George Strait hasn’t ridden away yet. At a press conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville on Wednesday (Sept. 26), he revealed the first cities on The Cowboy Rides Away tour which launches Jan. 18 in Lubbock, Texas.
“These are cities we’ve gone to a lot over the years, and we’ve tried to pick the ones that are somewhat special to us — to go and say thanks,” he said. “We start out in Lubbock, and we’re going to go up there and play for a bunch of Red Raiders. That’s always fun. We always enjoy playing Lubbock. And we’re going to end [the first] year in my hometown, San Antonio. We’ll hit the Alamodome there, so that will be a great night, also. We’re doing a lot of great cities that we’ve done for years and years, so I’ve got to at least go there one last time.”
Strait hasn’t shared the final round of tour dates, which will take place in 2014. However, he did field questions from reporters during a rare Q&A session.
How did you go about telling your band about this announcement?
Strait: I called [my tour manager] Tom Foote! (laughs) I said, “Tom, can you break this to the band?’ (laughs) I think they probably had it in the back of their minds also. And it’s not like it’s going to happen tomorrow. Two years is a long time. So we’ve got 40 dates to do in the next two years, and they’re going to be so much fun. The band and I will have a lot of time to visit during that time about what we’re going to do.
Can you talk about what the song “The Cowboy Rides Away” means to you?
Well, we’ve done a lot of neat things in my career, and one of them was being able to go to Camp David and spend President [George H.W.] Bush’s last weekend there before Clinton took over. So I took a couple of band members, and we did a little show for them at Camp David. I played it for him and dedicated it to him. It’s got a lot of meaning.
What made you know that this was the time to wind it down?
I always had it in the back of my mind that when I turned 60, it might be the time to start thinking about it. Also, I didn’t want to book a tour where nobody came. So it was important for me to pick that time, rather than go that long and something like [a lack of interest] started happening. I believe I made the right decision. I hope I did. Only time will tell. In 2016, I might say, “What a dummy.” And if that’s the case, maybe I’ll reconsider, but at this particular time, I’m pretty sure I won’t.
Can you share the story about when you first heard yourself on the radio?
It was “Unwound,” and I was going around meeting radio [personnel], taking this record around and trying to get it played. I was with [manager] Erv Woolsey and Roger Ramsey, who was the promotions guy for MCA back then. We walked into KKYX [in San Antonio] and Jerry King was on the air. We said, “Would you play this record?” Of course, Erv and Roger both knew Jerry, and he said, “Sure.” And I said, “Wait, let me run out to the car and turn the radio on!” (laughs) I wanted to hear it on the radio. … And that’s how it all started.
Do you have any studio albums on the way?
I haven’t started any studio work yet, but I’m coming back to town in October to do a session or two then to get this next project kicked off. I’m in the process of putting a record together right now. I think it’s been the longest time right now in between records for me, ever, since ’81, so I’m pretty anxious to get something out.
After the tour finishes, what sort of things are you looking forward to doing?
I have a new grandson, so we’ll certainly be spending a lot of time with him. I’ll try to steal him away from his parents for a while and take him fishing. He’ll still be a little young for that. (laughs) But you know, I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ll probably play golf a lot and do a lot of different things — fish. Like I said, I may take a year off. I may not. I may find some things to do during that year where the band and I can go out and do some special event.
Do you see yourself doing a residency in Las Vegas or the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum?
The Country Music Hall of Fame idea is good, but the Vegas thing … no, not so much. I’ve played Vegas a lot throughout my career, and I love Vegas and I love to play it, but I’m not going to make that kind of commitment to a casino. I don’t feel like I’ll ever want to do that.
What have you done right that has created the success you’ve had all these years?
That’s a good question. I really have been asked that question a lot, and I don’t really don’t know how to answer it. I think the most important thing is the songs. That’s what this business is all about. When we go out and tour, we just try to do the best shows we can. I’ve had great fans, and they’ve been so loyal over the years. I’ll see fans sometimes that have come out during the ’80s, and they’re still coming out. That’s pretty special.Read more about George Strait’s tour announcement.