Like so many artists, George Strait is finding ways to give back during the COVID-19 pandemic and help those in need.
Through online fundraising platform Omaze, he’s offering an experience that will benefit the James Beard Foundation, which has launched the Open for Good Campaign. The campaign supports the rebuilding of the independent restaurant industry, which has been decimated through the pandemic.
The winner of the experience will meet Strait for a video chat and enjoy their drink of choice with Strait during a virtual happy hour. Strait will also gift and sign a pair of Codigo 1530 boots for the winner and, when it’s safe to travel again, fly the winner and a friend out to attend one of Strait’s concerts–hotel and VIP tickets included.
Strait answered a few questions via email exclusively for Billboard about Omaze, his experience sheltering in place, his recovery from knee replacement and how much he misses his fans.
Billboard: Last week, you moved your two 2020 summer stadium dates to next summer. How are you dealing with not being able to play live and connect with your fans?
George Strait: Not very well. I took almost two years off after the Cowboy Rides Away tour [ended in 2014]. I did that on purpose. I wasn’t ready for this. I was really enjoying playing again at a pace I could handle. To have this horrible thing come up and slap us all right in the face really sucks. I can’t wait to play with my band again in front of thousands of people. I’m addicted to that.
How have you been spending your down time?
I’ve been spending a lot of time, like everyone, at home with family. I had a knee replaced right before the quarantine. I had been planning that for a while. It went very well but I had to rehab on my own due to the obvious conditions. I’m ready to go again now though. All good.
What about the James Beard Foundation’s work appealed to you? Do you have a personal connection to the restaurant industry?
I don’t actually own a restaurant or bar but I have spent some time in both. I think during this time especially we have come to appreciate what they do on a daily basis for us all. We see how the convenience has been taken away to a great extent and how much we really depend on them. We’re all trying to think of ways we can help. So I’m working with Omaze to offer a virtual happy hour with one lucky winner. These guys need our support right now, and I encourage all my fans to give back and enter for their chance to win.
Has this time sheltering at home inspired you to write any new music?
I have not completed anything, but have jotted down a lot of ideas that I think could possibly work into a song at some point. I took one of our live versions of “You Wreck Me” by the late and great Tom Petty and sent it to his channel on Sirius radio to see if they might play it. I’m very proud to say that they are. My band was amazing on that song. I’m a huge Petty fan.
What music do you turn to during this difficult time that puts a smile on your face?
Lately I’ve been checking out my Ace in the Hole channel also on Sirius. They were kind enough to do that for me and I’m thinking of making that a permanent thing. Hearing some of those old songs and stupid interviews I did for some of them definitely make me smile. Laugh actually.
What advice do you have for your fans who are struggling economically or health wise during the pandemic?
I think get out when you can. Try not to make staying in a habit. Talk to your friends often. FaceTime is better. If you see someone struggling, step in and talk to them. Often. Let them know that you are there for them if they need you. This is going to be over at some point and we’re going to be back to the way things were a couple months ago. I really believe that. It will take a little time but we can do it. Keep your chin up. Pray hard.