Kenny Rogers is in the midst of his annual Christmas concert tour, but he plans on gifting his fans with some fresh music in the new year.
Rogers tells Billboard that he and producer Dann Huff are five songs into an album the singer plans to release in 2013 on Warner Bros. Huff previously worked with Rogers on 2006’s “Water & Bridges” album. “It’s somewhat… I won’t say it’s eclectic, but there’s some hard-driving (songs), important lyrics,” Rogers says. “Most of them have something important to say because I think that’s what I do best. I tell stories. They’re subtle social statements. If you look back, ‘Coward of the County’ was about a rape. ‘Ruben James’ was about a black man who raised a white child. ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town’ was about a Vietnam War veteran coming back…’Lucille’ is about a woman running around on her husband. So they’re all social statements rather than just music, and this (album) will have more of that.”
Rogers is also planning some duets for the new set, including “You Can’t Make Old Friends” with Lionel Richie, “if I can ever throw a net over him. Lionel’s like trying to trap water. But it’s a great piece of music, very tender.” He also hopes to add a large backing chorus to a version of the Linda Ronstadt-popularized “Dreams of the San Joaquin,” and Rogers says he has “another song I’d like to do with Dolly” Parton, which would be appropriate since 2013 will mark the 30th anniversary of their chart-topping hit “Islands in the Stream.”
“I think Dolly would do a new song in a heartbeat if I could find one that we like or if she could write one,” Rogers says. “The hard part when you do duets is it’s harder to start with a partner and say, ‘I want to do something with you.’ It’s easier to start with a song and say, ‘Who can do this well?’ ‘Islands in the Stream’ was such a total fluke; I had been recording with (producer) Barry Gibb and I had been singing that song by myself for four days, and I finally said, ‘Barry, I don’t even like the song anymore.’ And he said, ‘You know what we need? We need Dolly Parton.’ It was an epiphany…We got her, and the song was never the same after that.”
The new album will follow a busy 2012 that saw Rogers’ autobiography, “Luck Or Something Like It,” come out in October and hit the New York Times Best Seller chart. He also released a new concert album, “Amazing Grace, Christmas Live!,” performed at the Bonnaroo Music Festival (with Richie as a surprise guest), toured Asia, New Zealand and Australia, and served as the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Artist in residence. The Christmas tour, Rogers’ 31st, wraps up Dec. 23 in Westbury, N.Y., and in addition to the album he’s hoping to put together a book of his photography.
“We’re trying to put this deal together with a company…I’m not allowed to say who it is yet, but they do the highest quality photography books you can get,” Rogers says. “I don’t care about making money on it; I just want my work done properly because I spend a lot of time doing it. It’s (from) all over the world. It’s pictures from Africa and China, some beautiful stuff, I think. I’d just like to have it done properly, and I’d love to have that finished soon.”