TG Sheppard was only 15 when he made the journey to Memphis to begin his career. At age 66, his job repertoire within the industry is as diverse as his musical successes and his refined country sound is a sophisticated marriage of pop and blues with just the right amount of country heart and soul. To date he has twenty ?? number one hits and during one streak in the eighties, he had fifteen consecutive songs in the top ten. I had an opportunity to visit with this country legend about his experiences on his journey and what he is looking forward to next.
Bev: This is such an honor for me to have this opportunity, you have been an icon in this industry and inspiration to so many. Do you remember what it was like to be 15 and what your dream was then and how has it changed over course of time?
T.G. My dream is the same now as it was then. I wanted to make great music that would change people’s lives, and I continue to strive for that. You may gain a certain amount of success in your career but success is not why I did this. I wanted to make great music and hopefully someday leave behind great music that continues to affect people and their lives in years to come.
Bev: You have a new project out, I know it is a two CD set of duets called "Partners In Rhyme" and includes a special behinds the scenes DVD called "The Magic Beind The Music" with some of the music industries greatest artists. Can you tell me more about it?
T.G. Basically I have not done an album since 2004 or 2005 and I did not want to simply do another album. This is my 56th album, and I wanted it to be something special. I wanted it to be different than all the other albums so I chose icons in the industry like Willie Nelson, Ricky Skaggs, Crystal Gayle, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Jones, Conway Twitty, Lorrie Morgan … you know I have over 20 legends on this CD who all have special sounds on their own. I wanted to also do a back side of how songs are made documentary style on how a record is made. We were able to capture a lot of emotions while we made this from laughter and tears to some very heartfelt moments that the fans will find very special. I am proud to share this with them. This was a labor of love for me.
Bev: What is the one thing about this project you want to say about it?
T.G. I want everyone to know that this is truly a project from the heart. You will find laughter, tears and the DVD “The Magic Behind The Music” is an emotional rollercoaster for 90 minutes of a love story between artists, my wife and the people involved in this project. We captured magic in the studio when we did this. There is a website where everyone can go to listen to a piece of this at http://www.22nashvillefriends.com/
Bev: Do you have a favorite album out of them all you have done over the span of your career?
T.G. (laughing) any artist will always tell you the most current project is their favorite and I think it is because it is fresh. This one is very special to me because it allowed me to include my friends and some very special artist who I wanted to work with for some time. I strengthened friendships and made new ones.
Bev: You are a part of the Grand Ole Opry Caribbean Classic Country Cruise February with Mel Tillis, John Conlee and Jeannie Seely and Mandy Barnett. Have you done one of these before? Any good stories from this kind of show where you are isolated so to speak and surrounded by fans?
T.G. I have been on many cruises, but not this kind of cruise. I am so proud to associate myself with the Opry. It depends on the fans, there is no place to run. I have found that fans are as nice to you as you are to them, and if you try and be inaccessible they will try and prove you wrong. I enjoy interacting with my fans.
Bev: You were the recipient of a television reality show called, Give a Living Rose. Can you elaborate on this?
T.G. Anytime you are surprised and a recipient of a gift it always means more, because it was not expected. My wife had surprised me with a watch and a rose on stage to show me how much it meant to her for all of my love and support during her battle with cancer. But, gosh you do not have to be honored for that. I have always treasured her and been honored to be with her, so I cannot imagine not supporting her when she was going through this. All of this made us stronger in so many ways, it strengthened our love for each other, and God and we prioritized our purpose in life.
Bev: I hear a rumor of a new TV show in the works, can you talk about that?
T.G. I shot a pilot for a new show that I hope will come out in 2009. I want to do a show that will provide as a vehicle for talent to be in the public eye and on television, similar to the days of TNN. I want to provide a pathway for both the new and older artists to reach the public. I want the existing artist to know they still count and we need to show that respect no matter the genre.
Bev: I know your involvement with charity work is a crucial part of your career. You do work with charitable organizations such as Cerebral Palsy, St. Jude Children's Hospital, The Alzheimer's Association, The United Way, and Child Help USA. Is there one that particularly is close to you?
T.G. There are two. Child Help USA is one I am on the board with that builds safe houses and shelters for parents and children who have been battered, beaten and abused. We provide a private place they can hide. The other is St. Jude Children’s research Hospital in Memphis which is a magnificent resource for families who need medical help.
Bev: What is your most cherished memory of working with one of the charities?
T.G. When I was a child, I stood on the ground and watched as Danny Thomas put the shovel in the dirt and broke ground for St Jude’s. I knew that was special and I knew God put me there for a purpose. I have felt a calling to help that charity ever since. I believe it is about giving back to the less fortunate.
Bev: I read a quote you have posted online in reference to the past that said, "The lyrics were paid more attention to ...Today people are more into the sound; they want that driving, rollicking sound. The songs were more romantic…. Today's country, it's more about life. Back in the seventies and eighties it was more about the heart and relationships." How have you tried to incorporate the changes in your current project and can you describe some of the obstacles?
T.G. There is a happy medium. You have to find something that will fit the old with the new and marry the lyric with the sound of today. I perform from my heart and am true to myself and my music. The other thing is never forget who got you where you are, and that is radio. If the fans cannot hear you they cannot come out to see you and hear you and support you, so you have to take care of everyone who has continued to support your career.
Bev: You have seen a myriad of changes over the years, from how the industry works, to the physical delivery of the product from LP to 8 track and cassette to CD and DVD and now digital downloads, do you have any wisdom and personal thoughts on how the changes are affecting the artist?
T.G. The work now with the digital age is wonderful because your work is forevermore now. Albums deteriorated and some of the great songs have been lost to that. Also, because of the technology making an album or a CD is much more affordable than in the past. I think we are making the best music ever right now.
Bev: In all the years of performing, what has been one of your most cherished memories on stage?
T.G. I have to say playing for a President of the United States has to be one of those moments you never ever forget and I have had that opportunity a couple of times. I am very patriotic and love our country so to have the honor to play for the white house is an honor. The other most cherished memories come to me whenever I play the Grand Ole Opry because when you stand on that sacred circle where all of the legends have stood, there is a feeling like every soul and heart who has ever played there is right there with you.
Bev: You are not a member of the Grand Ole Opry yet, do you aspire to be one?
T.G. Ohhhh are you kidding me? It is a life long dream. It will come to you when it is meant to be and not something you ask for. I was so tickled this year to see Mel Tillis and Charlie Daniels finally become members and so very proud for them.
Bev: Have you done any tours to entertain the troops? Any scary moments? Any Touching stories that have stuck with you?
T.G. I have not done a lot of overseas tours, but I have found we tend to forget those who have previously served or those who are just up the road from us. I have done a lot of performances for them. One time I was in Minnesota doing a show, and I was backstage when someone came and got me who said there is a gentleman who wants to meet you who just returned from Iraq, so I told them to bring him back and when I looked up here he was rolling up to me in a wheelchair with no legs. He held up his hand to shake my hand and started to thank me for the country music that got him through his toughest moments and I looked at him and said to him “You took time to come back here and thank me? I am the one that owes so much and I thank YOU!” so that moment will always stick in my mind. It makes you realize how much these service men and women sacrifice.
Bev: What is the best advice you have been given by someone?
T.G. Elvis was a dear friend of mine and he told me once that you have to always remember where you come from so you will never forget where you want to go. I have never forgotten those words. We all are just people who are trying to get through the day and who want to spend our lives with our families. We just have different jobs and it does not mean we are any better than anyone else.
Bev: What advice would you offer to someone looking to get into the music business today?
T.G. Never give up. Your opinion always means as much as the person next to you. Remember that to get anywhere in this business you have to start with a fan, and usually that is a family member or neighbor or school teacher. Hopefully you build from there. If I can give any advice it is to always believe in yourself and if you are a good person who is true to yourself, you will be able to look over your shoulder and watch that fan base grow and your support grow and that is what it takes.
Bev: T.G., again this was such an honor to visit with you and I look forward to hearing more of your music and seeing you perform again. Thank you so much for this opportunity.
T.G. Thank you for your kindness and taking time for me. I want to wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving and may God bless you.
For more information on T.G. Sheppard check out his website at http://www.tgsheppard.com/