Darryl Worley’s fourth album, appropriately called Darryl Worley (DreamWorks Nashville), will be released Tuesday (Nov. 2). Before leaving for a recent tour for fans at the Country Gold music festival in Japan and U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, he answered 20 fan questions about keeping in shape, pre-show rituals, the wildest thing he’s ever received from a fan and why he won’t be using the college degree he earned in biology and organic chemistry.
1. I can’t wait until Nov. 2 gets here, so I can buy your CD. Are you excited about it, and how will you spend the day?
It seems like we’ve been waiting forever. (laughs) But, you know, the record labels seem to time this stuff just right so that they get the interest built up. I am very excited about it. I think this is some of the best recording and some of the best songs that we’ve ever put out. I think that this album will be the thing that will take us to the next level.
As far as what I will be doing that day, believe it or not, we’re trying to put together something that might work out with the president because I think that is going to be a lot of what is going on with the press and the media that day. If we can somehow work our way into that, it would be great exposure. If we could just get a mention, that would be huge. But, I could wind up anywhere on Nov. 2. … There’s no telling. Right now, that’s up in the air. I’d love to go home and rest, but that’s not going to happen. Who knows, maybe I’ll be in your town on Nov. 2.
2. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about stardom?
I don’t know if I consider myself a star. But, if I’ve learned anything about … the fame and recognition and awareness, it’s that none of that stuff is really stuff that matters. It’s very hard to maintain your integrity and to continue to be who you are when everyone else is just dying for you to be somebody else. And what I’ve learned is the most important thing in life is that you do maintain your integrity and that you do have a really good, strong handle on who you are. … You know, God made you who you are because he knew that you would serve a special purpose, and if you don’t stay true to that, then really all of that stardom and stuff has really just destroyed the most important thing. So you’ve got to keep your priorities in order.
3. What was it like performing at the Republican National Convention?
It was an honor to be there, of course. I guess that’s one of the things that you just don’t ever expect to happen. When I heard that they had asked us to do that, I was stunned. It was a rush. I mean, the crowd was electric. I wanted to jump up and down, and I had to contain myself … but it’s something that I am very proud that we got to experience. That may never happen again, but it was really one for the record books. I’m proud that we got to go and do it.
4. Who is your favorite NASCAR driver?
Sterling Marlin. I’ve been a Sterling Marlin fan for a long, long time, and I’ve seen him win several races. I thought he was going to maybe pull it off and win the championship last year, but I am not ever going to quit rootin’ for him, because he’s my man.
5. What led you to create your own nonprofit organization, and what charities are supported by the Darryl Worley Foundation?
I just wanted to do something to give back to my community there at home. I feel like the people and the places and the things that I grew up around are the reason why I’m getting to do what I do now. … Hardin County [in West Tennessee] has given a whole lot to me … music, all kinds of experiences. … There were those old honky-tonks down there, and that’s kind of where I cut my teeth. So, I just really wanted to find a way to help those people that were in need in that area. … Cystic Fibrosis, we picked that for personal reasons. Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis is a hospital that we donate money to because of the work that they do with children. And St. Jude [Children’s Research Hospital], of course, is an organization that we support. They do incredible work … It costs about $750,000 a day to keep the doors open on that hospital … so we give a percentage of the take to those guys.
6. What is the best way we, as fans, can help get your singles up the charts?
It is really very simple. I don’t think people realize as fans how much a part they play in helping us get those singles up the charts. … Whatever station … that affects the charts near your home area, that’s the station that you need to be calling. If you know that I have a song on the radio, and it needs a little kick in the butt, if you call that station and say, “Why are you not playing the new Darryl Worley single?” or “Why do I only hear it one time a day?” … A lot of times you can e-mail those stations. … If they get bombarded with stuff like that, they can’t just ignore it. Now, some of the corporate stations have a playlist that is pretty solid, and they won’t veer from that at all, but these requests and e-mails do make a difference, because they’ve got to move some of those songs off of that playlist and new songs onto it, and that’s how they make those decisions.
7. When you were a kid, was making music what you wanted to do in life?
When I was a kid, I was into a lot of different things. I was a hellion, and I was wide open all the time. I would probably say I was hyper. But even as a child, music was a big part of my life. … Both my brothers are musically inclined, and my mom and my dad can even carry a tune. … I knew as a child that I would probably want to be some kind of an entertainer, because I was the middle child. I loved being the center of attention, and I loved making people laugh. I was the life of the party and enjoyed it. … I was experimenting with making my own original music by the time that I got out of high school. It’s always been a part of my life, and I had a lot of influences in that area, so I guess I probably didn’t have a chance.
8. If you weren’t singing today, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be building, and I might do some commercial fishing on the side. I always loved that feeling of being in tune with nature and taking, harvesting. … Maybe I just like the idea of being a fisherman. There’s just something special about it, so I did that for a while. I like to build things. I like to be involved with construction because, at the end of the day, I like to look back at where we started, and I like to be able to see the progress of what I’ve done. My degree, I don’t think that I would go back into the chemical industry, because it’s just about as political and cutthroat as the music business (laughs). … I think what I want to do after music, if I do well enough in music, is just hunt and fish for the rest of my life. (laughs) Take it easy on the farm.
9. I have wanted to be a singer for a long time. Do you have any advice on how to become a great singer and what to expect when I get to Nashville?
I don’t know if I can tell you how to become a great singer, because I don’t even know if I consider myself a great singer. … The thing that you have to realize is that if you have a talent for singing, then you have something unique and special, because nobody else is going to sing exactly like you do. No matter what you have to do in life, you have to be committed to working very hard at it. I would say the best way to become a great singer is to work, work, work, work, work — and don’t take anything for granted.
What you can expect when you come to Nashville is to be tested in every possible way. I say that because I don’t have any doubts that that is what will happen. … I’m a pretty tough guy. I’ve been through a lot in my life, and this was the only thing that I ever undertook that I almost gave up on. Right when you get ready to give up and when you don’t care anymore is usually when it happens. You are going to face rejection, and you’re going to have people tell you that you don’t have a prayer. You’ll probably have people telling you that before you leave your hometown. … I say that you have to do what your heart leads you to do. If you believe in yourself, and you believe strong enough that that’s what you’re supposed to be doing, go for it! But, I will give you a piece of advice: Before you come to Nashville, it would behoove you to know what kind of music you want to do … who are you musically. That’s the thing you have to figure out. … And when you figure that out, don’t let anybody change that … ever! Stick to your guns, and be who you are. … That’s the most important thing of all.
10. What was the first album you ever bought?
It was probably a Merle Haggard album. I got a lot of my music early on in my life from other family members that had huge collections of country stuff. They would say, “Here boy, take this, and learn these songs.” I probably bought some Merle Haggard albums. I love the Eagles. Early on, I probably bought one of those. Gosh, I don’t know. The list goes on and on … a lot of country singers that I loved. I remember buying Willie Nelson’s greatest hits way back when. … I don’t know if I am doing a good job of answering this or not, because a lot of my music was kind of handed down to me.
11. What is the wildest thing a fan ever gave you?
Well, I got lots of panties and bras. One time, I got a little picture frame that opened up, and it had a couple of really cool, naked photos and a little recorded message. (laughs) And I thought, “Well, how nice.” (more laughter)
12. Who are your favorite country artists to listen to?
Well, I love Haggard. I love George Jones. Willie Nelson, and I love Waylon. Vern Gosdin, Lefty Frizzell … way back … Hank Sr., Jimmie Rodgers … a wide range of really good and original country performers. John Conlee. … I can’t do this without mentioning my favorite singer of all — and that’s Gene Watson. Keith Whitley was also one of my favorites. The list just goes on and on.
13. One of my favorite songs is “POW 369.” Why was this never released as a single?
We considered it. One thing is we did not want people to perceive that we were trying to take advantage of the situation in the country or overseas and in the Middle East and just make money from that thing by tugging on people’s heartstrings with these songs about military and veterans and prisoners of war. But, another thing … Doug Stone had a single on that song. … It was actually getting a pretty good bit of airplay around the country, so it wouldn’t be real smart to put a song out that someone already had out.
14. When you’re not on the road, describe what an average day is like. Are there days when you can just kick back and be at home?
Honestly, the last three or four years have almost been too intense at times. Usually, now a day off of the road is a day like today where I’ll do interviews from 9 in the morning until 7 or 8 o’clock tonight. … There are very few of those days where I just get to kick back. But every now and then that happens, and I think that that’s the only thing that keeps me going. Hopefully, next year I’ll be able to get maybe a few more of those than I did this year.
15. Out of all your songs, which is your favorite, which is the hardest to sing and which one did you have the most fun recording?
One of my favorites songs is “Second Wind” because of what it says and because of where it came from and because it’s my mama’s favorite song. She said that that song had something to do with her getting over her cancer, and that means a lot to me. Also, “The Way Things Are Going” is one of my favorites, because it was a song that came out of one of the hardest times in my life, and I rose above some things that I didn’t know if I could prevail. I didn’t know if I would be able to get past them — and I did — so it means a lot to me personally. The song that’s probably the hardest to sing … I’m thinking sometimes “Family Tree.” … By the time the song is over, my voice is starting to get pretty fatigued because it’s higher than a lot of the other songs that I sing. … The most fun to record … this new album has a new song on it called “Work and Worry,” and just from beginning to end there’s a whole lot of stuff going on. And also a song called “Whistle Dixie,” which is the last track on the brand new album. We did some stuff with the choir and with some of the production that I just thought was very unique, and it was a lot of fun.
16. Do you have any rituals prior to a show?
I usually try to just get somewhere for one or two minutes before all the announcements start and … before the band starts to vamp or whatever. My sound guy on stage, the monitor guy always pipes a prayer into our headset. If you want it, you can get it. If you don’t, you don’t have to hear it. And that’s one of my favorite parts. When he’s through, I usually just try to kind of envision what’s about to happen and just say a little prayer and ask God to bless the show and for us to be a good example. … And sometimes we are, and sometimes we’re probably not. (laughs) It’s a moment to let the heart rate slow down and reflect on other shows in the past and what has worked well and what hasn’t and to just say “Lord, help us to go out here and entertain the people and do a good job.” … And basically that’s the only ritual I have … and usually there’s a lot of times when I don’t get to do that.
17. What do you do to keep in shape?
Well, I just eat everything I can get my hands on and work out real hard. I work out pretty intensely, and I go at it as many days a week as I can. You don’t get that many opportunities when you’re out on the road, but if I’m in and I can get to the gym, I go religiously. It’s a big part of my daily routine, because I think it’s a responsibility. We are very blessed to do what we do and you stand a chance of making good money and being able to secure a nest egg, which I think is a blessing. And the reason that we can do that is because of our fans, and I think that it is our duty and part of our job to look as good as we can for the people that pay our bills. So I take it pretty seriously.
18. Are there plans to do a video for “Awful Beautiful Life”?
It’s a little late, as far as we would have liked to have gotten it out sooner. But I’ve been so busy that we haven’t had a chance to shoot the video. But I think it’s actually going to come at a real good time. … Everybody can look for it. It’s going to be very cool, too. The concept is just awesome, and I think that there’s going to be a lot of really cool pictures and scenes. I’m excited about it.
19. If you could only perform or write songs, which would you choose and why?
If I had to give up one, it would be the performing, because I’ll be able to sit and write songs when I’m 85 years old. I probably won’t have the patience to deal with that many people at that time in my life. … To be able to sit down with my old guitar and come up with a rhyme and a melody and a message that means something to someone, I couldn’t stand it if you took that away from me.
20. Describe what a songwriting session is like.
It varies. The ones that are like a session are the ones that I hate. … When you do a session … if you’ve got it on the books, I’ve got to meet this guy at 9, you just go in a room somewhere and sit down and shut the door and start throwing ideas back and forth at each other until you come up with one that you really both agree … would be something good to work on. … Sometimes that idea comes in the conversation. You may not have that idea when you get there. Some of these sessions can be real fun and rewarding, and some of them can be like pulling teeth. I like to write songs when I’m driving down the road. I like to write songs when I’m sitting on my porch on a beautiful fall morning or afternoon and something comes to me that moves me and makes me think, “Wow, that would make a great song.” Unfortunately, like everything else in this world, it has become so industrial and commercialized that sometimes we have to schedule a session. … It’s hard to find time sometimes. Sometimes those sessions are the toughest way to write songs. But, hey, I had a session one day, and we wrote “Have You Forgotten” … so I can’t complain. (laughs)