Usually when one thinks of John Schneider the first thing that comes to mind is his role of Bo Duke in Dukes of Hazzard, or in recent years fans of Smallville watched him week after week, but to many John Schneider has always been a musician and singer. He had a string of hits in the 80’s and has always loved music, so it is to no one’s surprise he has recently released a new song which is receiving rave reviews.
John took a break while he was in Nashville and visited with me before his show at The Listening Room Café to talk about the new song and what he has been doing as of late; where his heart is and where his hopes lie.
Bev: John, I have been hearing such good things about your new project and am so excited for some new music from you. Can you share a little about what you have been doing in Nashville?
John: I recorded a couple songs recently and I was told by a dear friend of mine that one day I was going to hear a song that was going to force me to get back into country music. And I heard such a song called, “The Promise” and I recorded it. I did not write it, but a friend of mine did, and after hearing it, I could not pass on recording the song; it says something that needs to be said today.
It’s funny because Johnny Cash is who told me that would happen and it’s ironic in the fact that when I heard the song I knew what he was talking about. I still listen to a lot of songs even though I haven’t recorded in twenty years. People still play songs for me and I just have not connected with them in the way this one spoke to me. When I was in the studio and started singing this one and two other ones it was really only then when I realized that I missed it. My kids are grown up now so I don’t have the worry of being away as much as I did before. I was home for the right amount of time. Now I think, if they’ll let me, I’ll come back and do some more country music. I got a wonderful welcome last night behind the scenes at the Awards Show, it was great. People didn’t say what are you doing here, they basically said where [the hell] have you been?
Bev: I am not surprised to hear that, you have always recorded very good music. You also just did a movie called “What Would Jesus Do…” with country music co-star Adam Gregory; I am wondering that if between acting and songwriting, is there a balance?
John: I think there might be decades for each. It seems like the older you get, with ten years; you don’t get that much time anymore. I think it’s more cyclical like that. Maybe a couple years with one or another but I have been out of country music, well out of music for a long time, I’ve been singing on my telethon and an occasional Broadway show. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I got back in the studio again. It fits me better than the other, at least at this point.
Bev: Do you think it fits you better than it did before or at this point in life it’s good right now?
John: Yeah, it fits really well. Before, I enjoyed it and the music that I did was really good and it did really well. There were four number one songs and I put out a greatest hits album with a collection of songs that all made it to the top ten. I was singing songs that somebody older than me should’ve been singing. First song I recorded was called “I’ve Been Around Long Enough To Know” and even though I did get a divorce during that time, maybe it’s a country music thing, but I think now when I sing a song about someone who has lived through something or an experience it’s taken years to go through. It’s a better story told better than it was before.
Bev: Is it easier to sing because you’ve lived it perhaps?
John: It’s something I learned with acting, and it’s like golf the harder you try the worse you are. Like with acting, the harder you try the more “God-awful”; it’s terrible, and singing is the same thing; the more you get what you’ve lived, the more experience you can get behind the incredible lyrics, somehow you can hear it. I don’t know how. You can hear miles. You can’t fake miles. I now have miles.
Bev: You said a friend of yours wrote this right?
John: Phil Renrow is his name, a wonderful writer; he was here for a while. He had a song years and years ago. He’s been right there in front of me, I’ve known him for twenty five years and he’s got great songs and for some particular reason this was the one that just hit me over the head. We went into the studio and did three songs. We did “The Promise”, another one called “I Ain’t Going Anywhere”, which is a wonderful little song and one called “It Don’t Get No Better Than This” and we did a song about a father who gave his son up for adoption that was the fourth song. “I’m Your Father Who Left”, it’s a really great song. Phil has the ability to write, we were talking about Merle Haggard last night about the poet and Merle has the ability to put very complex thoughts into very simple words and so does Phil. I think I was too close to it to realize that. I think they’re wonderful.
Bev: Are your plans to complete a full project CD?
John: Well that’s what I’m here for. I’m here for, I have gone out and made my own full C.D. before and it was really good but I think there’s a time when, even if you don’t think you need it you should ask for help. There’s certain protocol’s to follow, there’s certain people and vibes that should be invited into what you’re doing and I never really had time to do that before, probably to arrogant to really want it other than my relationship with the writers and musicians and the engineer.
Now I can actually devote the time to this so I can get it right and I’ll get it right, I really will. And I won’t miss it anymore, I’ll blow the dust off the guitars; I have a guitar in every room of my house. (laughs)
Bev: Does your plan include a tour or what do you see for yourself as far as performances.
John: I’m going to put these songs out there; if they are what I think they are then somebody will smell a buck and that somebody will know how to take it to somebody else to take it to the next step. It’s not me and I’m not going to go there. Now, the old John would’ve gone there.
Bev: So you don’t have any aspirations for anyone you’d like to tour with or direction you want to go?
John: I sat with John Rich last night and he sang a bunch of my old songs to me and he was a big fan of my music, so, at this point somebody who is incredibly established like John, or Toby. Would have to be blown away by the music and run with it. I’m not stupid and I don’t have the energy to start over.
Bev: Do you find you’re at a point in your life that you’re not hungry for the money as much as you are doing it for you, whereas before money speaks and you find yourself saying yeah the money’s great but now it’s not about that.
John: I haven’t thought about that at all, it’s more about the sheer joy of doing it, about blowing the dust off that piece of my heart that I ignored for so long. But when I’m here and I’m wandering around over a mere sound stage where I recorded and I thought this is great. I remember I recorded my first song here and Ronnie Millsap’s place was next door, Glen was at Master Sound down the street, and I was part of this community. I remember jogging around the community, around this square, all around Music Row, listening to songs back in 1984/1985 on cassette.
Bev: Are you still doing, the Dukes of Hazard promotions and “Dukefest” weekends?
John: There are versions of it. We did one last year at the worst possible time when diesel fuel was over five bucks a gallon and it was damaging. The people that came had a wonderful time but I didn’t have enough people there. As opposed to 90,000 people here in Nashville.
Bev: Are you doing anything like Facebook or Myspace to promote the songs you have recorded?
John: Again that is not my area, I sing. There is going to be a presence, I have John Schneider [dot] TV and somebody else is going to be in charge of that. Every time I try to get into Twitter and in to Facebook and Myspace and all that sort of stuff I go full steam ahead for a couple of days then I just burn out. I wonder how people have time to do it.
I have a fan club that is just great. I write a newsletter once a month and I can do that. I can write people and tell them what I’m doing. I talk about new music that is out or new movies that are out. That’s great I enjoy that, I enjoy a nice couple page newsletter rather than “Hey I’m sitting on the porch”. That’s just not part of me. I will occasionally Tweet because it’s easy on the Blackberry.
Bev: John, this has been fun taking time to visit with you and I can truly see how serious you are about wanting to get back into the music and singing from your heart. It shows in your smile and your expression lights up. I hope we get to see a lot more of you on stage in the future.
John: Thanks Bev, this has been fun. I look forward to seeing you again soon.
For more information on John Schneider visit www.johnschneideronline.com