Rodney Atkins: Takes On Big Joe’s “Tough” Questions

Rodney Atkins (Photo by Kristin Barlowe)

Rodney Atkins knows the value of taking the long way home, of veering off the beaten path onto that road less traveled once in a while. You can hear it in his music, in the lyrics of his smash new single, “Take A Back Road,” a song that celebrates that feeling of getting away from the noise of everyday life, really living in the moment, and getting right with your soul. And you can see it in the way he lives his life: putting family first, listening to that inner voice and remaining true to himself, and striving to evolve and find unique ways of expressing himself through the music he puts out into the world. It’s a philosophy he tries to employ throughout his life, and it has led him to some amazing places.

The East Tennessee native has an impressive track record with hitting on sentiments that strike a chord with the country listener: he’s had five number one hits from his first three albums, from “Watching You” and “These Are My People,” to his most recent smash, “Farmer’s Daughter,” which quickly skyrocketed to platinum. He’s sold over four million singles in the past five years alone. His latest single, “Take A Back Road” is on course to propel him to even bigger heights with its irresistibly catchy chorus and easygoing, windows-down, breezy summer vibe. The tune is near platinum status just weeks after its release.

The hardworking artist gathered up a whole new set of colors when he set about creating his latest masterpiece and fourth CD, Take A Back Road, and he cranked the whole recording process up a notch in intensity—which is saying something for a guy who is pretty darned intense to begin with. But he wanted this project, his first in nearly three years, to convey and express some emotions and feelings in an authentic yet different way. Simply put—Rodney had a lot to say musically, and he wanted to say it in exactly the right way.

The songs on Take A Back Road are undeniably relatable. From the sweetly honest battling couple who’ve drawn the lines down the middle of the bed in “Feet,” to the fiercely parental pride-even-through-the-tough-times in “He’s Mine,” the tunes are chock full of emotions that any couple or family in modern-day America could identify with and find themselves experiencing. For Rodney, that real emotion is what he strives for in each and every note.

(Photo by Kristin Barlowe)

Rodney also covers some new ground musically on the project with several tender love songs. Reluctant in the past to record them because many tend to express the same sentiments in the same predictable way, he found several songs for this record that capture the romance between a woman and a man in a unique, genuine way, without the shellacking or sugar-coating. Tunes like “She’s A Girl,” about the mystery and power a female can wield over a male, and “Cabin In The Woods,” about the beauty of stealing away to a remote place, approach the age-old subject in ways he could not only relate to, but felt fans would gravitate to as well.

Rodney demonstrates his appreciation for the funnier side of life as well, through tunes like the warm and witty, “Family,” about a quirky clan of characters gathered at a family reunion, and the laugh-out-loud “She’d Rather Fight.” The CD definitely features glimpses into Rodney’s wild side, a side most often seen onstage during his energetic live shows, where he jokes he “lets his shadow come out to play.” And he took pains to ensure he captured that raw, live energy this time around on the new CD, feeling he had lost a bit of that spontaneity on his last CD.

Though his new crop of songs has some edge and the vocal energy may be amped up a notch, Rodney is still the same, hard-working, patriotic, rock-solid country boy that fans have grown to know and love since his debut with 2003’s Honesty. He still relishes the time spent with wife Tammy Jo and his son Elijah, and still serves as the spokesperson for brands like Massey Ferguson and the National Council for Adoption, a cause dear to his heart as a child of adoption himself. Rodney volunteers for the council on a large scale, but also makes plenty of time for visits to the Holston Methodist Home for Children in Greenville, Tenn. where he was adopted as a baby.


Big Joe: What is your favorite honky-tonk venue to play?

Rodney: That’s tough.  There are some great places all across the country.  Joe’s in Knoxville and Joe’s in Chicago.  The Grizzly Rose in Denver, Coyote.  Joe’s in N.C., Buck Owens Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, and the Wildhorse and Legends in Nashville.  8 Seconds in Indy. The list goes on and on.  All the Hard Rock clubs. That’s what’s great about country music—if you’re looking for a fun crowd wanting to have a good time, they really are everywhere. 

Big Joe: How do you feel about Twitter, and do you Tweet?

Rodney:  Occasional tweets.  Honestly, there are so many imposters saying they’re me, it’s kinda silly. When fans are replying to every message, “Is this really you…”  I don’t take for granted their support, and I don’t have a desire to be derogatory to every situation and to other acts.  It works and is great for some ‘acts.’ I just don’t think of myself as an ‘act.’ If you know my music, then you know me.  

Big Joe: Where is your favorite “Back Road” and what type of vehicle do you like to drive on it?

Rodney: I grew up on back roads. I’m most at ease putting some gravel in my travel. Four-wheeling, ATV, to riding my Old Heritage Harley. 


Big Joe: What is your favorite Merle Haggard song?

Rodney:   It depends on the where I am and what I’m thinking about. Maybe it’s “That’s The Way Love Goes,” or “If We Can Make It Through December.” Hell, it could be “Carolyn.”

Big Joe: It’s a great feat to have a No. 1. What is it like having six so far?

Rodney:  It still feels like the first one. I love just knowing that a song has connected with so many folks. 

Big Joe: What is one your favorite perks about being a big time country star besides being a big time country star?

Rodney: Hearing people sing along, and being able to represent country music is a huge honor.  

Big Joe: What’s the craziest or most unique gift you ever received from a fan?

Rodney: From hats to condos, there is no limit to how amazed I am and how fans pull for you. When a child from Make-A-Wish says their wish is to meet you, there are no words to express what that means to an artist. 


Big Joe Matthews
Big Joe Matthews- Managing Editor of the Nashville Music Guide


Story help courtesy of EB Media, Nashviile, TN

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