After taking a break last year, Big & Rich have reunited for a full summer of tour dates. Of course, they're both pursuing solo careers, as well. John Rich released Son of a Preacher Man in March and created national attention with the single, Meanwhile, Big Kenny says he's mastered about 50 new songs in his home studio and recently released a single,
In separate interviews, the duo talked about playing new music, escaping reality and why their partnership works.
CMT: How is making a solo album different compared to making a Big & Rich album?
John Rich: It couldn't be more 180. Big Kenny is such an entity and such a racehorse unto himself. Honestly, it's a 180 for me on a lot of different levels. When we come together, it's a very interesting sweet spot we find when we make those really great Big & Rich songs. This album [Son of a Preacher Man] -- because I'm in there by myself, I produced it on my own, I wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the album -- I really got to dig down as deep as I wanted to and say things exactly how I would say them with no concern as to what Big Kenny might think about it. Everybody knows Kenny's "Love Everybody" [slogan]. Everybody knows that's not necessarily my mantra all the time. I think some people deserve one of these (clenches fist) including me sometimes. The world is a crazy place, and there's some crazy people in it. Songs like "Shutting Detroit Down," I believe, call out some of the nonsense that we all are witnessing on a daily basis. I'm not sure "Shuttin' Detroit Down" would ever have made a Big & Rich album.
Big Kenny: I could focus so much time [on the new music]. What I've been able to do in the past year and a-half is to get me back to what I feel like was the quality of the first B&R record. We had so long to work on that. John and I had both had previous careers. We had both been writing for a long time. We had a monstrous collection of songs. We had spent the previous two or three years together writing songs because both of our [solo] record deals fluttered out around the same time. Then we got signed as Big & Rich, and we had a tremendous amount of time to focus on music. Straight up, man, you just don't get that very often as an artist. I just kind of stole it. That's how I look at it. This past year and a-half, to be able to take a break and get my whole creative world built around me, it's been like a musician's dream come true. I think I'm Peter Pan sometimes when I walk into my studio. My friends are over here working. It's got that vibe again. I'm able to focus again on the music. Greatness of any kind and quality take time. And we've been able to put together some great stuff, and I'm super excited about it.
Are you going to be able to play some of your solo songs on the tour?
Big Kenny: John and I are going to break the set up and play all the B&R classics. Then I'm going to a couple of my new songs and he's going to do a couple of his new songs. Then we're going to end in good ol' Big & Rich fashion -- rockin' it hard and heavy until we drop a hole in the floor. (laughs)
Rich: I plan on playing "Shutting Detroit Down" in the show, and I know Kenny's written a bunch of new songs, too. So you'll get all the Big & Rich songs, and then you'll probably get a couple Big Kenny songs and some John Rich songs. Cowboy Troy will be out there, Two Foot Fred and the whole freak parade will be out there on the road. It should be a very entertaining concert. I know it's tough out there for people to even think about buying a ticket to a show, but if you want to escape reality for a minute, the Big & Rich show is a pretty good way to do it. So if we're coming through your city, come on out and see us.
You two are different on so many levels. Does that help you make it work as a duo?
Big Kenny: It completely pushes us apart, and then we get to go out there! The good thing is, whatever his world is and whatever my world is clash when we hit the stage. It clashes in a really good way. I think with two dudes like us, if we did everything together all the time, we would be doing the world a disservice. We both need to get out and do what we do [separately], and then come back and meet on that stage and do what we do together. ... I just know that I am a better musician and singer today than I was yesterday or a year ago. You keep doing anything and you get better at it. I know he's doing the same thing and growing in his life in the same way. You have to. That's just the law of nature. But it's going to be interesting to get out on the road. We've written apart from each other so much. We still probably have Lord knows how many songs in our catalog, but the road will give us a reason to bring our writing creativity together, too, if we choose to or see fit. Hell, maybe John will buy an island and invite me down for the weekend, and we'll just write a whole record. Me and him, one thing about our writing, when we've got a great idea, it's like bam! It just comes so quickly. It's going to be a very exciting summer.
Rich: The fact that Big Kenny and I are so different on so many personal levels is probably what makes the outrageous dynamic. When we actually do find our center between the two of us, you have songs like nobody else writes. He couldn't write those songs on his own and I couldn't write those songs on my own. It truly is a pretty magical equation.
CMT Insider producer Tim Hardiman contributed to this report.