Tim Rushlow has a busy week. The country musician is one of several names booked by the Trump Inaugural Committee to perform at the high-profile Lincoln Memorial concert for the President-elect’s celebration. Not only is he playing the kickoff event with his bandmates in The Frontmen of Country on Thursday, he’ll also be performing with his big band setup at the Freedom Ball, one of the select galas that Trump and the incoming First Lady Melania Trump may attend.
The singer spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the multiple gigs and candidly appraised performing at this highly politicized inauguration. (This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)
When did the Trump Inaugural Committee reach out to you to perform at the concert, and was the offer something you immediately accepted?
It came to me a couple weeks ago. It wasn’t something that I waited on. I’m one of those people that really, I love my country and — good, bad and indifferent — I just think we have a wonderful nation to be in. If I get asked to go perform on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, which I did eight times now, including this last spring, or I get asked to play a forward operating base in Afghanistan or I get asked by a president-elect to be part of an inaugural process, I always just say “Yes” to those because it’s intended to honor our democratic process. And our country is created and is based on that. That’s just kinda how I see it.
What type of response have you gotten since the official list of performers was announced Friday morning?
You know, it’s been awesome. I got to be honest with you, I’d say it’s about 80 percent positive and I’ve got about 15 percent probably that… what I love is that even my friends that obviously are not for that are like, “Dude I’m disappointed, but I love you.” And that’s OK.
That’s just part of life, we all have choices and we all have opinions. I don’t have an issue with that at all. I’m not one of those guys that’s picking up a stone and hurling it at anybody. I’d rather just love everybody well. Last time I checked, that’s what we were all commanded to do, was just love everybody well — it’s not about a race or sexual persuasion or anything else, Democrat, Republican, liberal, whatever. We’re all Americans, so at some point we all have to be like, “OK, it’s time to move on,” just look for great things for our country to happen and I think it can happen.
Like I said, what’s the line, “Haters are gonna hate.” I haven’t had a whole lot of that. There’s a few of them. I just don’t really respond. Why sit here and have a debate over that. From the bottom of my heart, trying to do this with all the great intent, as an American, and this is not about who thinks this way or believes that way. We’re all free to do that, but I guess what level you take it to is up to the individual.
Jennifer Holliday, a headliner at the Trump concert, canceled her appearance after criticism from her fans. What do you think about that?
Well, I respect her. I think she’s a marvelous artist. A great talent, a great singer and a beautiful and classy woman. I completely respect her for her opinion and in no way do I think bad of her for pulling out. That’s totally her right to do that and I respect her for her decision and I wish her nothing but the best, she’s got a wonderful career and she’s way deep in the fabric of the music world and the theater world in this country and I’m a fan. I’ll always be a fan.
Do you think accepting an invitation to perform at this inauguration is a political statement?
I’ll be really honest on this: I think the only political statement I’m making is that I love my country enough to look past — whether I voted for Trump or I didn’t vote for Trump, whether I voted for Hillary or didn’t vote for Hillary, whether I’m hot on one topic or hot on the other — to just say, look, “I just want to support my country.”
I’ve made that very clear for the last 15 years in all my tours overseas playing for the troops. Anytime I’m asked to do anything that involves my country or my government, if I’m in town and I can do it, I always say “Absolutely, I’d be honored.”
I’ve played many an event in D.C. I played the National Democratic Convention with Little Texas in D.C. for Clinton and Gore. So I’ve played lots of events, not just something for Republicans.
I have a lot of friends that think differently than me. But most of them say, “You know Rushlow, we think differently but, boy, you’re really good at kinda keeping it neutral.” I’m like, “Well, it takes too much energy to do the other.” There’s too many people doing that, I don’t want to be one of those.
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.