Supporting 'the king of country music,' duck hunting and so much more.
So, in case you missed it, my diary during the Keith Urban tour last August and September turned into a weekly column for CMT.com. Apparently, somebody at Billboard thought my ramblings made for good reading; so, here I am again (having just embarked on tour with George Strait) with my thoughts on music, the road and the rest of the world.
Before opening night of the tour, Jan. 12, my band and I hadn't played a show in almost a month. The break was good, but I was MORE than ready to get back on the stage. We opened in Des Moines, Iowa, to a packed house. It's pretty rare I get nervous but I realized as I walked thru the arena to the stage that I was playing in front of the king of country music: GEORGE STRAIT. It wasn't that long ago that I was a fan sitting in the 12th row watching him perform. The crowd was absolutely great and they really have been amazing on all the stops on the tour. By the time we play "Kerosene" the entire building is usually on their feet. That moment alone makes it all worth it... if I see you standing I know I've done my job well.
After Des Moines, we played St. Paul, Minn., and Fargo, N.D. Thank God the people were warm because it was sure cold outside! My band is so bad... there was a hill at the edge of the parking lot and after the show, they sat on the bus and laughed at people falling on their faces trying to climb the hill. I was very much above those activities, so I sat in my room on the bus and ate Cheetos that I keep hidden from Tony (my friend and personal trainer).
After the first weekend with George, we actually had a couple days off, so what did we do? Played more shows.
We did the legendary Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. This was site of the Winter Dance Party, the last show Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper ever played before their tragic plane crash. I don't know if it was because of legend, lore or my rocking band, but this was the most amazing show we've ever had. We packed 2,000 people in there on a Sunday night and they just wouldn't stop screaming! We came back out for an encore and my band and I played "Not Fade Away" by Buddy Holly. It was the last song he ever played on the last stage he ever played on. Finally, we gave them what they came to see... "Kerosene."
The next day we had a great stop (and another sellout) in Columbia, Mo., before rejoining George for amazing shows in Oklahoma City and Little Rock. My mom and a big crew of my Texas friends came out to these two shows and we all had a ball. I went duck hunting on Sunday after the Little Rock show. Now I love to hunt, but you have to be one dedicated soul to sit in freezing cold rain dressed in waders and hunt for ducks. I think I'll stick to something else.
This last week we started off in Albany, N.Y. My plane got delayed in Chicago, so I wound up sitting in an airport with Christian, my production manager. He was flying from Houston and I was flying from Nashville (along with some of George's band and crew) and luckily we ran into each other. It feels really lonely when you travel by yourself, so I was happy to see his smiling face standing in line for an airport hot dog. Christian and I sat in the airport and made fun of people as they walked by. I love watching people, especially when they look funny. I always wonder the story behind them.
Anyway, back to my week. After Albany we were in Philadelphia and it was amazing. There were like 18,000 people there and they stood and screamed and they ROCKED. Waylon Jennings sang a song called "If You See Me Getting Smaller..." and there was a line that went "God Bless Old Philadelphia/They were standing in the rain." It was written about the dedication of the fans in that city and it sure made sense after we played there.
We finished the weekend in Worcester, Mass., but that's where my fun began. I got my first BIG taste of being a rock star: I got to fly on a private jet. George's manager had chartered one to fly back to Nashville and was carrying Tracy Lawrence, one of George's band and a record company guy. Jordan, my tour manager, went with me and it was the most amazing thing. They pull your car right up to the plane and you climb out of the car into the jet. Same thing when you land... the car picks you up at the door. No lines, no frisking or wanding, no baggage check... just get on and go.
After we made it back to Nashville, Jordan and I went to grab a quick bite at the Waffle House with Tracy Lawrence. I must say that Tracy might be the funniest, nicest and most humble guy I've ever been around. He's sold millions of records and headlined stadiums and arenas... he could have easily been stuck up and nobody would have questioned it. Instead, he offered us a ride and a meal and we got to spend a great couple of early morning hours. I look forward to hanging out with Tracy more the rest of the tour.
I did get to hang with George a little. The promoter of the shows took me up on George's bus when we played in Philly. George and his wife were both the sweetest people. We talked about the business and Texas, but mostly we talked about hunting. I dragged my Dad on the bus and of course he told every story possible about me. It's funny how down to earth and normal George is... if you didn't know he was the biggest star in the world you wouldn't figure it out by talking to him. I hope I get to spend more time with him, too.
If you haven't seen a stop on the tour with George, you better get your butt off the couch and come see it. I'll write again next week and let you know how they go. Until then...