underwent vocal surgery, causing him to park the tour bus and cancel several concerts. The teddy bear of a country singer chatted with The Boot about the surgery and how it helped him heal not only physically, but also spiritually and mentally.

How are you feeling?

I feel better than I've felt in years! It was something I knew I'd have to do, but it was still scary. I had a vocal cord that usually by the end of year, when it had been used and used and used, would give me problems. Once every year or two, I would have an internal bleed, where the vessel busts and it swells up and you can't sing, you can barely talk, and you have to let it rest. So there's a procedure that's considered minor, because they're not cutting the cord. But you know anytime you have surgery, especially if it's on you, it's not minor! [laughs]

How long were you out of commission?

There are three weeks of not talking at all right after surgery. You can't clear your voice, sneeze [or] cough. Then there's a week before surgery and the last two weeks when you're rehabbing. I went to a friend's condo and just hid out. I spent time by myself, and the only time I'd leave was to go to the gym. It healed not just my voice, but I feel better right now physically, spiritually and mentally than I have felt in years. It was something I never imagined that I needed or wanted, but something that definitely got me back to me. Sometimes when you spend time alone you find yourself again.

I went through a lot these last two years, going through my mom's illness with her and then losing her, and some other personal things. It all hit so quick. I started going through so much grief. There was a lot of stuff that went on inside that I needed to deal with, so I was able to do that while I was recuperating. I did a lot of reading the Bible, a lot of getting back to basics.

Your latest single, 'She Could Have Been Mine,' has been popular, but I hear your label is backing off of it and releasing a different song for summer.

I thought that song would have had a lot of reaction to it. You always hear a lot of stories about your songs, but this is the first time I've had some of my artist buddies texting or calling me going, 'Dude, I just heard your song. I've been there, I know exactly what you're talking about.' So that's been the cool thing on this one. It has connected with a lot of listeners and artists, but for some reason it just didn't work out.

Is it disappointing when that happens, especially when it's such a personal song for you?

It is. That story has not been told in that way before. This friend called me one day and told me about an old girlfriend who had a beautiful daughter. I hung up the phone and thought to myself, 'She could have been mine.' That phrase wouldn't leave me, so I got with Chuck Cannon and we wrote it. I don't know if it was just the timing of it -- maybe there were too many ballads out at that time, or maybe it wasn't what radio was expecting from me yet. One of hard things for a new artist is not to get pigeonholed into one thing so you can do the whole spectrum of what you love to do.

You've been praised in several magazines as country's 'most eligible bachelor' or 'sexiest country singer.' Do you think sometimes the looks of an artist overshadow their music?

I'm always happy to be on those lists -- any kind of publicity is good! [laughs] I think what helped me be taken seriously with my music is that I was established as a songwriter before anyone saw me. I had written songs for Garth [Brooks], George Jones, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson; I was already established in the music before I was voted on any of those lists. I feel confident that with the reviews I get on the records, the music is pretty solid. But if people think that about me, then great. It seems like they do more now than in high school, so I'll enjoy it! [laughs]

There aren't as many bachelors anymore -- everybody's getting married, so by default I continue to be a bachelor. So yeah, I'll take the list and let everybody else get married! I think that's part of the world we're living in, being voted to those kinds of lists. In the old days you wonder if some of the greatest voices in country or rock music would have been heard. There's such an emphasis now on looks and image over real music. You hear about a lot of these shows out there now where you go out and see a concert and they're not even singing, they're lip syncing. The show is about the production and the dancing; there's no real art, no real music. It's all about the look. There's a lot of artists in the old days who might not have been the best looking but they had the best voices.

We're constantly hearing about all the charity shows you do. Has community service always been important to you?

The Bible says, 'To whom much is given, much is expected.' I've been blessed a lot to have my songs on the radio and people know who I am. It's always great when I can help someone, like my buddy Jeffrey Steele, who I did a benefit with in March to honor his son Alex, who was killed in an accident last year. I just teamed up with the Tug McGraw Foundation to help fight brain cancer, which is a big topic for me since mom passed from brain cancer. I know I'm going to be a part of the Country Music Marathon walk in April in Nashville. I'm sure they will tell me my schedule, because I've told them whatever they need to let me know! No matter how big you are, or small or medium, you can definitely give back.

The Boot is happy to report that Anderson is indeed feeling well and is back on tour. He will perform at the
Country Thunder Festival in Florence, Arizona on Thursday and at the House of Blues in Las Vegas on Friday. Anderson returns to Nashville to perform on the Grand Ole Opry April 14.