Bucky Covington first made his mark as one of "American Idol"'s fifth season contenders and quickly became a hitmaker on the country charts after signing with Lyric Street in 2006. With help from producer Mark Miller of Sawyer Brown, his first album debuted at the top of Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and yielded three hit singles, including the smash, "A Different World." Then the engine stalled out a bit on the North Carolina native's career. The release of his second album was delayed, his record label shut down, and he became entangled for nearly two years trying to end his contract. Through the process, he realized he had a lot to learn about the business end of the music business, so he took the reins and changed his team entirely, becoming much more hands-on in this new stage of his career.

The results were almost immediate -- Bucky landed a new label deal, resculpted his second album, "Good Guys," with some fresh, new music, and recently released a hot new single, "Drinking Side Of Country," featuring buddy Shooter Jennings. The raucous video for the song features the boys along with fellow "Idol" alum Kellie Pickler, and some special guests in some "Dukes Of Hazzard" style highjinx. The clip instantly became a viral smash, receiving nearly one million views in just 24 hours of its debut. The Boot recently sat down with Bucky to chat about being one of the good guys, Shooter's key advice that helped create their hot duet, and why there wasn't much acting going on in that porch scene in the video for "Drinking Side Of Me."

You went through a lot of challenges in getting this second album out. Was there a time when you doubted it would ever happen?

Without a doubt. It was becoming quite the nightmare. The label I was under shut down, but it was under the umbrella of Disney so technically the contract was still there. It took about a year and a half to finish up all the loose ends. And you find yourself caught in this loop where this album is about to come out, and I got to looking at it and it wasn't me -- it was someone's perception of me. You get caught up where management's answering all the questions, and the label's talking to management, and you're out on a bus touring, so you have no idea what's going on in town.

The label shut down and when that happened, the first thing that hit my mind was, now what do I do? I don't like feeling like that at all. So I thought, "Well, we got to learn this business, to find out the publicists and the promoters and who was what and why and how, and so I put all that in line and gave myself a very quick crash course. I got to understanding that, and then fired my management company. Everything was wrapped up together, business and management, and I don't think that's a very good idea at all. So I had to figure all that out. So where I'm sitting now is I'm very hands-on with business management, very hands-on with management and very hands-on with the label. I'm very happy with the new label I'm with. When there's a meeting about me, I'm actually in it now!

How did those changes affect the new music?

Oh, it helped everything. This album was not a great representation of me ... it was someone's idea of me. So we got rid of a bunch of songs and then we got the album we got now, which is absolutely amazing. I am thrilled to death with this album. Every song is a great representation of me, and some songs I wrote and produced. It's got some of my older songs like "A Father's Love" and "I Want My Life Back," that went to radio but have never been available to buy. And we cut the Commodores' "Sail On." I'm a huge fan of remakes! We got Mac McAnally to come in and play on acoustic guitar, and it came out magical, absolutely beautiful. I was weary about putting it on this album because of the timing of Lionel Richie's "Tuskegee" CD, but we recorded this song about three years ago, not long after the first album was released. And the recording came out so beautiful we just had to include it.

Your new single, "Drinking Side of Country," seems tailor made for you and Shooter. How did you initiate this collaboration?

I've been sitting on that song for a little while. As a country music fan I love collaborations, especially when I see a collaboration from left field that works. Like Kid Rock and Hank Jr. is a great example: when you see them together it's like, that's badass, and I would have never thought of putting them together. When I lived in Rockingham and went to the river, I thought all the artists hung out and drank beer together. It's not really the truth, but it's what you think, and I like seeing people get together. About six years ago, me and Shooter met on his birthday in LA. He was doing a show there, and I ended up hanging out with him, and of course I was a fan of his. We hung out and just got absolutely hammered! The guy is just as real as it comes, and has a heart bigger than anybody I've ever met. He was filming a video in Kentucky and I ended up going up there, and I figured I'd take a longshot and said, "I've got this song I want to send you and if you like it, I've got an idea for a duet."

You actually got to produce the song, as well, which was a first for you.

I had really wanted to start producing, but I didn't know how to start that process ... I didn't want to make anybody mad. Making the second record, when I said there are songs that didn't feel like me, a lot of that stuff was happening because I couldn't get my hand in that jar. Now that I'm producing myself, I am the jar, so it has to go through me now. I like being in control.

I called up Shooter one day and said, "I'm open on this day, and you're open on this day, and the studio is open on this day ... The only problem is the producer isn't available." And in true Shooter fashion, he said, "Do you really need someone to tell you what to do?" And I said, "Good call, man! So come on in on that date and I'm gonna produce this thing." He says, "You got it, I'll see you then." And it was awesome! One of the coolest things I've gotten to do in town is produce someone like Shooter Jennings on a song I wrote -- that's a little surreal right there. That beats singing with Stevie Wonder! Stevie Wonder was awesome, but I'm a Shooter fan, I'm a country music fan. I didn't get to produce Stevie Wonder on one of my songs. There's nothing like it! And Shooter's awesome to work with, too. Lord have mercy, just going in there and trying to find the way you're wanting to tell this story, it was awesome.

The video became a viral sensation literally overnight, getting nearly a million hits. Was it as much fun to make as it looks like?

We came up with the idea to do a "Dukes of Hazzard" type video ... why not just swing for the fences? I've got me and Shooter, so if you're doing "Dukes of Hazzard," you've gotta have Daisy Duke, and if you're doing that, you can't have just any pretty female, but the pretty female, which in country music is Kellie. I'm on the tractor thinking about it before we were filming one day, and thought, "We've got beer drinking, we got '72 El Caminos, '68 Camaros, beautiful women all over the place partying ... What are we missing? Dirt bikes, it's missing dirt bikes!" I'm a big motocross fan, so I jumped off my tractor and called the director and said, "Let's call Kenny Bartram, my buddy who's a freestyle motocross rider." Then we reached out to TNA wrestler Mickie James too, and we wrote that section in. And we literally shot the video in one day, starting at 5:30 in the morning. Shooter walks up at 5:30 AM with some Kentucky Ale, this beer brewed in whiskey barrels. I don't necessarily recommend it at 5:30 in the morning, but it's a great beer! Then some folks from Kentucky showed up with some moonshine, so we might as well dabble with that. Then Kellie pops up with Jack Daniels at about two in the afternoon, so we had a wonderful day! The porch scene in that video, there was no acting – everybody was actually hammered! A lot of barbeque was eaten after that shoot, I can tell you that!

Watch the 'Drinkin' Side of Country' Video

You were an "Idol" contestant – does that still follow you everywhere, and what do you think about the show these days, with all of its changes?

It was an amateur talent show, especially when I was on it. Coming off that show, you've definitely got a lot to learn. I'm glad I did everything in the order I did, because I needed to learn how to be an artist first. Now I'm producing and writing, and my guitar work is so much better. A lot of things have come into play, and I'm glad I did all that, but show business is two words, and business is the longer part of that word. So we had to get in and learn the business of it. But when you look back at some of the stuff you got to do on that show, like for instance sit beside Stevie Wonder while he plays "Superstition" and I get to sing it ... the odds of that happening again are like zero! Things get so fast on that show, you can easily get caught up in it. But the good outweighs the bad by far. Everything that show's done for me, it puts a name with a face and a sound. People hear my song on the radio and immediately can see my face, and that's a wonderful thing to be able to have. But the double-edged part of it would be because you're on a major TV show as an amateur, people form an opinion of you, so years later when you grow it can be tough to reformulate that opinion. But I'm very glad I did it. And very proud of everything I did. I think the show has lost some of its juice, but people are still very interested in it and the producers are very good about keeping things stirred up. But I will say, looking for the perfect judge, I do believe Simon Cowell has beat 'em to the punch. Britney Spears is perfect -- she would've been the new Paula Abdul!

Some of the proceeds from your new album are going to help firefighters in America. Tell us about why you chose that cause and why fans should donate.

It's an organization called "Help The Good Guys." We raise awareness and immediate financial relief for firefighters and their families who've been injured in the line of duty. These are definitely the people who, when everyone else is running out of that building, they're running in, so these are the guys we need to help. That's why we're putting the album out on 9/11. I know for a fact anytime you think of September 11, you think of firefighters. Because the heroes that day were firefighters right here in our own country! So releasing this album on September 11, called "Good Guys," for Help the Good Guys, will bring a lot of awareness and hopefully a lot of finances for their program. A portion of the first week proceeds go to Help the Good Guys, and if you want to go to helpthegoodguys.com to get the album, you'll get two bonus tracks called "Ole Kentuck" and "Evel Knievel" – these songs were picked by the firefighters. So you get two bonus songs and you get to help these guys in the process.

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