After an absence of five-and-a-half years from the Hot Country Songs chart, Texas-born Neal McCoy is No. 55 with a bullet this week with his comeback single, "A-OK," produced by and featuring the vocals of one of country's hottest married couples, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, along with veteran Nashville guitarist/producer Brent Rowan. And after stints on major labels, including Atlantic and Warner Bros., and an attempt at his own indie imprint, McCoy is having a blast as the latest artist signed to Blaster, a label born out of an automotive penetrating lubricant.
"I had some moderate success with my own label," says McCoy, who named his indie 903, after the area code for his native Jacksonville, Texas. "But I didn't have the funds to stick around." McCoy's "That's Life" album, released on 903, peaked at No. 8 on Top Country Albums in September 2005. The first single, "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On," went to No. 10.
After 903 shuttered, McCoy didn't rush into finding another musical home. "I wasn't sure if anyone was interested in signing me," he says. "I was laying low for a few years, doing shows." Through his manager, Scott Kernahan at the Rogue Music Group, McCoy was introduced to Tom Porter, chairman and CEO of Blaster Records. "Tom is doing the right things to give me a shot," says McCoy. "He's making some great decisions when to spend money and when not to spend money. That's the secret."
The Blaster company was formed in 1957 by William K. Westley, who invented the lubricant and rust inhibitor called PB B'laster. Westley retired in 1980 and sold the company to Bernard Porter, Tom's father. "I worked in the shop when I was 14 and as soon as I got an automobile I was selling our products out of the back of the car," says Porter, who became chairman of the company in 1998. "My father died in 2006 and I was looking for something to call my own. I always had a passion for entertainment."
Porter inaugurated Blaster Records by signing Brother Trouble, Nashville-based siblings Mark and Jason Sutton. Earlier this year, Porter received a telephone call from McCoy. "We had a 20-minute conversation about being fathers, our marriages and having kids, and the deal was done before we got off the phone."
Team McCoy: Award winning country artist and star of The Voice, Blake Shelton; Tom Porter, Chairman and CEO of Blaster Entertainment; Multi-platinum country singer Miranda Lambert; and Neal McCoy pose in the studio during the recording of Neal's latest hit "A-OK" in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Courtesy of Blaster)
McCoy knew Shelton and Lambert and texted Blake to see if he would be interested in producing his first album for Blaster. "He wrote back a bunch of cuss words but no answer," McCoy laughs. "I wrote him again and he cussed me out again. Finally, I picked up the phone and asked him and he said, 'Are you serious?' and this time he cussed me out over the phone. But he said yeah, he thought he could do it. He called me four weeks later and said Miranda would love to get involved in the project and what did I think about that. Now it was my turn to say, 'Are you serious?' I'm an act that's been around a long time, so to have two of the hottest acts in country music produce my album, it was terrific. When they were young and listening to country music, they were listening to me."
McCoy, who made his Billboard chart debut in 1988 and had a pair of number one singles in 1993-94, didn't know how involved his star producers would be on the project. "I thought they might turn it all over to Brent Rowan." That didn't happen. "Blake played acoustic guitar, he's great," says McCoy. "They said they'd like to sing on a few things. They were the ones who brought 'A-OK' to me. It was a pretty obvious choice for me, even before they decided to sing on it. It has a typical Neal McCoy feel, it's upbeat and a three-minute 'smile.' Putting their voices on it is getting me a little more attention. I thank them all the time and they tell me to shut up. The great thing about Blake and Miranda is they can tell jokes and cut up, until it's time to get down to work."
Blaster will follow McCoy's single with a full-length album, "XII," on Jan. 24, 2012, says Porter. "Neal's going to play a lot of gigs and once he slows down, we'll go to radio with a second single. If it's up to me, it will be 'Every Fire,' with Miranda singing on it."