Showtime in Gypsum
July 15, 2010
GYPSUM – Rodney Atkins has played for former U.S. President George W. Bush three times and in huge concert venues around the world. He’s also performed in a hospital room for a little girl who was dying of cancer. On Saturday evening, he’ll give his best to the town of Gypsum as he shares the stage with fellow country star Sarah Buxton.
Big cities or small towns – they’re all the same to Atkins, whose hits include “If You’re Going Through Hell” and his recent single, “Farmer’s Daughter.”
“I grew up in a small town,” he said. “I’ll play for anybody and everybody – I dig it.”
Atkins and Buxton currently hail from Tennessee, and Atkins said he is looking forward to meeting up with the author of “Stupid Boy” at Gypsum’s Lundgren Theater at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“She’s got a great voice, I just love her,” Atkins said of Buxton. “I’d love to get together and write with her.”
At Gypsum Daze, Atkins might just get that chance.
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At age 41, Atkins said his song writing began even before he learned to play the guitar in high school.
“I used to write poems before that,” he said. “I’ve always liked working with words and rhymes.”
Most of his song-writing takes place first thing in the morning, he said.
“Some line will pop into my head and I’ll write it on a napkin or whatever. I just keep a running list,” he said. “I drive co-writers crazy, because I’ll keep working on a song even when it’s already on the radio.”
Atkins vividly remembers the first time he heard one of his songs on the airwaves.
“I was choppin’ firewood,” he said. “The truck door was open with the radio on when ‘Going Through Hell’ came on -it blew my mind. I stopped and listened, and tried to call my wife. I still go, ‘Whoa,’ when it happens.”
“If You’re Going Through Hell” was one of the most-played songs of 2006. Aktin’s 2010 single, “Farmer’s Daughter,” is hanging steady at No. 32 on the charts, he said.
That recent song is about a young man who takes a demanding job as a spare farm hand and is tempted to quit until he meets the farmer’s daughter. Many of Atkin’s songs are based on his own life experience. In “Farmer’s Daughter,” it’s the nature of hard, dirty work and finding a reason to stick it out that Atkins relates from his experience.
“Havin’ those jobs, that’s the way I grew up,” he said. “I still enjoy chores. That’s my yoga – I get a lot of mind time when I’ve got a Weed Eater or chain saw going. I like to ride my motorcycle, too.”
Maybe that “mind time” is cherished because of his busy schedule as a music star. Atkins said interviews take up about a day or two of his week, and when he’s not performing he’s traveling between his family and performances across the country. Sometimes his wife, son and two stepdaughters are able to join him on tour, but usually he flies back to see them while his tour buses are on the road.
Atkins said “it’s a trip” to play for the president of the United States. He’s done so three times. “Everything was so formal – I couldn’t live like that,” he said of his White House experience.
An adopted child himself, the first time he performed for President Bush was for National Adoption Day. The second was a Memorial Day concert for wounded soldiers and the third was when Bush was leaving office.
“(Bush) is a nice guy,” Atkins said. “He and Laura were so kind and hospitable. … The presidents have a lot on their shoulders, God bless ’em.”
Aktins does vocal exercises about an hour prior to each performance. He never used to do that, he said, until he once found himself running out of breath during a performance in Colorado. So he went to a vocals coach back in Tennessee.
“One time, I heard Gretchen Wilson in her tour bus next to us. It sounded like someone was killing her, so I ran over there,” Atkins said. “She was doing the same kind of vocal exercises.”
With his new-found lung capacity, Atkins said he plans to open the Gypsum show by “ripping off (his) shirt and blowing up a goat with a piece of dynamite.” … Naw, just messin’. But he does hope to put on a show full of energy.
“A show is energy,” he said. “I feel sore afterwards, from jumping and climbing all over the stage. I enjoy that and I’m looking forward to celebrating with you guys in Gypsum.”