Jennings Never Got Used to Cameras for Shooter

New CMT Series Follows Waylon's Son on the Road -- but Not at Home

Editor’s note: Shooter debuts Friday (Oct. 28) at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Here’s the theme song you won’t hear on Shooter Jennings’ new TV show:

“Didn’t want to be on TV/But they paid us, so here we be/And the show you’re about to see, it’s about me/’Cause I’m a bad, bad, bad mother” — and then it’s suddenly punctuated by double guitar riffs.

“It was awesome,” says Jennings, who wrote the theme, himself. Although clearly disappointed nobody will hear the song after it was deemed “too risky” to air, he says taping Shooter was a fun experience and credits the crew for making him at ease.

“It’s like being in a room with a pink elephant,” the 26-year-old singer-songwriter explains. “Sometimes I can forget about it. I think also there’s a skill to producers, directors and camera guys being able to make you forget. Like, if they have a bunch of clunky guys running around — dropping stuff and causing problems and bumping into stuff or saying, ‘SHHHHH, WE’RE FILMING!’ — that’s not going to help your nerves. But I wouldn’t know they were filming half the time. They made us as comfortable as we could be in that situation.”

Still, he admits he never grew completely accustomed to the cameras.

“That was some of the hardest work I’ve done in my entire life,” he says. “It was fun, but there were several days when we were set up from 8 in the morning until 10 at night going around with them following me. My whole problem is that you feel like such an A-hole — walking around with a camera crew behind you, walking in to see your friends or something.”

Jennings is reluctant to call Shooter a reality show because he was adamant that no filming would take place at his house: “I didn’t want to become that guy and do a show like that — where you guys can see what kind of toothpaste I use in the morning.”

Plus, he knew in advance where they were going, including a radio station visit in Los Angeles, a concert stop in Marion, Ill., and general hijinks in Nashville. One of the funniest and most revealing moments comes when Universal Music Publishing — which takes care of his songwriting business — throws him a Music Row porch party. He’s visibly uncomfortable at the industry function (he is the son of Waylon Jennings after all) but nevertheless game for idle chatter, self-deprecation and backslapping.

When the current conversation turns to contemporary country, he divides the scene among real artists and “manufactured” artists. Naturally, he prides himself on keeping it real. So, would he allow one of country’s mainstream artists to cut one of his songs?

“The odds of that happening are probably extremely low, but yeah,” he says. “It’s like, Rascal Flatts is not really my thing, but I’m not going to say they’re bad because they’re not. They’ve worked their asses off every night for what they believe in. If anybody wants to cut one of my songs, man, that’s a compliment to me, because that means somebody else connected with it.”

Coming up, Jennings will appear — “for about 30 seconds,” he says — in the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line, as Waylon. But for now, he’s healing from a cracked rib, an injury he sustained on stage a few weeks ago from singing too hard. Though he finished the set without clueing in the audience, he checked himself into the hospital the next morning. (He also sheepishly tried to keep it under wraps, but Big & Rich’s John Rich let the cat out of the bag, bragging on his buddy’s vocal power.)

Jennings’ second album, Electric Rodeo, will be released in April, and he’s hoping to gather some Shooter outtakes to create a “making-of” documentary. An extensive tour, including a string of dates with Toby Keith, made for a tighter sound in the studio this time around.

“The new record is way more traditional country than the first one, but in the moments when we rock out, it’s way better,” he says. “It’s so much more like Zeppelin. Everything’s even paced and groovy and got a vibe to it. There’s humor on the record, too.

“I’m so excited and so happy. It’s the best thing that I’ve ever been a part of.”