The guys in Lonestar are burning white-hot. The group recently released their fourth album, I’m Already There. The title track, composed by frontman Richie McDonald with Gary Baker and Frank Myers (co-writers of “I Swear”), has become a No. 1 single. The new album follows the band’s breakthrough, Lonely Grill, released in 1999 and certified triple platinum for shipments of 3 million copies. Lonely Grill yielded four No. 1 singles: “Tell Her,” “What About Now,” “Smile” and the crossover smash “Amazed.” We sent Lonestar your questions about everything from how they got their name to who gets to the bus last on a road trip. The answers are below.
1. How did you become a group?
Michael: Basically, we all sort of met in Texas. Keech and I played a show in Dallas one night as members of the band Canyon. This Richie guy opened for us. Then, Richie met Dean at a theme park audition in Arlington for Opryland. Dean got the job and moved to Nashville. Richie moved to Nashville a year later and the two ran into each other, had a brilliant (LOL) idea to start a band and then called me and Keech.
2. How did you come up with the name Lonestar and why did you stick with that name?
Richie: Before we had a record deal, we went by the name Texassee. It’s kind of confusing to people. … one of the conditions of the deal was that we change our name. The songwriter Kostas called up our producer and suggested that we go with something that represented the fact that we’re all from Texas. … next thing you know, it’s official. We’re Lonestar.
3. What did you do for a living before you made it in the country music business?
Dean: Construction and waiting tables.
Michael: I was a pharmacy tech and pizza delivery guy; Richie worked at Coca-Cola.
Keech: Worked on boats, got stung by bees while doin’ it and played drums.
4. Which one of the boys is the first packed and ready to leave on the bus, and which one is the last-minute packer and barely making the bus? Any funny stories along this line?
Dean: The bus driver is always first!
Richie: The last one packed, well, we all run a little late from time to time, but let me think. … which one is it … “eanie, meanie, minie, moe / catch-a-Deanie by his toe!!” Dean’s always late! Michael used to always be late because he only lived three minutes from the bus, and he’d wait until the last possible minute to come to the bus.
5. When you’re on the road, do you get a chance to sightsee in any of the cities you’re performing in, or do you pretty much stay in hotel rooms or buses between shows?
Michael: Richie gets to see more than most of us because he runs. He usually knows where the local Wal-Mart is.
Keech: Yeah, and by the time he gets there I’m already there with my scooter saying, “What took ya?” (LOL)
Michael: When we were over in England, we got to see Edinburgh Castle in Scotland and Canterbury Cathedral.
6. Do you ever try to play practical jokes on each other on stage, and if you do, how do you pull it off so that the audience doesn’t know or that it doesn’t interrupt your performance?
Keech: Back behind the drums I have a little microphone that I can use to communicate with the monitor guy. … and all the guys can hear me too. Sometimes when Richie’s singing a tender ballad, I’ll say all kinds of strange things to him.
Richie: Yeah, I’ll be singing to a lady on the front row and the whole time all I can hear is the sound “pplllllllllllllllll” in my ears!
7. I know you guys are famous when it comes to pranks on the road. What was the most memorable prank? Who was the artist?
Dean: Well, yes, we do from time to time play practical jokes on people. This summer we’ve been on the George Strait festival and targeted our buddy Brad Paisley a lot. There was the time we filled his water bottle with minnows … and he drank it! Then we had a background singer, Marty, hooked up to his headset saying all kinds of crazy things while he was performing. Then we had a large man strip and walk out on stage while he was performing. That was about all we did to abuse him that evening!!
8. There has been lots of talk about some country artists crossing over to more pop-sounding music. What do y’all think of that, and do y’all consider yourselves to be one of those artists?
Michael: I think if we have a song cross over it’s because the song has wide appeal. I don’t think we’re trying to be ’N Sync or anything like that.
9. With the release of another beautiful ballad, “I’m Already There,” do you worry about being typecast?
Richie: Sure we do. You know with the success of “Tell Her,” “Smile,” “Amazed” and now “I’m Already There,” I guess people might stereotype us as a ballad band. But I believe with the new album we’ve taken the precaution of finding great tempo songs that are equally as good as the ballads. We feel like we can do them both. That’s what we try to do. … fill an album with great songs, ballads and tempo alike.
10. Does the song “I’m Already There” reflect your experiences while touring away from your family?
Richie: Without a doubt … it’s what we’re all about and what we really believe. We want to be with our families whenever we can, and “I’m Already There” is about how we feel when we’re away from them. We’ve all had that experience.
Dean: It’s like what I always say to my daughter when I call home and she asks when she’ll see me. I tell her I’ll see her in her dreams, that I’ll meet her there.
11. You guys have had a long stream of hits like “Amazed,” “Smile,” etc. When you’re constantly on the road performing them, how do you keep the sincerity in the songs you sing? How do you keep the feelings and the passion for the words fresh?
Richie: When I sing songs like “Smile” and “Amazed,” it’s easy because they are such passionate songs. Then all the stories we got from “Amazed”; it was great!
12. You’ve contributed to the Jesus album. Do you hope to offer more music to Christian projects?
Dean: To have a song on the soundtrack truly was a great moment for this band. It put us in front of people that may have never otherwise heard us. As for another project, there’s nothing planned, but we would always stay open for the opportunity to be involved.
13. Where did you film the video for “I’m Already There?” The building is very cool.
Dean: It was a very cool, refurbished train station in Nashville. … Union Station.
14. What was your favorite location for a video, and is there a place that you would like to shoot a video?
Dean: Moab, Utah.
Keech: We did a video for “When Cowboys Didn’t Dance” in Moab. Sunk a jeep in the process of scouting locations. But Moab, it was like being in a picture. … it was just beautiful. Hot, but beautiful.
15. Just wanted to ask if any of your kids are singers and if you would encourage them in the business?
Dean: Well, my daughter loves to sing and dance — loves to dance on my piano. If she’s interested in it, I won’t really encourage or discourage her to pursue the business.
Keech: I definitely would. My son, Dakota, was chosen out of four elementary schools in Cheatham County where we live to sing in a special concert. He practiced every morning before school for weeks. I would definitely encourage him.
16. I recently heard that Lonestar is helping out the American Red Cross with their Hurricane Awareness campaign. Why did they decide to help out? I admire them for helping the Red Cross.
Dean: It’s an incredible organization. When they approached us about being spokespersons we were honored. We just recorded a [public service announcement] about their Disaster Relief Kit that helps people prepare for the effects of hurricanes. For any of you that would like more information on how to help, you can get information at 1-800-HELP-NOW.
17. When are you going to do a Christmas album?
Dean: We just released one for Christmas of 2000. … This Christmas Time. We’re hoping to do a tour next winter performing songs from the album.
18. I’m from Green Bay Packer football country. In Wisconsin, we live, eat and breathe Packers! Do each of you have a favorite football, baseball or basketball team you follow?
Dean: Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys. Michael loves the Titans. Keech isn’t into it at all. Richie likes basketball. He likes the Utah Jazz — didn’t do too well. This year he supported the San Antonio Spurs.
19. How did you feel about being part of the George Strait Country Music Festival, and what was your favorite thing about being a part of it?
Michael: Just to be a part of something that large and well-orchestrated and sharing the same stage with folks like George Strait and Alan Jackson. The best part though was to play each day for the fans.
20. How much fun was it to dance on stage at Texas Stadium in a pink tutu?
Michael: Let’s just say … we know why they call them “tights.”