Country-rocker Ricky Lynn Gregg has recorded three studio albums: two on Liberty Records (1993's Ricky Lynn Gregg and 1994's Get a Little Closer) and one on Row Music Group (2001's Careful What You Wish For). His first two albums produced three hit singles on the Billboard country music charts, including the No. 36-peaking "If I Had a Cheatin' Heart." In 1993, Billboard ranked him at No. 4 on its list of Top New Country Artists of the Year. There is no doubt Gregg is a mainstay artist in country music. I had the opportunity to meet RLG and visit about some of his past, talk about the present and discuss what he has planned for the future.
Bev: Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Can you give me an update on what you’ve been doing?
RLG: I released my last single in 2003, which was released to European media. European media is like R&R and goes between New Zealand and Russia. I had a No. 1, “I Just Want To Be Loved By You,” which was on the charts for five weeks. It was very rewarding. I just came back from Switzerland this last March and had a great tour. In June, I got together for a rock ‘n’ roll reunion with Savvy, a band out of Texas. My (former) band (Head East) and I played a festival in front of 10,000-plus fans. It was great to have all hometown boys there.
Since then, we have our own show at Bally’s in Tunica, doing two shows a night every weekend. They have a “sister” casino called The Resort, which we also play at. Both places allow me to play my music and let me be Ricky Lynn Gregg, which is very satisfying because I can play a lot of genres of music.
Bev: Are you working on any CD projects right now?
RLG: I am working on a gospel CD that I will be releasing independently. Nowadays, that’s tough because of the economy. It is so hard for everybody right now. I am waiting patiently for the economy to turn around.
Bev: Your last full album came out in 2001, right?
RLG: Yes, it was called Careful What You Wish For and we released a video for it. It did well on American radio. It connected well with my core audience and I co-produced it with the legendary Barry Beckett, Andy Gore and Steve Crawford. It was an album that was a little on the edge of rock ‘n’ roll/country and allowed me to sing ballads and basically said, “Here I am.”
We took the second single and video to Europe. It’s great to have a market there and still be alive in America. Doing this broadened our fan base beyond our expectations. It was so gratifying to have all the European markets embrace the music as they did.
Bev: I read that you selected each song because they had a special message. Do you look for songs like that? Do try to find songs that have special messages for your fans?
RLG: ABSOLUTELY! You can’t do a song unless you’ve lived it! Even if I sing blues, I try to make it happy. I love the old music and I listen to the songs and the ones that I connect to are the ones I have lived a piece of, so I think to connect to my own fans and be able to perform a song and do it right, I feel like I have to be the song. So to answer you on the special message, yes, each song has to posses that quality.
Bev: How have you changed as an artist through all that you’ve done?
RLG: When you first start this business it’s almost as if you’re a freshman in high school and you have those “freshman jitters.” In 1993, when I was singing rock ’n’ roll, it became so cut-throat that I got out of it. You just have to feel comfortable, and that’s why I got out. The most important thing I’ve learned with your first record you gain friends, with the sophomore you gain more experience. I became a better singer, and then this last record I’ve gained knowledge. Your styles and song choosing match these changes. Especially now when I can sing more songs that I have lived. Besides musically, you gain knowledge about the business and that you stand in line and know what to wait for and it’s all about recognition in this business. The greatest thing, though, is my improvement with my vocals.
Bev: What did it mean to be asked to be a part of the recent Mel McDaniel benefit concert?
RLG: It made me think this is the way things should be—so many different artists showed up to honor this man and be there for him. The camaraderie was great. All the fans of the different artists came together to make the benefit work. We had everyone from Jim Ed Brown and David Ball, to Little Jimmy Dickens and Tommy Tutone! The love in that room was amazing. There were people in the crowd there for support that made it so special. George Jones’ wife came out. I just was so glad to be a part of it.
Bev: Are you still producing, I know you were, for awhile, with Darryl Dasher.
RLG: I’m still with Darryl; he’s one of my projects. I’m producing the developmental end of the songwriting, studio work and the whole gamut of the preparatory work. Darryl is more contemporary gospel. I help get him on stage and in front of people, then we critique the performances. He’ll be a big star.
Bev: Is there a piece of advice that you would like to pass on? Especially those who are new to the business?
RLG: The best advice, without writing a book, is to be careful and be persistent, especially if you’re serious. It’s good to be careful because there isn’t any danger or negativity that you can look out for, and if singing is really what you want to do, you’ve got to be persistent. Make sure you have your mind set (to) thinking there is no turning back. If you have to go back to what you were doing, that is a thing called fate. If it turns back, it wasn’t your decision, it was fate. Don’t give up.
Bev: What was your most embarrassing moment?
RLG: [Laughs] I’ve just got so many! I was doing a gig in Dallas Texas, and right above the drums was an aluminum bar attached from one side of drums to the other. That night, the lighting company that set the lights up didn't use that bar. During a song, when the guitar took their solo, I grabbed the light truss and worked my way down to the aluminum bar. I hung my legs over the bar and sang upside down, facing the audience. After about 60 seconds on the bar, my 200 pounds-plus began to bend the aluminum bar—it eventually bent, and I fell entirely on the drums—breaking the tom-toms off, knocking the cymbals over, causing physical distress. But, through it all, the drummer, Joel Parks, with his snare and kick only (the only two things left standing) played through the song, and I kept singing, and I finished the song, despite the most major-league mishap you could have on stage. I give credit to determination, and as the saying goes, "The show must go on."
Bev: Has there ever been an interview where you have been asked a question you just didn’t want to answer?
RLG: I’ve had some ridiculous questions, anything from “boxers or briefs” to how the corn is going to do this year? Apparently the public is concerned on what Ricky Lynn thinks the weather is going to do or how the corn will grow [laughs].
Bev: Any pre-stage rituals you do?
RLG: I get in the shower and I meditate, then go in t
o do the same routine of washing my hair and my body, dry off the same arm. Same everything in the same order. I am like MONK. (laughing) Then I shave and start this process of getting dressed. It throws me off if something is not in order. I say a little prayer before I begin.
Bev: Have I missed anything or is there anything I did not ask you about that you wanted to make sure we talked about?
RLG: No, you have asked a lot of great questions and I really appreciate this time we have spent together. Thank you for taking time to visit with me.
For more information on Ricky Lynn Gregg visit http://www.rickylynngregg.com. Also, catch Ricky Lynn in the Sept. 14 issue of Country Weekly on newsstands beginning Sept. 7.