Editor’s note: Rich talks about his Celebrity Apprentice experience in the second part of the interview that runs Monday (May 23) on CMT.com.
John Rich is returning to New York City this weekend to find out if he’s the winner of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice. Donald Trump’s final decision will be broadcast live on Sunday night (May 22), so it’s anybody’s guess whether Rich will edge past Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin to win $250,000 for charity. However, the determined finalists have already forged a working relationship. While Rich performs one of his new songs on the show, Matlin will offer the lyrics in sign language.
Earlier this week, Rich dropped by CMT to talk about two of his favorite topics — country music and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He tips his hat to both entities with a pair of new Six Pak albums, Rich Rocks and For the Kids, simultaneously released on Tuesday (May 17).
Here’s the first half of a two-part interview. Like Celebrity Apprentice, we’re leaving you with a cliffhanger.
CMT: Rich Rocks is an appropriate title for the new project. What was so appealing about having a Six Pak with all up-tempo tracks?
Rich: One of my favorite albums of all time is Back in Black by AC/DC. If I want to get in a party mode, or if I’ve got people coming over to the house, or if we’re at a tailgate party in the middle of nowhere … if you want to get the party started, you put in that record. I wanted to have a record of my own that did that for the country music fans. So I put together a collection of six songs. The first song is “Country Done Come to Town,” and it just gets more and more aggressive from there. You can feel the pedal going down. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t drive and listen to the song. Park the car at Dairy Queen and listen to it! Park the car in a Walmart parking lot and listen to it! I mean, it is over-the-top energy.
What did Kid Rock bring to the “Mack Truck” track?
How do you not have Kid Rock on a record called Rich Rocks? (laughs) I told him what I was doing and he said, “Dude, that’s a great concept for a record.” He loved the track on “Mack Truck.” The whole idea of that is this girl who is so hot, she hit me like a Mack Truck — I didn’t know what hit me. Flattened me! Kid Rock did a DJ-style, old-school Detroit-style club drop, as they call it, where he just drops in and introduces the song. When you hear Kid Rock’s voice coming in, the whole place goes to another level.
For the Kids is on the flip side of that. What was going through your mind as you were putting that project together?
Life is a flip side, isn’t it? Sometimes you’re rockin’ and sometimes you’re really serious. You’ve got to take care of everything. Life is 360. It is not a straight line. This is a great example with both of these Six Paks coming out at the same time. One of them will blow your speakers up and the other one will really, really make you think — and make you feel. It’s called For the Kids, and the money generated by that song (“For the Kids”) is directed to St. Jude. One hundred percent of it. I’m very proud of that. I’m hoping this can live way, way, way beyond Celebrity Apprentice. Once people have forgotten I was on that show, that song will still be out there and available, and it will make money for the hospital.
I’ve had Wynonna‘s version of “Rescue Me” in my collection for years. I’m happy to find it on this project, too. What is it about that song that has stuck with you so long?
“Rescue Me” was a song written by a girl named Katie Darnell. She was a girl with brain cancer. Big Kenny and I became friends with her. She sang us a song while we were visiting her hospital room. It was called “Rescue Me,” which she had written right there in her hospital bed. We took it to the studio and did a full-blown recording of it, and I wanted to include that song on this record. She has since passed away, but the influence she had on me … I wanted that influence to live on. So that’s the last song on the album.
What do you remember about your first trip to St. Jude?
The first time I ever went to St. Jude, I was a bass player in Lonestar. This would’ve been about 1995, so we’re looking at 16 years ago. As a young punk kid in a rowdy country band, I was sobered by going there. I walked in as a young bachelor, and it knocked me down then. But going back now as a guy with a 15-month-old son, you walk in that hospital and you’re seeing 20-pounders and 15-pounders walking all over the place. And their parents are in agony, scared to death of what’s going to happen next. These little kids’ hair is gone and they’re fighting with everything they’ve got. It’s almost more than you can stand, going in there. I would urge all country music artists to make sure you go there, because once you do, you’ll never get over it and you’ll always want to help.
Why did you choose them as your charity on Celebrity Apprentice?
I chose St. Jude because you’ve got to take care of the kids first and foremost. And these kids are in the biggest battles of any kids out there. Some kids now have forms of cancer that don’t even have names. Cancer is the nastiest thing that ever happened. It continues to morph and change and move into things that resist treatments. St. Jude is not only a place that treats these kids, it researches new treatments. They have treatments that are just serial numbers. They don’t even have a name for the experimental treatments they’re giving these kids.
Guess what? A lot of them work! As a matter of fact, the majority of [patients] make it out of the hospital and go on to live great, long lives. This place is like no other place in the world, and the only way they get by is by donations. They run strictly on donations. You can give anything from $5 a month to $5 million a month, if you want to. Everybody should join up and help those kids because you never know when it will be somebody in your own family that needs to go there. It can happen at any time. Thank God for places like St. Jude.