Country Icon Has Faith He Can Strike Another Hit: 'I Don't Expect Special Treatment'
This year marks a special anniversary in the life and career of Kenny Rogers. It was in 1981 that he released his very first holiday album, "Christmas." The set became one of the biggest such albums in history, and led the way to him beginning an annual Yuletide tour each year. Thirty years later, the Christmas beat goes on for the singer, who will kick off the 2011 Christmas & Hits tour this Friday in Columbus, OH.
What is it about this time of year that seems to resonate with Rogers? "I think it's a big time for me because it's a big time for everyone else," he says in an interview with Billboard.com. "I think a Christmas audience comes to a show with a different mindset that any other. I think a Christmas audience comes in and they say 'I really want to enjoy this.' Someone coming into a regular show wanting to hear the hits will say 'Make me enjoy this.' I think they're there to be happy."
According to Rogers, the tour is a musical mixture of all things Christmas. "Once we start Christmas, it's Christmas all the time. There's two halves. One is a happy Christmas - which is the first half. The second half is the religious part. Once we get into the religious part, it's religious all the way. So, it's been a great theme for me. At the very end, all the kids and choir are gone. It's just me and the band and I do a song called "Till The Season Comes Around Again," and it says so much about us being so lucky. Look around the table. We're so lucky to have everybody here. Let's pray to God we have them all here next year. It wraps up the whole sentiment of what Christmas is about."
Rogers has been a little bit more expressive about his religious side this year with the release of his Cracker Barrel exclusive album "The Love Of God" -- albeit not without a lot of consideration.
"I don't think it's fair to say to a paying audience that 'These are my beliefs," he states. "I hope you believe them too. I don't want that. I don't want to go to a show and have them tell me what they believe. I want to hear their music. So, I was hesitant about doing that, but Cracker Barrel gave me the chance to do that without feeling bad. Christmas also gives me that opportunity. It says 'This is a Christmas show. If you don't want to hear Christmas music, this is not your deal."
One of his favorite songs of the season definitely has a spiritual feel. When asked about his favorite original Christmas song that he has recorded, his mind went back to his 1996 CD The Gift.
"I did a song a few years ago with Wynonna called 'Mary, Did You Know,' and I think it's such an incredibly well-crafted piece of music. The thought of getting into Mary's mind and ask her 'When you were having a baby, did you realize what this was going to be all about was something that I thought to be really special."
Kenny says that the success of his first Gospel record was not a surprise to him - because of who he was working with. "It had nothing to do with the album or me, but Cracker Barrel has over 600 locations, and nobody knows their audience any better than Cracker Barrel does. Cracker Barrel promotes what they have. You go into Cracker Barrel, and you are going to leave with my album whether you wanted it when you go in or not. They are good salesmen."
2012 looks to be a big year for Rogers, with a new country album in the works. "We've just started a new album. I had a meeting with a lot of the songwriters in Nashville. We told them what we are looking for, and they are trying to find it." Look for a label announcement in the next few weeks, and a single in early spring. Even with being in the business for over fifty years, Rogers is confident he can strike a hit -- given the right song.
"Radio has always been generous to me, but in effect they say 'Do a great record, and we'll play it," he says. "If it's not great, you'll stand in line with everyone else. I think that's fair. I don't expect special treatment. But, if I do a great song, they just might play it."