If nothing else, Neal McCoy definitely qualifies as a survivor in the hectic world that is the music biz. With a list of hits to his credit as "Wink" and "If I Were A Drinkin' Man," the singer has remained a fan favorite -- both on record, as well as his stage show. McCoy returns to the spotlight with "XII," his first new CD in seven years, and he, as the old saying goes, "had a little bit of help from his friends." The album was produced by country super-couple Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, as well as Brent Rowan, and is garnering quite a bit of early talk.
If you're thinking that Mr. and Mrs. Shelton simply put their names on the album without doing the work, McCoy says you would be wrong. The CMA Male and Female Vocalists of the Year were very much hands on during the recording process.
"They were," said McCoy. "They were on board for the entire tracking session." The singer said he was honored that the pair wanted to be a part of his career. "The great thing about Blake and Miranda is they have known of me for a long time. I wouldn't want to put words in their mouths, but I think they would say 'We like Neal. We liked him when he was having hits. We think he belongs on the radio just like he belongs on stage. If we can lend our names to this album, and help him to jump start his career, that's what we want to do.' They're just great kids."
McCoy says he is encouraged by the fact that today's group of hitmakers seem to be close - on and off the stage. "I think this class of kids that are having success right now is a little closer than the group I was in when we were doing well. Maybe I'm saying that because I never lived in Nashville and never could get close to the folks because when I was off, I was back home in Texas. It just seems like these kids help each other. They write together. They tour a lot. I think Blake and Miranda really cared about me. The great thing about Blake and Miranda is that you know how crazy Blake is, and Miranda is to an extent, but she understands that is Blake's deal. They shuck and jive, talk trash, and stuff, but when we were in the studio, they know when to goof off and when to get down to business. As an older guy, you learn that as you go along. It's good to see that the younger ones get and understand that it's a business. We're all here to have fun, but we're here in the studio to make great music, and that's what we're going to do."
And, they have done just that. The initial single, "A-OK," has reacquainted McCoy with radio, and there is plenty more where that came from. One of the highlights of XII is the groovin' feel of "Real Good Feel Good." McCoy feels the song has a 70s groove that others can relate to. "It's got that Southern Rock. I think a lot of people around my age will gravitate toward that. I think it's got that magic to it. I hope it sees the light of day at radio," he said.
McCoy slows down the tempo a bit on the power ballad "Every Fire," where he is joined by Lambert. "Miranda found the song, and sent it to me saying 'I can hear you singing this.' It was three-part harmony on the record. I was singing it, and Miranda was singing harmony. She said we can get whoever sings the third part to sing what I don't sing. I'm not going to sing it to one harmony. I'm just going to sing what sounds good, and we can get whoever to sing around it. So, she goes in and Blake, Brent, and it was so great."
McCoy says hearing the cut was quite an emotional moment. "I started to tear up because here was Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert in the studio, and Miranda was singing harmony on a record of mine. Who has the opportunity to do that?"
Though he has been away from the airwaves for awhile, his concert tours have kept him in front of the fans. Though life on the road isn't quite what it once was, there's nothing like that on-stage feeling. "Being away from home is tougher. I've got a great family, a new grandson…everything is good in my world. The traveling is tough, but that's what I live for. I feed off the audience, and hopefully, they feed off of me. It's a mutual admiration."