In advance of his upcoming concert at the Pompano Beach Amphitheatre with the Marshall Tucker Band on March 11th, Charlie Daniels gave us a call from Colorado last night to talk about a wide variety of topics. It was truly an honor to talk to such a legend, and we’re thrilled to share our conversation with him in this interview below!
Q: You’ve currently got over 50 concerts announced between now and the end of the year, with your big 80th birthday coming in October. How do you maintain such a rigorous schedule?
A: Well actually the concerts you seen on the schedule now are just about half of what we do, we’ll probably do about 100 plus this year. We don’t have to maintain a schedule…it’s just my life, it’s what I love to do, and you acclimate yourself. I used to do a lot more dates and I used to do a lot more stuff in the daytime when I played shows…we’d play golf, and on show dates I can’t do that anymore, but you just kinda learn to acclimate yourself to things and you allow for another year’s worth of age, you just do a few less things in the daytime and save your energy up for that night when you go to work!
Q: You say you like to play golf…what’s the best score you’ve ever shot?
A: (long, hearty laugh) I think I broke 90 one time in all my illustrious career, and I probably cheated doin’ that, I imagine. I’m not a big golfer, I just thoroughly enjoy playing. I think we probably should forget about the score, that’s what I do. Just go out and play it, if I hit a ball in the woods, I’ll drop another one down and keep on going.
Q: You celebrated the 40th Anniversary of your Volunteer Jam last year with a big show in Nashville. Anything like that planned for the 41st Volunteer Jam or maybe something big for your birthday?
A: We’re probably doing another Jam this year, sometime in the winter. As far as my birthday is concerned, there are some plans for it, and I am the last one to know what it is. They’re kinda keeping it a secret from me this year, I guess that’s a special birthday, but we are doin’…we have some kind of party planned I think at BMI on the actual 28th which is my actual birthday, and then we’re doin’ the Opry on the 29th, the day after my birthday. I think the birthday party is actually the whole thing or somethin’, we’ll see what happens.
Q: You mentioned the Grand Ole Opry. I’ve seen some articles lately bashing some of the Opry members for not meeting their yearly requirements. Do you have any thoughts on that?
A: Well I definitely have some thoughts on it as far as we’re concerned, which is only as far as my business lets me go, I mean, for my mental part of it is concerned. We do ten every year. Ten is the minimum and we do it every year. We take meticulous care to see that we do, and as to whatever anybody else does, that’s entirely up to them. But I have way too much respect for the Opry not to do it. And it took me too long…I was 70 years old when I got on, so I have way too much respect for it not to do the minimum requirements. Whatever anybody else does is entirely up to them.
Q: Your last two albums included a cover of Bob Dylan songs (Off The Grid ~ Doin’ It Dylan) and a live album, Live at Billy Bob’s Texas. Do you have new music on the horizon?
A: We do…we’ve got an album of kinda traditional cowboy songs, somethin’ I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but we got started last year and did not get finished. I intend to finish it hopefully very shortly after we go back to work. I’ve always got stuff on the horizon, I don’t exactly know which…I’ve got a bunch of different ideas, it just depends on which direction I decide to go in, I really don’t know yet.
Q: You’re one of the most fascinating artists to follow on social media, offering a glimpse into your personal life, great advice and inspirational posts, and of course your eloquently written Soap Box series, which is often quite political. What are your thoughts on the current political race, and what do we have to do to get you on the ballot??
A: (laughs) Ohhh, boy you’re probably gonna have to kill me! Ya know, I think there’s some good people runnin’, I think it’ll kinda shake out here as time goes along. One of the problems is there’s such intense pressure on everybody, every word that comes out of their mouth, whether they mean or whether they don’t, and whether they’d like to take it back or not, or just ya know, everyone’s just got a camera in their face and it’s just…we really never get a chance to see the people as they are, I mean, as far as who they really are, because we have to judge them by 5 second sound bites and whatever they can be baited into sayin’ on debates. I think the debates suck. I mean, to be honest with ya, because it’s not really a debate, it’s like peckin’ gamecocks, ya know kinda like make ’em fight each other. It’s more kind of a “gotcha” sorta thing with the press, and I know they’re tryin’ for ratings and that sort of thing, but what I would like to hear, I would like to hear the candidates sit down, you give them all a set amount of time, and if they don’t finish in that length of time, you cut their microphone off. And you go across the board, and you ask each one a question. The same question. And everybody answers the same question. You give them 2 minutes or whatever it is to do it, then you go back and give the guys a chance to talk to each other, to ask each other. “Well I’d like to question what you said on that.” And work it out that way, rather than, “well back in 1958 you said that you were goin’ to vote for a bill!” Why don’t ya sit down, ya know? I mean, c’mon man! That has nothing to do…people’s attitudes change with the times, and a lot happens in 5 or 6 years, enough to change peoples’ attitude towards anything. And I don’t know, I just don’t think we get a fair shot at gettin’ to know the candidates, and I think the press has their favorites, and some of them I think they protect, and some of them they really try by selective editings, they decide what they want to show and what they don’t want to show. So I don’t think that we really unfortunately get to know our candidates as well as should before we have to vote for them.
Q: Outside of the obvious, music and family, what is something that you are really passionate about?
A: Well I am a Christian, that’s the most passionate thing in my life, I try to give God the first place in my life, serving Jesus Christ, and well what made my lineup is God, family, country, and work. That’s swingin’ a pretty wide loop that has pretty wide parameters, a lot of things come into play with that, but that’s what I try to keep my life centered around.
Q: What has been the biggest “Wow” moment of your career?
A: The biggest “Wow” moment? Oh gosh…I’ve had so many, I’ve had one…the first platinum album we ever had, I remember one of them, one of the guys that worked with us at the time came a long way…we were at a concert, and he came a long way to just tell me, “Hey Charlie, you’ve got a platinum album.” It was Million Mile Reflections. And the night that I was doin’ a show in Nashville, we were doin’ a show we did there, a charity show, it was called “Christmas for Kids,” and I was going into my 3rd song and somebody started hollerin’ a little on the side, I didn’t know what was wrong, it was Martina McBride, and she ended up tellin’ me that I was bein’ asked to join the Grand Ole Opry. It was a life-long desire of mine, and it just kind of blew me away, and I’ll never forget that. They videoed it (click link to watch the surprise invitation), I was kind of at a loss for words, which is a pretty rare situation for me. It was a great night, it was one of the blessings of God. God gives you desires of your heart and that was certainly one of mine.
Q: Have you ever passed on recording a song that went on to be a hit for somebody else that you might of wished you hadn’t passed on it?
A: Well since I write most of the songs that we record, I really haven’t, but I have seen that happen. I was sittin’ in Bob Johnston’s office one day in Nashville, and a guy walked in and played a song for him. Bob was producing Johnny Cash at the time, and he played it specifically for Johnny Cash, and Bob said he didn’t want it, and it was a song called “Skip a Rope,” that turned into I think a #1 country record (it was a #1 hit for Henson Cargill in 1968), but that happens, I mean, you know, you can’t pick them all, so…I don’t think I have ever actually turned down a song that turned into a hit, ’cause most of the stuff we’ve written.
Q: Two years ago, you did a show down here in Weston FL, and you met a young lady named Maggie Baugh that you invited on stage to play fiddle with you later that night on “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” I don’t know if you remember that night…
A: Uh huh!
Q (continued): Maggie is one of the 35 artists we work with here in Florida to help promote and further their careers. What advice would you give to an aspiring artist like her trying to make it in the music business?
A: Well first of all, make sure that’s what you want to do. Ya know, look…if you don’t truly, truly love this business, and you’re not inclined to excel at it, it’ll bore you to death. You’ll have a nervous breakdown or somethin’. There’s so many things that are gonna happen, you’re gonna have so many things that maybe look insurmountable at the time, it’s gonna run you nuts. So you’ve gotta truly, truly love it, and say this is a just a bump I’ve gotta step over and go on and get it done. If you can’t pass some thick skin, people are gonna tell you that you’ll never make it, they’re gonna tell you that you don’t have talent, people are gonna tell you that you suck, that you just ya know, that’s something you just put up with in the record business. To me, it’s records, or just doin’ concerts. And, if you can’t grow some thick skin, and if you can’t put up with that, there’s nothing wrong with playin’ the Holiday Inn Lounge on Friday and Saturday night if you just want to play music. If you want to really try to make somethin’ out of yourself, you’ve just gotta grow some thick skin and make sure that’s what you want to do.
In true southern gentleman fashion, Charlie Daniels wrapped up the interview by thanking me and offered a “God bless you, son.”
Tickets to see the Charlie Daniels Band and the Marshall Tucker Band at the Pompano Beach Amphitheatre on Friday, March 11th are on sale now at Ticketmaster.com.