When you were growing up, your parents had a huge country record collection. What was it like to eventually meet your heroes in person when you broke through in country music?
"Oh man, it was wonderful. It got to meet just about everybody that my parents listened to when growing up and all that I listened to. Everybody from Merle Haggard to Don Williams, Anne Murray, Donna Fargo, that was the folks that my parents really liked to listen to. You grow up idolizing these folks and listening to them and as a young child, I never dreamed I would meet them, but I did."
Have you ever lived in Nashville?
"No, I've never lived in Nashville. I had a little apartment there for a while, but I've always lived in Beaumont, TX."
How often do you go to Nashville now?
"These days not as much as I used to. That's why I had the apartment, because I was there every month and a half or so for three or four weeks. I was there a lot then but I stay in Beaumont most time. I still go to Nashville but not as often as I did."
Some of your early records were produced by Keith Stegall and ten years later you recorded his song "Tiny Town". Are you still in touch?
"Yes, actually Keith cut some sides on me recently, not too long ago. He cut about five sides on me. We haven't done anything with them yet, but yeah, I ended up going back to the studio with him again all those years later."
The Noble Things movie is coming out soon, but this wasn't your first acting experience. You already appeared in Radioland Murders.
"Yeah, that was years ago, back in the 90's. I played a cowboy country singer in the 1930's, a Gene Autry kind of character. It was fun, it was a George Lucas film, so I got to meet George Lucas, he was directing the film. It didn't do much, but I was in there. And then this Noble Things is, of course, an independent film, it's a really great project, I'm really proud of it. But I'm not looking to be an actor by any means. I just do stuff when people ask me to."
Do you feel comfortable as an actor?
"Yeah, I feel comfortable. But so far I've played a country singer in both of the things, so you gotta give me something where I really have to act at before I can really determine whether I'm comfortable as an actor or not. Let me play a murderer or doctor or something I'm not familiar with and you will see if I can act or not."
Do you enjoy making music videos? It involves some acting sometimes.
"Yeah, I always enjoy about the first 16 hours of it and after that I start getting a little tired and about ready to quit. Most of them are one day affairs unless you shoot them in two days. We've done four, five in two days, but most of them we try to do a one day shoot. You star at daylight and go to midnight. But I enjoy them, they're fun."
What's your favorite video you've done?
"That would probably be 'I'm From The Country'. We had a ball shooting that one. We shot it in a log cabin out in Tennessee and they had a big hot tub and a feed trough filled with water. It was just fun. We used to have a good time, it was like a party. 'Watermelon Crawl' was a lot of fun, too,"
I thought you'd say 'Just Let Me Be' in Love because of the chick who was in it.
"Oh, she was good looking. Dawn Olivieri was her name. She was gorgeous and I've never seen her again and I really thought that was her first time she'd ever been in front of the camera. And I really thought, me and the directors, Deaton-Flanigen, we thought that that girl was on her way into something because she was really good. But I've never seen her again, so I don't know what she did."
'Just Let Me Be In Love' was very different from anything you had done before and the video was very special. You also recorded a Spanish version of the song. Was it difficult for you to sing in Spanish?
"Well, what I did I had a guy named Ray Vega come out on the road with me. Ray is a latin singer, a Spanish singer and he came out and just wrote with me for a weekend and he had translated it for me. We played golf every day and as we were writing down the fairway playing golf, he would be residing the lines and have me sing back to him and we just worked til I got the inflection right because I wanted it to be right. But I'm not fluent in Spanish, I know a little Spanish just being from Texas but I wasn't fluent in Spanish, so I needed a lot of help. We got it done and hopefully it was OK. Most of my Spanish fans say that I did a good job, so I guess I did."
Do you speak any other foreign language?
"No, I don't. I've picked up a little German while I've been here. Not much, thank you and hello and those kind of things."
So far you've recorded just one duet with a female artist, Dawn Sears.
"Yes, Dawn Sears. 'Out Of Control Raging Fire.'"
If you wanted to record another one, what artist would you consider now?
"I've always wanted to sing with Patty Loveless and we even tried to make it happen a couple of times but we've never got to it. I love Patty, she's one of my favorite female singers. And outside of her the only other one that I really want to sing with is Lee Ann, because I like the country really great female singers. To me they're the best. All the other ones are pretty and sexy and everything but as far as singing give me Patty or Lee Ann Womack, those are the ones."
Are you involved in maintaining your official website or Myspace?
"Actually we're totally redoing the website right as we speak. We're gonna add a lot more digital content, more video, I carry my flip camera on the road and film things. We're gonna have download and all that on the website and hopefully in the next two weeks we'll have that rolling. We've got all new photos, all new everything, new merchandise, everything."
Do you sometimes read comments from fans?
"Yes, I sometimes do and I want to do that even more. I want to do maybe some live chats, too. When I can actually talk to them so. It's just a great way to get in personal, more than ever before really, personal contact without being in one-to-one meet & greet at the show. I mean that's the only way I really get to talk to the fans and so yeah, we're gonna take advantage of what the digital world and the Internet has given us."
Many artists set up their Facebook profiles and they communicate directly with fans.
"I don't know how many of them do it, but I'm certainly gonna try. I don't know how many of them actually do it directly."
Some of them do, Chely Wright, Michael Peterson...
"Well, they get a lot of time on their hands. No offense." (laughs)
Do you mind if fans approach you in public places?
"No, not at all. The way I see it, if folks don't approach you in public places, than you don't have a job. I mean, being recognized that what a celebrity, a star or whatever you call it all about. We've been lucky to take the talent that we've got, singing, writing songs, take it on the road, take it to TV, take it to radio and make a great living at it. We get to do what we truly love to do that we do for free, we get paid for it. When I see people out in public who want to meet me, want to get a picture or an autograph, they get it. It's just simple."
A couple of years ago you started your own label. When you reflect on the last couple of years at the Blind Mule Records, would you still recommend to currently unsigned artists starting their own label?
"I just tell you, for unsigned artists it's gonna be tough."
For example Rick Trevino is just deciding...
"For somebody like Rick it's a good idea, because Rick is already known. Rick's had some hits, he's been out there, he's good, he's already known. If it's someone who's not had hits or is unknown, it's gonna be tough any way you go. You really need the backing that a major label does. But for established artists, guys like me, guys like Rick, it's a great avenue. We wanna make music, we continue to make it and you can make it without all the huge overhead cost that you incur and so you can actually possibly turn a profit on it."
Do you think you'll ever sign other people to your label?
"No, I don't think so. I might manage someone or produce someone but I don't know if I would ever bring them into the label and do that unless I just find somebody that wanted to throw 7 million dollars my way to break them, because that's what it costs and that's what's always gonna cost. I don't think that part's gonna change. But I think the part of an act that is already known, that's changed. I think it's very much viable to do."
Last year you announced you would like to make a bluegrass record and a new country record. How far are these projects?
"Well, that's something I still want to do and something I certainly could throw down and do half way right now. But I really want to do it when we can really move it and have something and it has some purpose, because I'd like to do a gospel record, a country record, I'd to do a western swing record, a holiday album, a bluegrass album, a live record. Hopefully I can have a career like Willie, just do anything they want to do, that's what Willie does basically. All those things are stuff that I'd love to do, it's just a matter of making them, and doing them right where is the focus."
I noticed that several years ago you started calling yourself T-Byrd and in the artwork of The Truth About Men CD you even signed yourself as 'T-Byrd, artist formerly known as Tracy Byrd'. What was it about?
"That was a joke! That was right after Prince said 'the symbol, artist formerly known as Prince' and I thought that was such bullshit, so I did 'T-Byrd, artist formerly known as Tracy Byrd' on that for a joke, because I thought that was the biggest bunch of crap I've ever heard, changing your name to a symbol. Let's take yourself a little too serious right there. That was a big joke. But I've been called T-Byrd since I was born. That's what my grandma, my uncles and everybody called me and actually MCA, because Tracy Lawrence has just come out, they actually found out that my parents and everybody was calling me T-Byrd, and they were scared about having two Tracys. This was in '93 when my first record came out, they wanted me to go under the name of T-Byrd. And I said no, that's a nickname, I'm not gonna go under a nickname. But they actually wanted me to be T-Byrd. That would be my name, T-Byrd."
Do you still work as a spokesperson for the Special Olympics?
"Not Special Olympics, we did work with them years ago. But the Children's Miracle Network, I've been their spokesperson and raising money for them with my Homecoming Weekend. I've been doing that for a decade now. They're my main charity of choice. I love Children's Miracle Network and all the hospitals, all over the world now. They're coming to Europe and I have seen their hospitals in Europe, so yeah, I still love those guys."
Do you enjoy playing Europe so far?
"I love it. I don't care where I'm playing as far as the fans act like they did in the past two shows, I love it and I'll be back."
This is your first trip to Europe. What places have you visited since you got here?
"Well, I just got to London and Minehead, UK and then here to Switzerland to Zurich. Then I head to Germany and back to London. In London, of course, we did the Buckingham Palace and then we took a day trip on a train and went to Paris and did 10 hours in Paris all day and then took a train back to London. That was awesome. It was great seeing the Eiffel Tower and we went to the Louvre, and got a little bit of experience of what Paris had offered, we didn't have time to do everything. But my family, wife and kids, they absolutely love Europe. I love Zurich and I'll truly enjoy Germany tomorrow."
Are there any other places in Europe you'd like to see?
"I'd love to go Italy."
Come to Prague, the Czech Republic!
"Yeah, there we go, that's where I need to go, too. Absolutely and you have to be my tour guide. You have to show me around."
Deal! Thanks for the interview.
A greeting from Tracy Byrd
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