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Tim Atwood Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Tim Atwood Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Lamitschka: Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?

Hello.  My name is Tim Atwood, and I love country music.  I've never had a piano lesson in my life, and I can barely read sheet music; yet for almost four decades I played piano on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry for thousands of country crusaders—from Roy Acuff, Little Jimmy Dickens, Jean Shepard and Porter Wagoner to Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood and just about everyone in between.  My ability to play piano the way I do is a God given gift.  Today I play my piano as my gift back to God.
I write and perform all genres of music, but my favorite music to play is traditional country music.  I think the one thing I'd like for you to know about me though is that I'm not just a piano man (although I am extremely proud of that fact), I'm also a singer.  When Grand Ole Opry patriarch Roy Acuff discovered I could sing, he began to share large portions of his Opry segment with me on stage—he loved my voice.  One day, at Mr. Roy's request, I performed 4-5 songs in a row on the Opry stage.  In the middle of my set, Mr. Roy's dobro player Bashful Brother Oswald jokingly whispered to their guitar player, “What in the world is Roy doing?  He never even gave Elvis an encore!”
So, how would I describe my music to people?  My albums, my live performances and the songs that I write, are a journey—my journey, and I'm taking you along for the ride.   I'm going to showboat on that piano and make you clap your hands and shout with joy; then I'll turn around and sing a tender ballad that will make you feel something deep inside—maybe even shed a tear, and hopefully I'll return that smile to your face with a joke or funny story.   If you attend one of my shows I want you to walk away saying, “I had a great time!”
No.  I never took a music lesson in my life, but every night I played on the Grand Ole Opry was a lesson in how to entertain.  I'd like to believe I was a very good student.

Lamitschka: How was the last year for you? What were your highlights?
The past twelve months have been an amazing time for me.  I won the 2017 R.O.P.E. Award for Musician of The Year from the Reunion of Professional Entertainers, and received a nod for R.O.P.E. Entertainer of The Year along side country legends Gene Watson, Leona Williams, Jeannie Seely and Rhonda Vincent.  I was also named 2017 Fan Favorite by the Genuine Country Music Association.
2017 also brought about some incredible television opportunities for me.  As a featured artist on the TV shows Larry's Country Diner and the TV series Country Family Reunion, I was introduced to a broader country music fan base who didn't know me at all.  Then there were those fans who already knew me, but only as a musician; they saw perhaps for the first time, that I was an entertainer too. 
I first understood the full power of those TV appearances when I was on tour in Missouri and stopped for a hamburger at a McDonalds in the middle of nowhere.  A lady came running out from behind the counter and exclaimed, “You're Tim Atwood!  I saw you on TV.  I'm your newest fan!  I just love you!”  I thought WOW.  This is very cool.
For the first time ever—after playing over 8,500 shows on the Opry stage during my career—I played the Grand Ole Opry in September of 2017 completely as an artist, as a guest of Opry legend Jeannie Seely.  That was HUGE! 
And for the second year in a row, the beginning of 2018 placed me on the big country music cruise sponsored by Time Life.  Not only did I headline my own show on board, but I performed alongside Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Johnny Lee, T Graham Brown and other country notables as a peer.
I also began to work on my new album Livin' The Dream.  I can honestly say, this project is my best work yet.  I'm anxious for every one to hear it.  So yes.  The past year has been full of  highlights...and I am thankful for each and every one of them.

Lamitschka: How did you choose the title for the CD?  Is there a story behind the name?
Absolutely.  My new album is called Livin' The Dream.  For thirty-eight years, I had the best job in the entire world.  I played piano for all of the greats on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.  During that time, I looked at a lot of famous backsides.  A few years ago, I decided to change my view.  I love what I do center stage now.  I love singing my songs and connecting with the audience.  I enjoy hearing an audience laugh as much as I enjoy hearing them applaud.   
I'm at the age now where most men consider retirement, yet I'm starting a whole new career, and fans seem to like what I do.  This is a crazy, wonderful journey, and I'm loving every minute of it.   I'm proof that it's never too late to go after your dream.  I'm Livin' The Dream right now!

Lamitschka: Please tell us about the songs on your album (influences)
Livin The Dream consists of twelve songs that are all me.  It's what I believe a real country album should sound like.  There's high energy, toe tappers like Traveling Band; tender love ballads like I Love You (What Can I Say), humor in Boney Fingers and songs of praise to the good Lord above in Mom and Count Your Blessing.  I took the country shuffle Cinderella and made it into what I think is a beautiful ballad, and I rocked the country classic Under Your Spell Again.  If I'm going to record a song that was once a hit for someone else like Buck Owens, I'm going to put my own spin on it.  I want to make it my own.
My wife Roxane also sings a song that she wrote on my new project, and I think it will make you smile.  It's called You Pop My Corn (You Melt My Butter). 
If you sit and listen to my album all the way through at one time, I want you to feel like you've been to a concert.  I want you to be excited to hear the next song...and the next...and the next.

Lamitschka: How much creative control do you have over your music?
100%.  If you like the music, it's all me.  If you don't like the music, then well, that's all me too...but I hope you LOVE the music!

Lamitschka: Do you have any interesting stories about how fans have been affected by your music?
For the Livin' The Dream album I recorded the song I'll Stand Up and Say So-- a patriotic anthem that echos the beliefs of millions of Americans that it's time to stand up and speak up for the love of God and country and for the men and women who died in service to this great nation ensuring those very freedoms. 
 In the summer of 2017, I performed I'll Stand Up And Say So in concert, and a woman in the audience was so moved by the song that she presented me with a treasured gift.  She removed a silver-toned, cuff style bracelet from her wrist and explained that it was a Memorial Bracelet designed to honor U.S. military men and women killed or missing in action. 
For twenty-six years she had worn this bracelet in memory of Capt. William D. Grimm, a U.S. Airman Killed in Action during Operation Desert Storm.  In all those years, she had never removed that bracelet from her wrist.   Through tear filled eyes she confided that she was so touched by the way I sang the song, with a visible love for God and country, that she wanted me to wear the bracelet.  
As she walked away, she said, “It's time I share this bracelet with you...and it's time you share Capt. Grimm's memory with the world.”
Without hesitation, she removed the bracelet from her wrist and presented it to me asking that whenever and where ever I sing I'll Stand Up and Say So I sing this anthem to honor Capt. Grimm and the thousands of other men and women who gave their lives in combat so that we may live another day in the Home of The Brave. 
Today I wear Capt. Grimm's Memorial Bracelet with pride.  I take this honor very seriously, and I've never removed this memorial bracelet from my wrist since the day that fan placed it there.
On stage I always share the story behind the bracelet with my audience, and I dedicate the song to Captain Grimm and the thirteen other U.S. Airmen who lost their lives twenty-seven years ago saving a group of Marines on the ground from enemy fire.
     This bracelet is by far the best gift I have ever received from a fan, and it means the world to me that I'll Stand Up And Say So touched her heart the way it did.  It touches hearts every where I sing it.

Lamitschka:  What do you think about today's modern country music?
I believe any kind of species has to evolve to survive.  The world is constantly changing.  Likewise, it's inevitable that our music changes. 
I remember a time when some country music fans were outraged when Eddy Arnold and Ray Price added strings to their music or when Jeannie Seely introduced hot pants on the Grand Ole Opry stage.  Change happens.  Some people fight the changes; some people embrace the changes.  Me?  I understand different people like different things.  I just do what I do, and I hope some of those people like what I do.
Although I don't listen to a lot of the newer music on big radio now, what I do is new music—at least I'm recording new albums for my fans.  It just so happens that my own modern music is filled with piano, fiddle and steel guitar.  The songs I record have real melodies, and they tell stories.  I record songs that evoke emotions:  happiness, sadness, patriotism, gratitude—I want you to feel something when you listen to one of my recordings. 
There is new music out there for every taste.  You just have to find it, and when you do find what you like, please support it by buying our albums and attending our shows so we can continue to perform the music you enjoy.   There's room for everyone in this industry.  This is an exciting time.

Lamitschka: What has been your greatest challenge in music business?
My greatest challenge has been stepping outside the box.  Americans love their labels.  The challenge isn't how the audience sees me; they see me as an entertainer.  The challenge is how people working inside the music industry see me.
For 38 years I was known as the piano man on the Grand Ole Opry.  That in itself is an amazing accomplishment--but to industry insiders, all those years working as a sideman placed me in a box labeled “Musician.”  It surprised me to discover that once I began to step outside of the “Musician Box,” and cross over to the “Artist Box” there were musicians who wanted to keep in the “Musician Box.”  They didn't want to see me broaden my boundaries.
Like wise, there were several singers who were slow to welcome me into the “Artist Box.”  There was no room in their box for anyone else.  Even though these artists had hit records and household names, they saw me as competition, or maybe they thought I hadn't earned my place alongside them.  I believe four decades of survival in the music business has at least earned me the opportunity to be there.  I had no idea how territorial the “Artist Box” could be.  It's been a challenge, but I am making believers as I go.
Truth be told, they never have been able to box me in completely.  At least that's how I feel.  I've always played the piano outside of the box, and even when I sang a cover song, I made it my own.  So, I guess you could say my greatest challenge has been acceptance by those longstanding peers who define people with labels.  I am both a musician and an artist.  If you're going to put me in any box at all, I hope you put me in that box labeled “Entertainer.”  In today's world, that box gets smaller every day.

Lamitschka: Is there any place you haven't played that you would like to?
Yes.  Believe it or not, I've never played Europe!  You have to remember for 38 years I stayed in one place performing in Nashville on the Grand Ole Opry.  Country music fans came to me.  Now that I'm traveling and taking my music to the fans, I would like for my travels to include Europe. 
For years my performing friends would come back from a European tour and talk about how beautiful the countryside is and how warm and generous the Europeans are.  I've heard from a multitude of sources that while Europeans like our current country music, they continue to embrace the history, heritage and sound of our country music roots.  If that's the case, then I think I would love Europe, and I would hope the fans there would love me.  I wish more people in America cared and respected our country music roots. 
I was performing on the TV show Hee Haw one day and country star Roy Clark turned to me and said, “Tim, to me country music can best be represented by a tree.  Traditional country music is the trunk of that tree, and all of the branches that grow from that tree represent the other derivatives of our music:  Contemporary country is a branch; Americana music is a branch; Country-Grass is a branch.  You can cut a branch from the tree, and the tree will survive, but cut the tree at the base of the trunk, and the entire tree will die.
I want to perform where the fans still understand the importance of real country music—whether its a hard core country shuffle, or a rip-roaring Jerry Lee style piano ride.  I think Europe and I would get along very well.
Someone please call me, and let's book some dates!

Lamitschka: Many music fans today get their information about artists online. Do you have your own website and what will fans find there?

I have a website where you can learn all about me, my concert dates, order my music and even read about special memories of my life in a section titled “Blog.”
I'd love for you to visit my website.  It's easy to find.  Just go to www.timatwood.com

I also hope that you go to Face Book and actually LIKE my page.  People are important to me, and if you took the time to write a personal message to me on fb, I try my best to give you my time in return with a personal response. 
You can find me on face book at Tim Atwood Music.
I look forward to being friends!

Lamitschka: Fans are always hungry for good road stories. Do you have one you can share with us (come on don’t be shy)?
I can't believe I'm telling this, but back when I was in Jim Ed Brown's band in the late 1970's, we were taping the television show Nashville on The Road in Estes Park, Colorado.  We pulled the bus over at Great Bear Lake to stretch our legs.  Well, I was young and fearless—some would say foolish--and since the lake was called Great Bear Lake, I decided to bare it all.  So I hopped up on a rock, turned my back to my friends and “mooned” them.
It just so happened that on this particular trip we were allowed to take our wives.  My wife had a camera with her, and she took a picture of my rear end shining in all its glory.  Even though you couldn't see my face, I had forgotten that I had on my tour jacket.  So right above my hiney in bold letters it read:  THE JIM ED BROWN SHOW.
I thought it was hysterical until somehow Opry star Jeannie Seely heard about our escapades and managed to talk my wife out of that picture.  Jeannie then framed that photo and placed it in her bathroom where my butt literally remained on Jeannie's wall for the next 30 years.
In 2010 Nashville suffered a horrific flood, and since Jeannie's house is on the river, she sadly lost nearly everything she owned. She lost her furniture, her clothing and much of her belongings....but guess what survived the flood.  Yep.  The picture of my behind remained unscathed. 
It was during this time that Jeannie's new husband Gene confided that, while he liked me, he did not enjoy looking at my rear end every morning.  Jeannie still has that framed photo, but it now resides in a trunk in her attic.  I think that's a very good place for that picture!

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