Exclusive Interview, Part 2— This is the continuation of an interview with the Oak Ridge Boys that began with Monday’s first installment. Be sure to check the end of this interview for an opportunity to win a special item from the Oak Ridge Boys and Cracker Barrel. And pick up a copy of the Oaks’ great new record, It’s Only Natural, at any Cracker Barrel store.
Nash: You’ve obviously got a great legacy in terms of awards, No. 1 records, sales, Opry membership and all the other tangible achievements in your career. But can you talk a little about the more personal impact you’ve had on artists like Eric Church and others?
Joe: Last year we did several festivals with Miranda Lambert and we were in her little Airstream afterwards just havin’ a good time talking. And we really like Miranda a lot. And she said, “You know, I have to admit, there for a long time I didn’t really now anything about the Oak Ridge Boys. Blake taught me. He’d get me in the truck and play your CDs over and over and over. He couldn’t believe I wasn’t familiar with the Oak Ridge Boys.” I thought it was cool that Blake taught Miranda about the Oak Ridge Boys. Then we ended up talking about the importance of country music and how it comes down, from generation to generation and how different acts influence each other. And with that, Miranda lifted her glass and said, “To the Hag!” And we all toasted the Hag.
Nash: Let’s talk about a few songs on the new record. There’s a line in “True Heart” about never knowin’ what I’m workin’ for. Have you all pretty much always had a handle on what you’re workin’ for and what the important things in life are? Or do you occasionally need to be smacked in the head and told, “wait a minute; this isn’t what you’re about. This is what you’re about”?
Duane: Oh, I think we’ve had our times. We all do. There’ve been times when everybody in our society will wake up in the morning and wish you’d kicked yourself the night before instead of doing what you did. I’m guilty of that; I make no bones about it. But as a child, I was taught right from wrong. And along the way I’ve done many things that were wrong. But there’s always been a guiding spiritual side of me that has always let me know what’s right and wrong. And I try to listen to that spirit more as I get older. Because I’ve learned to appreciate that you can live longer and be happier if you try to live right . . . And as we have grown older to be fathers and grandfathers, we’ve learned that having your health is a very precious gift from God. And to abuse it is a choice, but as you get older you try to make better choices.
Joe: I heard a great Springsteen line once that said I feel sorry for the man livin’ in his own skin that can’t stand the company. So it all comes down to liking yourself and being happy with what you’re doing . . . and to have a vision and to know why you’re singing, why you’re out there doing that.
Duane: And material things are great. But what you’ve had enough hit records you can pay off all your bills, and you don’t owe anybody anything, then it’s not about the money. And, not as a boastful thing but just as a matter of fact, when you get to the point that you don’t owe anybody anything, then you’re doing it for the real reason. I could’ve retired at 50. But I’m still singing. I don’t want to retire! What would I do? I love what Willie Nelson said when somebody asked him when he was gonna retire. He said, “I play and I play golf. Which one you want me to quit?” I don’t even play golf. What do I quit? (laughs)
(Play this clip to hear Duane talk about his dreams)
Nash: “Before I Die” is another favorite. It sounds like the ultimate bucket list, for lack of a better term. Do you each have things that you’d like to do before you die? Your personal bucket lists of sorts?
Duane: I got an email this morning from a friend of ours who was also a very good friend of Marshal Grant, who for years played with Johnny Cash. And Marshal was a good friend of ours, too. And in the email, he said, “I just wish I could’ve seen Marshal one more time to tell him I love him.” And . . . (Duane gets choked up). That got to me.
Joe: That song right there is a very meaningful song, and William Lee sings it from his heart. That song is obviously very meaning for you, William, because of the way it comes out of you.
William: It is. You know, I’ve got three older sons, and I’ve got a 10-year-old son, Solomon. It also makes me think of all the things in life I would like to share with him. In fact, next Sunday we’re flying to London for four or five days, then we’re taking the train to Paris for another five days, then we’re flying back. We’re going to see some things they’ve never seen. I get to share some places and things with them that I’ve been to. It’s important to me in life . . . to put off things like that at this stage of the game is something I don’t want to do. As you get older, being a father and leaving memories for them that will carry them through their life, I think those are important things to me in my life. And with Solomon, where Brenda and I go, basically he goes. He’s been so much joy in our lives. He’s a talented kid, plays violin. Been playing since he was two years old. So making memories is not all about me, it’s about what I can do as a father.
Nash: Richard, anything on your list?
Richard: On a lighter side . . . the second part of that first verse talks about going to the stadium in New York and being in right field . . . because I’ve read books about Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. That would be a great thing for me to do. It’s not a heavy thing at all, but just a nice light thing that’s a favorite thing of mine. That’s something I’d love to do.
Joe: I think some of these bucket list things appear on our way, and we didn’t even know they were coming. Like our grandkids. We didn’t know we were gonna have grandkids before, and now we’ve got ‘em. There’s a bucket list thing. What’s more fun than that? Like Golden having a young son. I was out on my farm the other day, cutting a field on my small tractor, and I remember I was back there once with my grandson when he was about two. And he fell asleep and I rode that tractor for about two hours with that hunky kid asleep on my lap. What’s better than that?
Nash: We mentioned Little Jimmy earlier. Are you guys wanting to be like Little Jimmy? Still performing when you’re 90 years old? As long as you’re healthy?
Duane: Why not? Why not?
Joe: If we can do it and not ever look stupid doing it or sound like crap, I want to do it.
Nash: Will you know when you get to that point?
Joe: I’ll know, I’ll know. Just last night at the Kentucky State Fair, we knocked that place down. We sang our be-hinds off. I want to always be able to do that. And if I can’t do that, I’d want some young guy to come in here and stand in my place and do it.
Nash: Especially if people are seeing you for the first time and that’s going to be their first, and maybe only, impression of you.
Duane: I don’t want to leave that kind of impression (if we can’t deliver anymore).
Joe: If you’d have told us 30 years ago when “Elvira” was out that 30 years from now, you’re still gonna be together and still havin’ fun, you’re still gonna be healthy and still singing your be-hinds off, we probably would have thought it would be tough to believe. But 30 years have gone by, and here we are. We’ll do it as long as we can, and as long as God gives us good health.
William: We’re shooting to be like Gov. Jimmy Davis who was still recording when he was 100. He was probably just as excited huntin’ songs for his new album as he was when he wrote “You Are My Sunshine.”
Joe: We sing songs for a living! Who would not want to keep doing that?
To win a complimentary two-meal pass to Cracker Barrel, just answer the following question: Which of the Oak Ridge Boys is called “Pop Pop” by his grand kids? email firstname.lastname@example.org with your answer.
It’s Only Natural track list
• What’cha Gonna Do?
• True Heart
• Before I Die
• Gonna Take a Lot of River
• No Matter How High
• The Shade
• Louisiana Red Dirt Highway
• Beyond Those Years
• Wish You Could Have Been There
• Lucky Moon
• Sacrifice . . . For Me