If good fortune comes in threes, then Bo Bice should be a lucky man this week. His new album, '3,' hits stores on Tuesday, May 18, and he can't wait for fans to hear the new songs. The album cuts a wide road through his many influences -- from country to southern rock, blues and a hint of gospel. He likens the album to the music one might find on the iPod of someone who grew up listening to that same variety of music and says he's not worried it might be too diverse for his fans. Nor is he worried that one of the tunes has the same title as a Waylon Jennings hit, 'Good Hearted Woman.' Bo's song is very different from Waylon's, in that he sings about the three main female influences in his life.
Bo was one of the first artists to volunteer his time to do benefits for flood relief in Nashville, the city the Alabama-native now calls home, along with his wife and three little boys. He has been showing up everywhere to lend his voice to aid the victims of the recent floods, deemed the worst in the city's history. One of the songs from the new album,'Long Road Back,' has taken on a whole new meaning for him since the floods hit Nashville a few weeks ago. The singer is offering this selection as an iTunes download, with all proceeds going to a number of different flood victim-assistance programs.
The Boot caught up with Bo backstage before he performed at one of many flood relief concerts in Music City. We talked about the new album, the aftermath of the flood and who he thinks they'll get to replace Simon Cowell on the show that launched his career, 'American Idol.'
What led you to get involved in the flood relief effort?
Dedication to our community ... And we take the family to donate and help out. We're teaching our sons and instilling the values in them. That's the way that you do things ... you help out. That's what this whole community's done, if you just look around at the reaction of this tragedy ... that's just the sweetest thing about this whole thing. I was watching [Nashville] Mayor [Karl] Dean on the television talking about "Nashville's open for business," and that's an important thing to be telling the folks. Nashville didn't close down because of this tragedy. We had a setback, and come [CMA Music Festival] time, we're gonna be open for business. I want to make sure people are aware of what's going on here, because it didn't get much national attention.
Did your home suffer any damage in the flood?
Our area where we live got hit real hard, but we were just very blessed that we live on a hill. Unfortunately, we saw a lot of the tragedy going on around us. To me, there was no failure of the government or the city, it was just truly a flash flood. I took my family downtown and we drove around. It was really devastating, the loss of SoundCheck [the storage facility which housed the instruments and equipment of many artists]. My gear was there up until probably 10 months ago -- all my road gear and stage memorabilia. To think about the things that are so ... they're not irreplaceable, they're just clothes and they're just stuff and we'll get past it, but I really feel for the people that lost their stuff. Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, Lynyrd Skynyrd and my friends, all these great people that lost a lot of stuff, but also SoundCheck itself, those people are friends of mine. But there are so many people donating their time and energy ... I hate to use even the terminology of "finding solace in a tragedy," but when you're looking at the absolute best outcome that there is, we've seen it here in Nashville.
The new album is very eclectic when it comes to genres. When you were making it, were you worried about fitting in to rock vs. country?
At times. It's always a chance. I try not to over-think things just under that whole pretense of, "What are you? Are you country or are you rock? Are you trying to be James Taylor and Jim Croce or are you trying to be Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Black Crowes or Lenny Kravitz?" I pay homage to all the people that I have as influences, I think that shines through my music and if you ever started to cap that creative outlet, then you really are just hurting yourself. I think it's a matter of not thumbing my finger at the system or anything by saying I really don't care what people think. It's not that I don't care what people think, it's that I really just don't occupy my time with that because I'd worry so much about what I was putting out that I wouldn't get an album out for another five years.
How did you decide on '3' for the album title?
That had been the working title, and then it got changed to 'Different Shades of Blue' ... and then it got changed to 'Coming Back Home' ... and then [laughs] it went back to '3.' I initially named this thing '3' because it was my third album and we just had our third son, Ian. And I'm a huge Dale Earnhardt fan, so those three things were the reasons that I named it '3.'
What inspired 'You Take Yourself With You'?
I think it's a way anybody feels when they have to leave home for the first time, doesn't matter what your situation is. I remember when we wrote the song, the first lines of the song, "I hate this town, I can't even count the reasons," -- it's just such a picturesque line of how you feel, that angst of being young. You've got the world by the tail and you think you know everything. We had been discussing leaving home and, for me it was going into my mom and dad's room in England and saying that I wanted to go back home to the States, and that was the hardest thing I had ever done. I was three months from being 18 years old and was gonna be a continent away from everybody I had ever known. My dad always said, "Every day that you live, you gotta look yourself in the mirror." You need to be able to look yourself in the mirror and know that you're a good man, you work hard and you do things right. Just remember you take yourself with you wherever you go because you gotta live with it." And that's really the message of the story.
Just who is your 'Good Hearted Woman'?
The inspiration behind the song was my mother and my grandmother and my wife. There's one verse each for them, and that song is the first song that I wrote for this album. It was after I was recovering from some surgeries. I could hardly pick my guitar up because I had staples all up my stomach. I remember just trying to muster the strength to play my 12-string guitar and that song just kinda wrote itself that night. It's a special song, and as far as naming it after a Waylon song, I always look at that stuff as sacrilege because I'm a big fan of Waylon and Willie [Nelson] and Merle [Haggard]. But also, hey, somebody types in 'Good Hearted Woman' in their iTunes, old Bo Bice pops up right by Waylon, and that ain't too bad!
Have you kept up with what's happening on this season of 'American Idol'?
My wife watches. We Tivo it so I can watch. Everybody knows [when you're busy with] studio time, you don't just stop at 7 o'clock and go, "I gotta watch 'Idol.'" I'm a great fan of that show, I wouldn't have a career without them.
So who do you think they'll get to replace Simon Cowell when he leaves?
I don't think anybody will ever replace Simon. Just like Ellen [DeGeneres] didn't replace Paula [Abdul]. Ellen came in and she's Ellen. And she does a great job doing what she does but she didn't replace Paula. There's never gonna be anyone that can replace Simon Cowell, there's too many out there that are trying to be like Simon Cowell, so when you've set the trend you really can't go anywhere else from that. Plus I don't know if Elton John would look good in a black t-shirt!
You've said that losing to Carrie Underwood on 'Idol' actually worked in your favor. How so?
Nobody's ever laying on their death bed going, "Man I wish I would've worked one more day" or "I wish I would have gone to school one more day." They look at their kids and they look at their family, and for me that's what's driving me. I wouldn't relive a single day of my life. I think that the Lord's put me exactly where He wants me to be. I'm just grateful that I got to see my dreams and hers come true, too, because Carrie's a close friend and I love her. So I got the best of both worlds in this situation, because I got to see her succeed and I got to see success for myself, so I don't need really a whole bunch of accolades to surround myself with to know that I'm a good man and that I love music and my fans. So for me that's the accolades. Whenever I walk in that door from a hard day of work or being on the road, I've got three beautiful sons and wife that come running into my arms. That's the kind of goal that you just can't melt down and make into a trophy.
What's your favorite part about being a dad?
To be honest with you, my wife is the best part of being a dad. I'm in awe of her strength and her dedication to our family every day. It's hard enough just living in the business and being a part of this business. My rules I try to live by: you never miss a birthday or an anniversary, you always make sure that they know that you love them, and you never read your own press. I try to stick to those and I've done pretty good so far. I haven't missed any major holidays or birthdays. I think the best part of being a dad is wrapped up in just being a family man and being a husband and kind of knowing my place. She wears the pants, I just buy 'em.
As the father of three boys, do you ever wish you had a daughter?
No, m'am! I would be ruined. It's hard enough with the three boys I got. If I had a girl, I'd lock her in a basement for 22 years!
Do your boys listen to your music?
My kids listen to their mom's shuffle on the iPod, so there's no telling what they're gonna get there. And then with me, they get the same stuff -- the Skynyrd, the ZZ Top, Charlie Daniels ... But to be honest, we listen to a lot of the VeggieTales and the Wiggles and things like that! [laughs] I get suckered into that on long trips. And I'll tell you, I got finished with a show a few months ago and climbed right off the stage and into a golf cart. A gentleman was taking us back to the bus, and I'm singing and he goes, "What's that song?" I go, "Aw man, it's the Wiggles." And he said "The wiggles? What is a wiggle?" I go, "Nevermind man, nevermind." [laughs]