John Schneider effortlessly balances sacred (Recycling Grace) and secular (Redneck Rebel) with a sideways grin. We spoke with the Dukes of Hazard star about the new collection (both released last fall), his new Dukes-themed new movie and singing at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
“I love leaning up against the same brick wall where Bob Willis, Johnny Cash, Little Jimmy Dickens and Willie Nelson – with short hair – leaned at the Ryman,” Schneider says. “Lives have been changed in that room for decades and still are being changed. That place is truly hallowed ground.”
Alt-Country Specialty Chart: Describe how Redneck Rebel took shape.
Kid Rock came to my birthday party. I got up onstage with him and got in touch with my inner wild child. The first song we did was “Duck Blind.” Then we did “Long Way from Lonely” and “Nothing to Do with Love.” It got infectious. (Schneider's wife) Alicia (Allain) and I looked at each other and said, “The crowd is having so much fun. We need to do these.” I also had heard the song “Stoned on the One” by Andrew Pope, which is a hell of a hard song to sing. I didn't know whether I could do it, but we decided to go for it and did the vocal in one pass. That's my favorite thing I've ever done.
Describe the album's common thread.
Fearlessness. I'm enjoying it. People really seem to love “Stoned on the One,” which is such an old school Waylon Jennings-type song. My band Stars 'N' Bars are all over forty and grew up on Southern rock with twin guitar harmonies. They tear it up onstage and inspire me to really go for it especially on songs like “Southern Rock Survivor” and “Backwoods Soul.” I get stronger but also raspier the more shows we do. I'm more proud of how the album sounds, but I honestly believe we're better live.
Explain exactly how you live fearlessly.
Whiskey (laughs). Actually, I do gargle with bourbon and (drink) it when I sing. I put a little lemon and honey in the whiskey and it seems I get less and less fearful the more I gargle. The magic for your voice is eating the lemon rind, which is pretty darn good after sitting in the whiskey and honey.
Describe how Johnny Cash guided you toward the new gospel album.
Johnny and I did (the made-for-television Western) Stagecoach together in 1986. Then I lived at their house for a year and change while I was touring in 1987. I said, “John, people are asking me to do a gospel record.” “Well,” he said, “you should. You will.” “When?” “Don't worry,” he said. “You'll know when it's time to do it. You won't be able to not to.” Alicia and I were at a friend's funeral three decades later and one of the Blind Boys of Alabama sang what's been a favorite rendition of “Amazing Grace” for both of us, which is that song done to “House of the Rising Sun.”
B.J. Thomas was also at the funeral. “By the way,” he said as we were walking out, “you really need to do a gospel album.” That was the straw that broke the camel's back – in a good way. Johnny was right. I looked up in the sky and said, “You were right. We gotta do this now.” People started sending us great material like “Recycling Grace” as soon as they found out we were doing a gospel record. It took thirty years, but it was easy once we started. I'm singing higher and stronger than ever with absolutely no fear on songs like “House of Amazing Grace.” You just go for it when you sing a song to god and it's praise and hope it's a joyful noise (laughs).
You close the album with a real standard “I'll Fly Away”).
Oh, isn't that great? We all went for it and had such a great time. The band was all in the room at the same time when we did “House of Amazing Grace” and “I'll Fly Away.,” which was like having church while we recorded at Sound Kitchen in Cool Springs, Tennessee. Everybody came to worship. We're getting wonderful responses that it's people's new favorite worship album. We had somebody say that it reminded them of (the gospel choir) God's Property because it has that big vibe in songs like “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down.”
Meanwhile, you have the new Christmas movie inspired by Dukes of Hazard.
Yeah, I was writing a book called My Life, My Way. Alecia said, “You know, it's the fortieth anniversary of Dukes of Hazard. Why don't you incorporate all this stuff into a Dukes-themed script for Christmas?” I stopped writing the book when the title Christmas Cars for the movie came to me. There couldn't possibly be a better title for Dukes fans. I play Uncle Denver in honor of Denver Pyle, who was Uncle Jesse on Dukes, and we put songs like “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down” and “House of Amazing Grace” in it The great thing about a movie: You can put in any music you want. Why not put your own in there?
– Brian T. Atkinson
Interviews copyright Brian T. Atkinson. All rights reserved
Artist: The Quebe Sisters
Hometown: Dallas, TX
Album: The Quebe Sisters
Release Date: September 20, 2019
Record Label: The Quebe Sisters
Artist Website: quebesisters.com
Label Website: quebesisters.com
Common Lyrical Theme:
The original songs on the album were written about important seasons in our life. “My Love, My Life, My Friend” is a honky tonk love song about how true love meets you where you are. “Pierce the Blue” is about a difficult time in our lives that we feel most people can relate to in their own experiences. As a progessive Western swing band we brought in modern influences along with classic themes into creating this album. Our aspiration was to take the music back to its roots and sustain the spirit of swing by combining old sounds with new feelings and new feelings with old sounds – Hulda Quebe
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