'Dukes of Hazzard' Actor John Schneider Talks About His Country Music Career
Much like how Richard Thomas’s acting career is highlighted by his five seasons playing John-Boy Walton on The Waltons, John Schneider knows that when his final career and life story is written, somewhere in the first line will be the mention of Bo Duke, the character he played from 1979 to 1985 on the CBS primetime staple The Dukes Of Hazzard. But there are other facets to the New York native’s career that also have been successful -- including his recording career.
Between 1981 and 1987, Schneider tallied 17 entries onto the Country Songs chart, including four No. 1s. Many of those recordings were made at Nashville’s Sound Stage Studios, where Schneider found himself once again last week, working on new music. Though it’s been three decades since he first recorded here, he says there’s a talent among the musicians in Music City that is mind-boggling.
“Nobody, I don't think, would believe that that kind of music can be played with really no rehearsal," he offers of the city's recording process. "It's instinctive. They know each other so well where they play at such a level, that it's almost like there's this thing where they don't play on top of each other, they know when to play. They know when not to play. They play together like they've been rehearsing licks for days, that they've never heard before, and they'll never play again. It's crazy."
The recording sessions in Nashville are part of a plan for Schneider to release one song per week during 2018. He says that he hopes to have a hand in the creative process from a writing standpoint. “I love songwriters. I love words. I love the way that these guys put words together, girls put words together. So, I'll have more to do with the ones coming up. Unless something just comes in and says, 'Record me.'”
Something like “I’ve Been Around Enough To Know,” a No. 1 Schneider hit from 1984 from the pen of Bob McDill and Dickey Lee? He laughs and admits those songs are rare, but they do come along. “Well, we had one the other day," he says. "We had 22 songs, and Bobby Tomberlin and Bill Anderson played a song, called ‘Wherever She Is.’ We couldn't not cut it.”
But, the plan involves more than just a simple download. Fans can purchase an up-close-and-personal look at the making of each of the songs. “We have a Vimeo channel, we have a means by which people can buy our content," he says. "Without going through a distributor. So, we are our own distributor. We're applying that model here. We will have content for all 52 songs, while combining that with our ability to film things. We're filming every session we do, and building an internet show episode, webisode, around every song, that will be available to stream, download, rent, on our distribution site, which is called Cineflix. If people want to come in here and see what we're doing, they're going to have to spend the $4.99 to watch the show."
He says that he understands the mentality of fans used to pirating online content, but hopes to change some viewpoints. “You know, they don't think ‘I'm stealing this,’" he says. "But, if you go into a store, and take a candy bar off the shelf, bring it out to the parking lot, and share it with your friends, it's not sharing, it's stealing, unless you paid for it. It's stealing."
And the revenue that Schneider will earn due to the mechanical royalties will not be his alone -- he’s going to be sharing it with the musicians. “I don't believe that the artist is the singer," he says. "I think in most cases, the singer is oftentimes the least involved in the birth and the production of a song anyway. They come in, they sing a song. They're another instrument. So, what we're doing, is we're taking the artist royalty part of the pie, and we're cutting that up, and calling everyone who's in there today, everyone who plays on these, artists."
In addition to the music he will be releasing, Schneider is also planning Extravaganza, a music festival to be held on his farm in Louisiana in April of next year. “We have three stages, one in the barn, one right outside of the barn, and then one in a field," he explains. "We'll have Kix Brooks there, and we're talking with some other artists, as well. We got ‘Spoon Lady' from YouTube. We're going to have a singer-songwriter guitar pull in the barn. It will have many Dukes of Hazzard elements in it, because I'm there. So we're going to have a car show, all different kinds of cars, and then a special area that's for the General Lee enthusiasts, there's a lot of those out there. And people spend a lot of time, and money, and effort, making those cars beautiful."
All the attention to his music was sparked by the attention given to his Ruffled Skirts CD release from earlier this year. The album -- his first in over 20 years -- was inspired by the devastating flooding that he and his family endured in 2016. “We were flooded twice last year, lost everything," he says. "I'd say we lost 90 percent of everything in March, and then we repaired. We recovered, and repaired, and then in August, the water was four and a half feet higher than it was in March. So everything we repaired was destroyed again, and everything that March missed, was destroyed. So, we just got back into our 1910-built house two weeks ago.
"That experience did, in many ways, wash my guitar back into my hands," he continues. "I loved it. And I had fun. But in my mind, it was something that I had done, and it was like, okay, I'm 57 years old now, and that's behind me. Then, all of a sudden, we did Ruffled Skirts, and now this.”