(Interview conducted at the Waldorf, MD date on June 18th, 2011 of Willie Nelson’s Country Throwdown Tour 2011)
You’ve been on the Country Throwdown for a little over three weeks now. How has the tour been so far?
Lee: It’s been great. I’ve never been on a tour like this, a big tour like this, with the big scheduling and stuff. It’s nice to have a routine and on top of that, it’s turning into like a family summer camp. That’s what it feels like.
What do you anticipate for the rest of it?
Lee: Well, just like today, for the first time we were just outside my bus and someone had an accordian and someone grabbed an acoustic and all the other bands are coming around and we were all just jamming out. A mixture of all these bands. Learning like “Maggie May” and it’s really just turning into that kind of stuff and it’s just so fun and we all already enjoy it, so much that we don’t want it to end. We’re really trying to soak it all in. It’s definitely a throwdown, it becomes more and more like a throwdown every night.
Last night, you played in South Carolina and that’s your home state. How was that?
Lee: It was so good to me home. Sometimes, I don’t get to see my mom and dad unless I’m playing in South Carolina, so it’s really nice to see them and then you know, the crowd. I actually went to school about 30 minutes from where we played last night – Clemson. It was packed and they made me feel proud. They were proud that they had a South Carolina boy with them.
What is your favorite city and/or state to play? I know it may be South Carolina, but in case there are any others?
Lee: Well, you know South Carolina is a great place to play but I’ll tell you, there’s different ones that stand out. We love to go up north to Chicago, you know, you wouldn’t think that’s some big country music market but it is, even in California and Texas and it’s just so different. Everywhere has their own thing, it’s so cool.
Do you have a least favorite city, that you might have had a bad time in?
Lee: Well, yeah Canada, because I got stuck up there a couple days and wasn’t able to play a few shows because of that. So there you go, Canada!
Do you have any crazy tour stories that you’re willing to share?
Lee: Well, I mean there’s all kinds of crazy tour stories, I’ll tell you what happened yesterday. You know, sometimes, we ask for water and beer and whatever the rider is, so there’s girl on the tour that comes around that asks, “What do you all need for the bus?” and we tell her and yesterday they were making fun and we were like, “Hey Sue, can we get anything extra for the tour?”. So one of my guys being funny said, “Yeah, can you get us a pony? I’ll name it Sunshine.” So about two hours later, he gets a call to the office, “Shawn, please report to the office” and Shawn’s just like, “Uh oh… what did I do?” So, he gets in there and they had this little plastic pony, decorated with stars and stuff on it, called Sunshine. They got him a pony.
You recently just surpassed the year anniversary for the Love Like Crazy album? How has that been, the whole year?
Lee: It’s been a whole other year, you know? A whole other… things different than what it was before because that song, that single, changed my life. It put us at another level and just put our name out there, so much further. That album so far, has changed my life.
Are you working on anything new?
Lee: Oh yeah, I’m starting on a new record already. I’ve been in the studio. We’re doing a new song live right now and that’s what I want to put out as my next single, hopefully I’ll be able to do it but it’s called “Beer” and it’s awesome. I’m really excited.
What are your plans for after this tour?
Lee: Well, after this tour we actually go back on tour with CMT. It’ll be Luke Bryan, myself, and Josh Thompson and we’re going all over with the CMT tour in the fall, so I’m really excited about that.
I’ve read that your two favorite loves are music and football. When it comes to football, who’s your favorite and if not a favorite, who’s your top 3?
Lee: Well, you know I grew up wanting to be a Clemson Tiger and I ended up being able to play there and I went to school there. My blood runs orange and if it was pro or something, I actually spend more time in Tennessee it seems like, I’ve been there for ten years, so I really grown to the Titans there. Really, my team is the Clemson Tigers.
Who would you say some of your influences are in your music?
Lee: You know, I started at a young age and it changed over the years. It went from gospel music to the Beach Boys to Alabama to Oak Ridge Boys to Willie Nelson and then Aerosmith and Garth Brooks and Guns N Roses and John Mayer, you know, Eminem and Whitney Houston even. It’s really grown over the years.
What’s some of the stuff you are currently listening to?
Lee: Well, I listened to the Jamey Johnson album and Jerrod Niemann, my buddies. They have great albums and make great music. You know, I’m kind of going back and listening to older stuff, like Tom Petty and Waylon and stuff, kind of just get back to the old stuff. It’s a big plethora of music floating around in my head all the time and I’ll sit there and write a song.
If you could make up an ideal dream tour, dead or alive, and you could pick four artists or musicians to be on it, who would it be?
Lee: Man, that’s really crazy. I’ve always loved Garth Brooks and Aerosmith. Aerosmith and Garth Brooks and I don’t know. Robert Johnson! Bring some blues, it’s cool!
If you were stranded on a desert island, what are three things you’d take with you?
Lee: Water, food, and my guitar.
What are three things that can always be found in your fridge?
Lee: Water, little food,….
Lee: Well, I never know where my guitar is…
What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
Lee: Well, a couple years ago, I painted my nails black and put black lipstick on and black eyeliner and tight jeans and a two tone shirt and a cowboy hat and I was… Goth Brooks.
Favorite home-cooked meal?
Lee: I love my momma and daddy’s chicken and rice and some macaroni and cheese, sliced tomatoes and salt and pepper in there, that’s what I’m talking about.
What are three things you always have to have with you on tour?
Lee: Three things that are so important to me, my band. It’s a part of the tour, it’s a part of what it is. I have to have the same guitar I’ve had since I was 18, it’s been everywhere and my tour bus because I’m tired of being in a van. I’d rather be in a tour bus.
Have you named your guitar?
Lee: Not really. It’s just my old Taylor, that’s who she is. Had her when I was 18.
Well, at least we know she’s a girl.
Lee: Well, I love her a little too much for her to be a boy.
Since Father Day’s this weekend, what’s the best advice your father has given you?
Lee: You know, work smarter, not harder. But, that don’t take away from the fact that he works his A double S off his whole life to take care of us. But he just teaches you to slow down for a minute and think about how can you do this easier. How can you make everything easier on yourself. You know, we’re out here trying to just make things better and better and better, all the time and I think that just helps the tour and helps the band and the band’s career. Just be smart about things.
What’s the best advice you would give if you were a father? What’s your advice?
Lee: My advice would just be, listen. Really listen. Because you get older you realize, “If I really listened and trusted what someone older than me was telling me or what my dad was telling me, then I would really, honestly been a whole other…” It’s just, if I really listened, honestly… Truthfully, honestly, just listen. You can’t do it when you’re a kid, you always think you’re right.
What advice would you give to any fan that’s attending the Country Throwdown tour for the day?
Lee: Drink a bunch of water before you come. For multiple reasons.
And do you have any closing statements?
Lee: Aw, no. I’m just glad to be able to talk to ya’ll. We’re just having a great time out here and you know, if you have a chance to be out here and you don’t, just like my little saying “You regret more things that you don’t do, than you do, do”, so come on out!