Rodney Atkins Courts New Fans With ‘Farmer’s Daughter’
Rodney Atkins has been traveling all over the country lately, from the coast of Alabama to the mountains of Colorado, the deserts of Arizona to the rolling hills of his home state of Tennessee. He says no matter where he goes, it's been great watching the reaction build to his latest hit, 'Farmer's Daughter.' Rodney says he can feel a hit song happening as crowds get bigger and people begin singing along to every word.
Once Rodney has a break in touring, he also knows what to expect at home. He says his wife, Tammy Jo, always has a 'honey do' list waiting for him when he gets back. Rodney doesn't mind, however, because he enjoys turning things away from the music to concentrate on his family -- son Elijah and step-daughters Lindsey and Morgan -- when he is back in Middle Tennessee.
In the midst of pressure-washing his driveway and front porch, and taking Elijah fishing, the singer took time to talk with The Boot about 'Farmer's Daughter,' his new recording project, and some of the things he does for relaxation when he actually has time off to spend with his family.
When you first heard 'Farmer's Daughter,' did you have any idea it would be such a huge hit?
I thought it was both. The first time I heard it, I didn't say a word. We go through thousands of songs before we finish an album. Kelly Lynn (artists-and-repertoire music consultant for Curb Records) played it for me and I nodded my head. Then I hollered at Tammy to come and listen to it. She listened to it, looked at all of us and said, "If I were you, I'd run in the studio and cut that as fast as I could. It's a big hit." We both felt the same way.
And your label loved it so much, they rushed to release it early.
Yeah. We were recording songs all along, but the only one that we let anyone hear was that one. We weren't planning on coming with a single until summer this year, and then when they heard it they wanted to release it right away. We did the video ourselves, and I tricked my wife into being in the video! [Watch the video below.]
So when will we see a new Rodney Atkins album?
The record label decided to put this single out and repackage the 'It's America' album. I don't know why they do that; all that did is confuse me, because that album is a year-and-a-half old. But the good thing is with downloads, people can have access to singles immediately and that's where we've seen the sales on 'Farmer's Daughter.' For people who don't download songs, they tried to make it available on this album. It is gonna be on the new album too, and the goal is to have that out later this fall. We've got about half the album finished, so I've got to get all the songs nailed down. We're ready to go in and finish recording the album.
Are you doing anything differently with the songs you've recorded for the new project than your previous two albums?
'Farmer's Daughter' is different than anything I've recorded. I've never really done that kind of love song before. We've actually got some love songs that we've done that real woman would want to hear. I remember when I was a kid hearing stuff like [Alabama's] 'Close Enough to Perfect,' I thought it was more of a real lyric, more true to life, than one that painted the perfect picture of the moon and stars where everything's perfect. We found a song written by Jim Collins and David Lee Murphy, 'Cabin in the Woods,' which is along the lines of Kenny Rogers' 'She Believes in Me.' So we're doing those kind of lyrics, different but very cool. Then we've got some funny stuff, life songs again but different from 'It's America.' We're trying to make sure that everything stays real and there's a little bit more grit. I've been real honest with myself on a lot of these songs. A lot of times that's really what you relate to. It's fun. I think it will be an incredible album.
Did you write many songs yourself for the new project?
I only wrote a few, and I drove my co-writers completely crazy! I'm a tweaker, I like to keep working on stuff. A couple that I was a writer on, I wrote straight out of my life. 'Growing Up Like That' is one that is very different. I was just sitting in the room telling these guys about the first time I put up a basketball goal. It was when I was ten and my dad basically told me, "Son, you need a goal to keep you busy." So he gave me an old creosote pole out of the barn, sent me out to find a place with no cow patties and get to it. I dribbled that ball 'til the grass was brown and then there was nothing but dirt. That's where I learned to shoot baskets. My co-writer Ben Hayslip commented that you want to give your kids everything you can, things that we didn't have when we were kids, but in doing so the one thing we don't give them is the things that made us who we are. We started talking about those kinds of things, so we wrote a song called 'Ain't Nothing Wrong With Growing Up Like That."
Another tune on the new album, 'Every Time Life Lines,' is about that time in life when someone reached out and grabbed a hold of me when I needed it, or about just calling home on Sunday afternoon. It's about the people that keep you grounded. My goal for this album when I started out was I wanted this stuff to land somewhere between Charlie Daniels and Alan Jackson. If I can land between that, and that's what these two songs are, that's where I want to be. Everything you do is not great, every song you find is not right, but there are some things you fight for. There's another David Lee Murphy song, 'She'd Rather Fight,' which is hilarious. He's one of those guys who will pitch you a song he wrote and he sounds so cool it's hard not to like everything.
Being on the road so much, how do you manage to keep family your number one priority?
It's a busy time of year for what I do, but you just do make time. The days I was home last week, I was there because I looked ahead to see when I could fly home instead of take the bus home, which takes longer. So I came on back, called my dad, grabbed my son and we spent a day fishing on Center Hill Lake. The three of us had not been able to do that in a long time. My wife is unbelievable about seeing those chances for us to be together. They try to come out on the road whenever they can. For Elijah, it's like camping, it's like he's in a camper out there rolling down the road.
Do you have a lot of the typical guy "toys"?
Last year when I was on the road, I bought a used Harley to carry out in a trailer, which freaked everybody around me out that I actually bought myself something. I've got some special guitars that mean a lot to me, like one that BMI gave me when I had my first No. 1, and one from Buck Owens that was given to me at the Crystal Palace; it's red, white and blue. Then there's one that the publishing company gave me for 'Watching You' when it went No. 1. When I go hunting and fishing I've just got regular stuff.
What's a good book you've read recently?
'Joker One,' about soldiers in Iraq. It's just about leadership, focus and being wrapped up in what you are doing and leading. It's a pretty cool book. There's a book called 'The Talent Code,' about how you learn. The best way is to practice, whether it's guitar or baseball. It's about how one little town in Europe is where these great tennis players come from, and why this one teacher producers these incredible violin players. The biggest thing is making mistakes, realizing it, and adjusting for it. I can hear my little boy when he's playing keyboards in his room, and playing it over and over until he gets it right. I could go in the room and say, 'This is how you do it, let me show you,' but that's not the way for him to learn.
Do you ever get song ideas from the books you read?
Yeah, and from watching 'CSI:' or going to a movie. I used to watch 'M*A*S*H' all the time, and now I've seen each episode ten times, and there are great one liners in those shows. I used to get all kinds of ideas from 'M*A*S*H.' Now my wife has me watching 'Modern Family.' The show kills me.
I saw an early photo of you on the Internet and I couldn't believe it was you ... it was more 'GQ' looking than the casual look you have today. Was that an uncomfortable style for you that the record company asked you to do? How did your current style evolve?