Big Kenny Takes a Big Step Out on His Own
On any given weekday, there are at least a dozen people at Big Kenny's sprawling Nashville estate. That's because the home he shares with wife Cristiev and son Lincoln is also what he calls the "University of Creativity" -- home to his new record label, GLOTOWN/Love Everybody, LLC.
We were invited on "campus" to meet the charming country star/music mogul/humanitarian and his lovely family, and to hear new music from his upcoming solo album, 'The Quiet Times of a Rock and Roll Farm Boy,' due Nov. 10. It's a project Big Kenny can't wait to introduce to fans -- not just Big & Rich or country fans -- but fans around this great big world that he's working tirelessly to make a better place.
In this candid chat with Big Kenny, we talk about his new business venture, his passion for philanthropy and that pesky rumor that Big & Rich is history.
Given Big & Rich's success, do you feel a lot of pressure to be just as successful as a solo artist?
No, I don't feel pressure. I feel desire. That's how I see it. I'm performing these songs that reach to masses of people. I've never been performing, singing or writing better in my life. I continually strive to enhance the quality of my music year after year. But I've never been in a place where I've felt better or more comfortable than I feel right now. With Big & Rich, we've done that ... and now I'm going to go and have as much joy as I can getting my work and my life's love to come together.
Your solo venture, along with John Rich's, have obviously caused a lot of people to speculate that Big & Rich is breaking up. Set the record straight for us.
Yeah, that's like Brooks and Dunn are gonna break up! [laughs] I'm like George Washington -- I'm going to tell you the truth. You see it out there, everybody sees it out there! I don't think I have to say a lot about it. As soon as John's ready and I'm ready, why wouldn't we continue to make music? Maybe we'll even bring a couple other dudes in and form something better than the Eagles. I know some performers out there who are so incredible. There are just so many ways it can be done. John and I did a body of work. We could perform that body of work for the rest of our lives. But I'm going to need a year or so, at least ... We're getting ready to put out new music, and I'm going to keep it pumping. I'm going to deal with my life's passions and he needs to go deal with whatever it is he wants to deal with. And when our life's passions meet up, maybe we'll meet up. But ain't like nobody quit or gave up ... It's like wine. Just because you've got wine in your cellar, doesn't mean it's time to drink it! It might be better if you wait a little while. Go drink some of your better moonshine right now.
But in the midst of getting ready to put this solo album out, you're still on tour with Big & Rich!
You know, maybe I'll tour with Big & Rich a couple months and then go tour doing my own thing.There are no rules anymore. People think if one thing is successful, that means everybody should repeat it and keep at it. But you keep doing that, and it's just not fun anymore. I prefer to continue to expand myself creatively and be true to myself, following what brings me joy and what's good for my family. I try to follow a healthy, fun, vivacious environment.
Well that environment sounds like the University of Creativity -- the work place that you've set up at your home.
We want it to be inspiring. We want it to be a comfortable place where people can get to know each other and be creative.
Are you scouting new artists to sign to the label?
The only two artists right now are just myself and Damien Horne. But a lot of the guys who play in my band were in my band luvjOi (the band Big Kenny was in pre-Big & Rich), and we're talking about a reunion show. That's been our dream to come back and play together. We had so much fun back in the day, and we've continued to play and make a living together. So to come back as a unit like that, ten years later, it's going to be a different energy than you've ever seen on stage. Big Kenny and luvjOi -- we're actually sitting on albums right now that we've been making.
Your upcoming solo album is called 'The Quiet Times of a Rock and Roll Farmboy.' I'm a little thrown by the 'quiet' part! What's the story behind the title?
I think it's actually very descriptive of me. My life doesn't get much quieter than what that album is. I thought it was a great juxtaposition. I really am quiet.
What goals did you set for this first solo record?
I want to entertain myself, first and foremost. If I'm not entertained, that's a disservice to my fans. I'm a son of a b----- of a big critic! [laughs] I'm hard on myself. So, I spent a lot of brain power on this. I had to prove to myself that I made music that would move me. When you write 200 - 250 songs a year, you've got to do something with them! [laughs] So we had fun putting this together, and we even made several different versions of it. Man, I wish we could just put the album out today! My fans are demanding new music, they're hungry!
Would you say your music has changed now that you're on your own label instead of a major label?
I'm finally at a point in my career where I don't have to ask for permission. I've set up a business model where we all make decisions together, we all listen to each other, create together. If we have an idea today, we'll start it tomorrow! There's no getting stuck in a process where people go back and forth and on and on about something for months.
What's the story behind the first single, 'Long After I'm Gone'?
It was something I wanted to say to let people know who Big Kenny is. I'd never really been able to give a personal description of me, where I am in my life and where I came from. That song allowed me to do that. It's a reminder about the good stuff we can do in our lives, what we stand for and the love that we have, with friends and family -- the love that lingers on. It reminds us to do stuff for our children, to make them better and leave the world better for them. And melodically, it just feels good to me. I love to sing it. It's got that '70s rock and roll thing, a little Doobie Brothers feel.
This album really does have a rock and bluesy feel to it. Are you hoping for any crossover success?
Hell no! I'm a country artist. If I can just blow up in this format, I'll be the happiest guy in the world. I can't stop other people if they want to play it, and that's fine. And I do want to play this music all around the world. My big game plan is to take my American country music all over the world. I want everybody to know it! I want people to get to know our country better, and I want to make friends out there.
We know how your son, Lincoln, has changed your life, but how has he changed your career?
I probably work even harder now. I feel another sense of responsibility now. I've got a career -- it's not going anywhere -- but what can I do with it? He drives me to work harder, work smarter. But now when I wake up exhausted from that, I'll go, 'Wow, I'm a lucky son of a b----!' But really, when I see other children, I automatically think of my son. I'd do anything to take care of him, so why shouldn't we take care of them all over the world? We worked hard to get a school built in a refugee camp outside of a war zone in the middle of Sudan. To experience that ... what we saw three years ago delivering survival kits -- just basic stuff they needed to live ... But now when I go over there, I see about 550 girls, ages 1 - 8, going to school in concrete buildings. It's inspiring, and that is what music is about -- inspiration.