You may be surprised to know what all goes into coming up with a title for a new album, and what it takes to get approval for said title, as Big & Rich explained in an exclusive interview backstage with Tim Roberts, Program Director of Detroit’s 99.5 WYCD.
The comfort level and chemistry was obvious as John Rich and Big Kenny revealed the story behind their upcoming album Hillbilly Jedi. The first new record Big & Rich have produced in over three and a half years, John speaks for both of them when he says, “Kenny and I feel like this record is – it’s a piece of work. We feel like the best record we ever made was the first one, (Horse of a Different Color) and we had a long time to make it.”
That all changes now as the duo is very proud of Hillbilly Jedi; a compilation of songs from “12 years ago to 5 months ago,” explaining that the songs are some of the first they wrote together and some of the most recent things they wrote together.
The last song on the album, the “Medley of the Hillbilly Jedi” contains a collection of songs that they have put together the “past decade of our lives.” Kenny explains that they had to “live the life to write the songs. Now we each have children, wives and lives of a different kind of scenario that we can write new music about.” He refers to songs like “Last Words” and treats us to a small sampling as he breaks into song. With a grin just as big, John Rich says, “you know it’s good when Kenny is smilin’ so big, you can see his molars.”
What does the album mean to the dynamic duo? Big Kenny sums it up by saying “we’re glad to bring some prayers back to country music, we’re glad to always bring the party to country music, and we also wanna continue to bring some fun to country music.” Comparing that ‘fun’ to Buck Owens, he adds with a “hee haw,” “we wanna keep fun in country music. . .not be so serious that we can’t fire a smile.”
John Rich relates the album to his known beverage of choice, “this record is like a shot of Crown Royal, chilled, with a Crown Royal back.
Tim Roberts opens up the interesting topic of the album title with “so tell me about the ‘force?’” John Rich, thoughtfully explains that he and Kenny were in New York riding with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, “who have really been amongst the kindest people we have ever met.” Establishing the relationship, the ‘country cousins’ as Jon Bon Jovi refers to them, got to write a song with Bon Jovi a few years back – “We Got It Goin’ On.” Rich pauses to add that “Bon Jovi is one of the biggest acts in the world” and then corrects himself by saying Jovi is one of the biggest acts “on earth.”
Rich explains, “so Big Kenny calls up ‘Jon Bon’ and asked if they could write some songs with them.” Fast forward, to their meeting up in New York, where they spent two days writing and recording two songs for this new album. One of the lines in one of the songs says “Hillbilly Jedi’s with attitude” and “Jon Bon looked at us and said, if there were ever Hillbilly Jedi’s, it’s the two of y’all.” Thinking that would be a great album title, they started throwing it around as a joke. Big & Rich’s label told them it was a “nice idea guys, but it’s not gonna happen. The word ‘Jedi’ is owned by George Lucas, and George ain’t gonna let y’all use it.”
Sadly, Big Kenny explains the news to ‘Jon Bon.’ What happened next, was endearing as Jon Bon picks up the phone, on the spot, and calls up George Lucas to enquire about using the ‘Jedi.’ George tells them yes, as long as they use “Jedi and not Jedi’s, because Jedi is both singular and plural, so if they are going to use the word, use it correctly.” Rich jokes, “in our minds we call it ‘Jed Eye.'”
Hillbilly Jedi is “giving us the entire spectrum of everything that is ‘Big & Rich’ and is available in stores and online September 18th.
One thing Big & Rich never fail to do is thank their fans, as you will see at the start and end of this interview. “God Bless Y’all!” Watch below:
Nanci Haskin/99.5 WYCD