A little C & W at the OSP... 

Rhett Akins is one of my favorite folks to interview.

The easygoing South Georgia native is about as down to earth as they come.

He seems refreshingly free of the carefully-worded answers that are the hallmark of most music biz celebrities.

In other words, he speaks his mind without worrying too much about it.

That’s no doubt served him well in the topsy-turvy world of show business. Since 1995, his childhood dreams have been a reality, and he’s steadily released a handful of chart-topping (and critically lauded) albums of modern-day country. He’s known for hits such as “She Said Yes,” “Don’t Get Me Started,” “That Ain’t My Truck,” and “More Than Everything.”

But he’s also well known as one of the co-founders of the Honky Tonk Tailgate Party – a highly successful package tour of Nashville songwriters that has become something of a minor institution, and spawned more than a few imitations.

The 2004 incarnation of the HTTP finds Akins joined by kindred spirit (and tour co-founder) Daryle Singletary, who’s enjoyed his own success with such hits as “I Let Her Lie” and “Too Much Fun.”

Those two anchors also welcome repeat guest Chad Brock (best known for 1998’s #1 hit “Ordinary Life”) and new kid on the block David Kersh, who struck gold in 1996 and 1998 with songs like "Goodnight Sweetheart," the Brad Paisley-penned "Another You,” and the smash "If I Never Stop Loving You.” This former Academy of Country Music Top New Male Vocalist is returning to the limelight after several years away from performing.

Akins and I laughed our way through a hastily-arranged phone interview in anticipation of his tour’s return engagement at The Oglethorpe Speedway.

Connect Savannah: How’s the tour going?

Rhett Akins: Man, I feel like I been rode hard and put up wet. (laughs) We’ve been on the road all summer. Airplanes, buses... Man, since last Monday, we’ve been in Canada, Texas, Mississippi, Utah and Missouri. This weekend, we’ll be in Kansas and Wisconsin.

CS: Who put that itinerary together?

RA: I guess our booking agent’s been throwin’ darts against a map! (laughs)

CS: Has the HTTP inspired copycats?

RA: We were the first to do it this way, and there’ve been four or five others that have come along since then. We’re buddies with most of ‘em, and it’s cool. I’ve gotten so used to it, I think it’d be hard to do a show on my own, you know? I can’t hardly remember playing for a whole two hours by myself. (laughs)

CS: How long will it continue?

RA: Back in 2000, we figured we might get to do twenty or thirty shows. Now we’ve been doing it for four years, and we do about eighty or ninety shows a year. We wonder every December if that’s gonna be it.

CS: You could always break up and then reunite in February...

RA: Yeah, like KISS? (laughs) A ‘Neverending Farewell Tour?’

CS: They’’ll be pushed out in wheelchairs eventually.

RA: Just like The Stones. (laughs)

CS: Are you looking forward to the show?

RA: Yes, I am. Last year, I thought it was gonna suck, to be honest with you, and it wound up bein’ killer.

CS: What made you think that?

RA: It’s just a racetrack, you know? You never can tell how stuff like that’s gonna go. Plus, it’s like, Pooler, Georgia! (laughs) But we all wound up havin’ a great time. I got to drive a race car, and the crowd was real lively. It turned out to be awesome.

CS: Well, they say it’s cooler in Pooler.

RA: Well, it was, I tell you what! (laughs)

CS: What’s your new song “Kiss My Country Ass” about exactly?

RA: I’m a redneck. I hunt. I drive a big truck. I don’t wear fancy clothes. I’m not in the Country Club. And if you don’t like it or you’ve got somethin’ to say about it, you can kiss my country ass.

CS: Did you know it would stir people up?

RA: Yeah. One way or another. Even if you hate it you can’t forget it. Some songs you hate ‘em and you never remember ‘em again. A song like this you can’t hardly forget the title! (laughs)

CS: Are you worried about the FCC?

RA: Nah, it don’t matter if radio plays it or not. People wanna buy it as soon as they hear it at the concert. We just got our first batch of “Kiss My Country Ass” T-shirts, and we sold every single one of ‘em the other night. Somebody’s gonna play it eventually and it’ll cause so much reaction that at least people will hear about it.

Thurs., July 29th, 9 pm, Oglethorpe Speedway (Pooler). Advance tickets are $15 ($5 for kids). For tickets or info, (912) 964-8200, or log on to www.ospracing.net.

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Jim Reed

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