Billy Dean to Mark 50th Birthday With New Tourist Venture
"Dean Acres is the place to be ..." Billy Dean smiles as he sings his own version of the theme song to the classic TV show, 'Green Acres.' The singer has good reason to smile. He'll celebrate his birthday this weekend at his home, Dean Acres, with 300 friends and family members.
"My wife Stephanie and I have started hosting some farm-to-table dinners and music events out on our farm," Billy tells The Boot. "On March 31, we're having a special one because we're celebrating me turning the big 5-0. It's gonna be fun."
The 50th birthday celebration will feature a concert under the stars at the Dean home, about 60 miles east of Nashville. Joining Billy for his celebration will be Ty Herndon, Rhonda Vincent and other special guest musicians.
"We've been doing this as a family for a little while now," Billy says. "My kids started bringing some of their friends from school and the whole house becomes very musical. We usually have to put on a big meal for everyone. It got me to thinking about how I would like to record an album in front of a small group of people in a similar setting as these family events. We had three events last year just to see how they would go. The celebration for my birthday will be a three-day event with different options for people who want to come."
Billy and Stephanie have planned the entire event with the help of their friend and longtime chef, Willie, and Billy's property manager, Sheldon. The couple will host 300 people at their farm this weekend. They offered 50 three-day passes, which include all the weekend activities plus a house concert on Friday, March 30. Separate tickets for the Saturday night concert and Sunday morning brunch were also sold.
"I have no idea what I'm doing, but I think it's going to be great," Billy says enthusiastically. He goes on to explain that one of the goals for the new venture is to provide new jobs in the area where they live and push Tennessee products.
"We are getting our country ham from the Smoke House in Monteagle, which is the best place to get bacon for our brunch. Willie may not have gone to culinary school, but she can sure cook! She grew up Amish and she has found the local farmers in our area who are growing organic food and organic produce. She's gathering that, and we are trying to promote our local area around Center Hill Lake.
"Our goal is to increase the employment in our little area where we live," continues the singer-songwriter. "It's kind of been depressed for a while. I've been up there 20 years on Center Hill Lake, and this is a way for us to help our area grow. We've lived up here kind of as recluses for years, and now we decided to come out of our shell and promote and hire and grow our business, Dean Acres."
At the moment, there is not a place for people to stay overnight on Dean Acres but Billy assures that there are cabins and hotel rooms within three miles of his farm. "We are going to have on-property stays very soon," he promises. "We have a little cabin called the Sugar Shack which is winterized right now. We will make that available this fall. We also have an old farm house out here, but it needs a little TLC before we have people stay in it.
"We are moving toward two types of events out here. Eventually we'll have weddings, because a lot of my music fits that. And we'll also have a big party barn and corporate events. Right now, it's live from our living room and live from our corral.
Billy goes on to explain that his property is right between Nashville and the Smoky Mountains. So, he hopes to capture traffic between the two. "When people come to Nashville they are hoping to see a star," he muses, "Well, you can just come on out to my house!"
The country crooner says the initial idea for the new business came when they held a special event for his daughter Hannah's birthday. "We moved out all our living room furniture and moved in the grand piano and she played for us," Billy recalls. "I hung lights and everything looked really cool. I began thinking I'd like to record an album in that environment. I don't think I can go back in the studio and record like I did in the past, in a sterile environment where you are not performing for anyone and you are cut and pasting your music to death. I'd like to get back into what I think is the heart of recording and performing, which is recording in front of a live audience. Music is a two-way conversation and I need to adjust as I see people react to what I'm doing.
"I like performing in small intimate environments because I can see people's faces and get a feel for how they are reacting," he continues. "I started thinking that I could just do that kind of thing here at my house. This is what we do for friends and family anyway, so we might as well turn it into a business."
Billy plans to record a live album of his hits during the March 31 event. "We'll see how that goes. I don't want it to be too perfect, more like what happened at that moment in time. It's the art form I like, up-close and authentic. Plus I perform differently at my farm than I do any place else."
The singer's barn burned in early January and he has not had time to have it rebuilt. Surprisingly, Billy says that disaster may have been a blessing in disguise.
"It was a pretty elaborate barn, and we had just renovated the living quarters in the second story area, which was where we were going to have some on-property stays. That's gone now," he explains. "But it might end up a blessing, because I think we can rebuild it to be more functional for what we will be doing in the future. Now that we have space available, we've been planning just what do we want to put back there. We know we want to put something where we can hold events and entertain people. We would like to rebuild it to be a party barn or a western-type saloon.
"It's just beautiful out here. We had a consultant come in and he said, 'What you are really selling here is authentic and real experiences, which is something people can't get anywhere else. We have 100 acres with trails, so when people come here, they have access to the lake, canoeing, boating, music and food."
Billy is also excited to announce that he plans to have all of his albums available on CD again very soon. "You can't find them anywhere except on eBay," he explains. "We will energize that whole catalog so that people who don't do downloads can get a copy."
For more information on future events at Dean Acres, go to www.deanacres.com.