Charlie Daniels recently welcomed music industry executives and media outlet representatives who were invited to a private reception at BMI to preview the legendary musician’s latest project, Joy to the World: A Bluegrass Christmas
Prior to the DVD viewing party, media was given an opportunity to ask questions of Charlie and interact with his management team in regards to the project and Charlie Daniels music career.
Introduction by David Corlew President/Co owner at Blue Hat Records/Corlew Music Group: I have worked for Charlie for 38 years. We need to thank BMI for allowing us to have this space and thanks to Koch Records. Chuck Rhodes has compiled a series of three records called Christmas Grass. With the fourth one, Chuck wanted to step it up a level and have a center point in the project. Charlie Daniels is the center point. On this special project a lot of other artists that joined us and it is different in the fact that we let the artists do whole songs rather than being a duets record. It was fun doing the CD and then we offered them the opportunity to shoot it for the DVD which compliments the CD. Without further ado, I would like to introduce my boss, Charlie Daniels.
CD: This project was presented to me as “do you want to do a Bluegrass Christmas album”. I cut my teeth on Bluegrass music. The first band I ever played in was Bluegrass; I have always loved Bluegrass music and wanted to do this project. One of my goals was to do songs that were not normally thought of as Bluegrass songs. For instance “The Christmas Song” that Dan Tyminski did such an incredible job of singing on. If you hear Nat King Cole or Mel Torme singing it, you wouldn’t think of it as Bluegrass. We did “Joy to the World” and “Come All Ye Faithful”. I just picked the songs at random, some were my favorites and others just felt like they fit. I want to say that personally for myself, it was a joyous project and I got to work with a bunch of great folks. I appreciate each of you who accepted my invitation to join us today and welcome you to ask me questions.
Q: With the growing popularity of Bluegrass music, do you think this album will have an international appeal?
CD: I certainly hope so, I don’t really know. I am not really that familiar with the Bluegrass position in the international market but we certainly hope so. It is going to have a chance to.
Q: In shooting the DVD in the summer time, how did you get in the mood?
CD: In the music business, you have to adapt to situations like that, pretend it was Christmas time. We had a big long stage that we set everyone up on. We put Christmas trees and decorations on it. When you walked in, you walked into a Christmas scene that put you into the Christmas frame of mind. The music, when you get into playing it, you get lost in it. I am a big fan of the people that worked on this project. Just standing there listening to Kathy Mattea sing or the Grascals was great.
Q: How did you decide who you wanted on the album?
CD: We sent out invitations. One thing that comes into play with a project like this is schedules. During the high touring time of the year, you have to work out the schedules, work out the song, then work out the key and then lay out the project. Basically, I picked the songs out. The philosophy was that if no one wanted to do these songs, I would sing them myself. We did a lot of the tracks and someone would pick that song. There was no rhyme or reason for any of the songs, they were not Bluegrass songs but could be done as Bluegrass songs.
Q: Was there anyone on this album that you worked with for the first time?
CD: Dan Tyminski. There is a little story that goes with that. I am a big Mac Wiseman fan. I had a vision of Mac Wiseman singing “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire”. I asked him if he knew the song and would he be willing to do it. I asked him what key he wanted us to do the track in since Mac’s voice is very high. He sings way above anyone else. In between the time we got the track done and time for him to do the vocal on it, he had a terrible accident. He was almost bedridden and was not able to do the vocal on it. I had this beautiful track with twin fiddles, it was one of my dreams, and I was stuck with it. People told me to do it as an instrumental but I couldn’t see it that way. I couldn’t sing it; it was too high for me. Then Angela in the office said to get Dan Tyminski. I thought “Yeah, that makes sense”. So they got in touch with him and he said yes. He did it and just killed it. He made no big deal out of it and it is a hard song to sing. I do it in my show every year in a different key but he just killed it. He did a great job on it. I met him and made an new friend. He is a tremendously talented guy. I am really happy and proud to have him on it.
Q: Do you think you will be adding a Bluegrass element to your traditional Christmas show?
CD: Not particularly. We do Christmas music every year, we have shows that are billed as Christmas shows starting around the first of December but if we did all Christmas music and didn’t do “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” and didn’t do “Long Haired Country Boy” and we didn’t do “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” and we didn’t do other songs that people are familiar with, people would be very disappointed with us. What we do is intermingle Christmas with our regular show.
Q: What age group do you see in your autograph lines?
CD: Come and see! We would love to have you there. We have people of all ages, little kids, a few teenagers and older people and older than that people. We are in our third generation of fans. We have been blessed enough that the little guys like, like “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” and “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” that they get indoctrinated with. I have a special section in my fan club called the “Century Club”. It is when you have attended 100 shows, think about that, when you have attended 10 shows a year for 10 years, or 5 shows for 20 years, I give you a belt buckle and a certificate. I don’t have a count on now many of those things we have given out, but it is quite a few. People have come to see us since we have been in existence, nearly 40 years.
Q: You mentioned there were several songs that were not particularly Bluegrass. Was there one that was more challenging than others?
CD: “The Christmas Song”. There are a lot of chords in that song and it is not something you would think about being played on Bluegrass instruments. I wanted to do twin fiddles on it, which we did but I didn’t play on it. That was one of my challenges. I was thinking about Mac doing and it would work. I said “we can make this work” and I took a fiddle and goofed around with it to get an idea which way to go with it. We went in and cut it, Dan came in and sang it and did a tremendous job.
Q: Another unusual one in here, “Carolina Christmas Carol”, how did that come to be?
CD: “Carolina Christmas Carol”. I wrote a book of short stories years back and that happened to be one of them. My son asked me years ago, “why don’t you read that on Christmas eve night when we get together with family and friends”? I thought that was a good idea. I always do the St. Luke’s version of the Christmas story, the classic King James version that Luke wrote. That is part of our tradition on Christmas eve. I had recorded these things for some reason, I don’t remember why but we had them. It was David that said put them on the album. We put a little guitar behind it and put it on the album. The story is totally fictitious of course but it is a little bit semi-autobiographical with some of the memories I had of Christmas from back when I believed in Santa Claus, and I still do by the way. St. Luke’s Christmas story is what it is all about, my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. That is what Christmas is all about.
Q: Congratulations for “Christmas for Kids” selling out.
CD: I know that all of you know the story behind this. It was started by the drivers of the artist buses and the Nashville music community has taken this to heart. So many of them show up every year, Phil Vassar, Chris Young, Gretchen Wilson and Brad Arnold will be coming to put on a show with us. It is a show with a heart and we are very proud of it and will continue to do it as long as we can.
Q: What is up next after the Christmas project?
CD: I have decided to just take my time and record stuff when it seems like the right thing to do. I have done three tracks so far, I may do one track the next time, I may do two tracks, until we get whatever we need to release a CD or download or however. I am just going to record and pile stuff up and see where it goes. I probably will do some songs I didn’t write, probably more songs I didn’t write on this project than any other project I have done except for some classics like the hymn album I did.
Q: You have had such an affect on people for so long and the effects are now showing up on things like the CMA award show. Any comments on the Zac Brown band?
CD: I think it is wonderful that he did that. I was flying to Seattle Washington and was in the air and missed it. It has been sent to me on YouTube. I had heard his version before and I knew he was going to do it on the show that night but I didn’t see it live. I feel wonderful about it. I got an award from BMI that this song has played on the air 4 million times.
Thank you very much ladies and gentleman, I truly appreciate all you do and have done for me over the years. With that said, I would like to welcome each of your to join us for some refreshments and move into the theatre to view the DVD of “A Bluegrass Christmas” and see for yourself what all of the excitement is about.
For more information on Charlie Daniels visit www.charliedaniels.com