"I knew I was going to do a country album one day," Lionel tells The Boot. "But I was just trying to figure out for the life of me, what we were going to do to make it different, unique. Someone said to me, 'Lionel, why don't you do 'Lionel Does Gershwin'?' I thought, I just don't know if I feel comfortable, that's not my thing. But what does feel comfortable to me is 'Lionel Does Lionel.' It started out that I was going to do one, maybe two duets. Then it became a whole album of duets. Then the floodgates opened and it was just, why didn't we think of this 40 years ago? It was perfect, absolutely perfect."
Tuskegee is the living legend's third chart-topping album and his first since 1986's Dancing on the Ceiling. "You cannot beat the feeling of sitting on top of the charts," says Lionel. "I had almost forgotten what it feels like ... It feels great! It is really a very exciting time and I am enjoying the ride."
Also enjoying the ride are his duet partners on the project: Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean, Jennifer Nettles, Shania Twain, Kenny Rogers, Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson, Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney and Billy Currington.
"With a record like this, you can't take the bow alone," Lionel insists. "You take it with the wonderful talent that came onboard and believed in this project. It is just amazing to have all of the very talented artists, producers and musicians who participated in this. This was one big family reunion, as far as I am concerned. We take the bow together because it was an outstanding group effort."
The musician is also quick to thank the staff of his new record label, Mercury Nashville, who "took my hand and led me in the front door." And most importantly, Lionel is grateful for his sea of fans -- both the new ones he's made through this new country venture and the ones who've been around for four decades. "They are the ones who made this possible," he says. "They are the ones who have stuck around forever with me ... Thank you for allowing me to enjoy what I do for all of these years, and for enjoying what I do. I thank you for being a part of my story."
Lucky for those fans, Lionel is already hinting that Tuskegee: Volume 2 is in the works.
Watch "Lionel Richie's Life and Career"