If you could bottle up the warmth, radiance, and spontaneity that is the essence of summer and turn it into a person, you would have Billy Currington. During the Windy City Smokeout (July 15-17, 2016) in Chicago, I caught up with Currington backstage. We talked about the changes in musical direction over the years, surfing with sharks, his current favorite songwriter, and more.
As the debate surrounding the direction of country music over the past few years continues, it’s ever interesting to hear from artists who have been around through the shift. Billy, how would you describe your music today in regards to your first album?
“Oh, it is so different. I started out with Carson Chamberlain, who is known as a traditional country music producer. He was on the road with artists like Alan Jackson, and it was a time where everything was just really ‘country.’ So I went from working with him then, and now to Dann Huff. I would say Dann is more modern. You get that big sound, that ‘kick.’ I love all of it though, both of those different sounds.”
So, do you think you’ll keep some of your old sound?
“I think it’s not so much about keeping it, because I’ll always want to sing songs like ‘People Are Crazy,’ but I also want to sing songs like ‘We Are Tonight’ and when those songs come around, I won’t be able to pass them up…Dann Huff won’t be able to produce ‘People Are Crazy’ the way that Carson does, so there will always be that battle of ‘which way do I go here?’”
Let’s change the tone for a minute and get more personal. How would you describe yourself in four words?
(Laughs) “Definitely crazy and laid back -I hear those two words a lot. Someone told me I was sweet the other day! Wait, that was my grandma. (Laughs) Fourth word – I don’t know! You’re getting to know me now, so you pick that word! (Stay tuned for my answer in the conclusion).
You’ve spent a good deal of time in Chicago throughout the years. What is your favorite thing about Chicago?
(Smiles) “The happy people. Everywhere you turn there are just smiling faces. I went on an eight-mile run today along the lakefront, and I just saw so many happy faces. It seems like that every time I come here, and Chicago kind of reminds me of Denver, Colorado because of that. Really, I love everything about Chicago. The food of course and the Riverwalk especially! I had to run back to the bus to get the camera one time because it was the most beautiful thing ever. I’ve never seen something like that before”
It seems as though you are spontaneous and probably have some entertaining stories. When was the last time you did something for the first time?
“About a week ago I was surfing, towed behind a dinghy boat. I was surfing on a short surfboard, on a back river of an ocean, in a shark infested area. So I was on this surfboard, not sure I could even get fully up on it, but I kept telling myself to ‘keep going’ and it was worth it because it turned out to be a great time. It was like surfing without waves.”
All of your fans are wondering, what’s next, musically?
“I think it’s about time to start working on a new album. It takes about a year to make, and I try to get one out every two years. It could take less time, but we are too picky. I’ve been writing, and looking at songs from other writers as well.”
I had to ask if he had any favorite songwriters, and immediately he said he’s worked with a lot of really respectable songwriters, but he recently wrote with one who he especially hit it off with.
“Ashley Gorley is my man right now! We got together to write for the first time the other day, and man we just killed it! We knocked out a really great song that day, so I look forward to getting back together with Ashley soon.”
Earlier in the interview process, Currington asked me to pick a fourth word to help answer my question of describing himself in four words. After spending 15 minutes one-on-one with him, it was evident that he is not only crazy, laid back, and sweet, but also adventurous. Watching the fire in his eyes as he spoke about his passions and things he’s proud of, it became clear that Billy Currington is someone whose zest for life will never dull.
Do you have a favorite Billy Currington song? Let me know at @TieraBolt.