John Rich Leads the Way for Gone Country

Big & Rich Member Demonstrates His Work Ethic to a Cast of Celebrities

Editor’s note: The new episode of CMT’s Gone Country premieres Friday (Feb. 22) at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Five weeks into CMT’s Gone Country, the one celebrity who remains consistently in control of everything is John Rich, who’s hosting the series — and not actually competing. And while viewers are learning more about the personalities and habits of the contestants, Rich says he’s gained some insights about himself through watching the series.

“It’s like an out of body kind of thing,” Rich said during a recent interview with CMT.com. “The only time I’ve seen myself on television is during a music video or a performance or an interview when I’m on. I’m John Rich with Big & Rich, or I was John Rich with Lonestar — whatever it was.”

Gone Country has allowed Rich to view himself as others see him.

“Because it’s 24 hours a day and you’re in all these different situations, you forget the cameras are on,” he says. “You forget that they have a microphone on you. You get to see and hear how you really are. That was pretty wild. It definitely makes me think about certain things a little bit more. And certain other things I worried about, it came off fine.”

For the series, Rich has introduced a diverse collection of celebrity contestants to several of his songwriting buddies to determine if they can write and perform a convincing country song. In addition to Brady Bunch star Maureen McCormick, who’s been on a media blitz this week to promote Gone Country, the other cast members include R&B singers Bobby Brown and Sisqó, pop vocalist Julio Iglesias Jr., Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider, American Idol finalist Diana DeGarmo and former Wilson Phillips member Carnie Wilson.

Rich knew in advance the show would require a lot of his time and work, but he says those factors weren’t a concern for him.

“If you’re waiting on me, you’re backing up,” he says. “I’m full speed ahead — all the time, every day. I spent so much time in this town getting kicked around like a tin can, if you’re gonna give me an opportunity to do something like this, I am rockin’. Give me five or six hours of sleep, and I’m ready to go.

“I’m not afraid of work. And, honestly, this kind of stuff doesn’t feel like work at all. Work is what I was doing in 1999 and 2000 when I was beating my head against the wall and not getting anywhere with it. That feels like work. This feels like a party.”

With new episodes premiering weekly, the season finale takes place on March 7 when Rich finally announces the winner.

“I think everyone will be shocked at who I picked as the winner,” he says. “Honestly, though, they all had great songs and they all had great performances.” Admitting that he was surprised by the quality of the work, Rich adds, “It made it really difficult for me. I just had to one-by-one put as many strikes by them as I could — and the person with the fewest amount of strikes is the winner.”

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.