Session Three: Sound and Speed Behind The Scenes Q & A: Carl Edwards, Kyle Petty, Jason Michael Carroll and Love and Theft
For the past four years, this two-day fan event featuring some of the top names in country music and NASCAR has attracted an estimated 40,000 fans and has raised more than $800,000 for Victory Junction (a year-round camping experience founded by Kyle and Pattie Petty for children, ages 6-16, with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses) and the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum.
On Saturday, Jan. 9th fans of racing and country music had the opportunity to get up-close and personal with drivers and country music stars at Nashville's Municipal Auditorium for autographs and question-and-answer sessions. NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip, Clint Bowyer, Reed Sorenson, David Stremme, Aric Almirola, Justin Allgaier, Kyle Petty, Michael Annett, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, James Buescher, Brad Kesolowski, Logan Ruffin, Brian Scott and Morgan Shepherd joined country music stars Chris Young, Jason Michael Carroll, Josh Turner, members of Diamond Rio, Danny Gokey, Danielle Peck, Corey Smith, Ashton Shepherd, Brady Seals, Nathan Lee Jackson, and duo Kate & Kacey.
Behind the scenes, media also has an opportunity to visit with the participants in Q & A (Question and Answer) interview sessions throughout the event.
Kerry: To my left is Carl Edwards. Carl drives the #99 for AFLAC. He is certainly one of the more accomplished drives in our sport. We are pleased to have him here today.
Also representing NASCAR and maybe representing country music, is Kyle Petty. Certainly one of the more recognized names in our sport, we are glad to have you here. We are glad for all the things you do in the sport but also the things you do outside the sport, they are very much appreciated.
Holly: Next to Carl, we have Jason Michael Carroll. After being discovered at a local talent competition in North Carolina in 2004, Carroll was signed to the Arista Nashville label in 2006. He released his debut album “Waiting In The Country” that year and it produced three consecutive top 40 hits for him on the Billboard top country songs charts. The second album “Growing Up Is Getting Old” has also produced two top forty country hits “Where I’m From” and “Hurry Home”.
On the end, we also have Love and Theft, Steven, Eric and Brian. After opening shows for Taylor Swift in 2008 and Jason Aldean in 2009. Love and Theft is gearing up to hit the road with Country Music superstar Tim McGraw this spring. They have been featured on the Today show and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and have their music included in promos for ABC’s daytime programming. Their album “World Wide Open” was released in August 2009 on the heels of their big top 10 single “Runaway”. Their newest single is “Dancing In Circles” and is quickly climbing the charts.
Kerry: For those that didn’t know, Carl Edwards has his own record label. Carl, tell us a little about that and your interest in the music industry.
Carl: We started a small label called “Back Forty Records”. We have two albums finished and it is just a fun way to get some of the local folks in central Missouri’s music out there on iTunes, get them a little bit of recording time and things like that. It has been a blast. I definitely have a whole new respect for the music industry. It is a very tough business but it has been a lot of fun.
Kerry: Are you going to let Kyle record?
Carl: Kyle can come in and record any time. We don’t have anyone that has played at the Opry.
Kerry: Speaking of the Opry, Kyle Petty made his debut last night at the Ryman Auditorium. Kyle, tell us about that.
Kyle: I was checking credentials at the back door; it was pretty cool to be a security guard at the Opry last night. Here’s the deal, I figured I have one shot to go there and do this. It is an incredibly humbling place. I grew up on Country Music; I grew up on beating it up and down the highway with my father in station wagons and old cars going to races all over the country. We listened to Floyd Cramer, Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn, Merle, people like that on an 8-track. That was just the way it was. We would come to Nashville, Marty Robbins, who drove a race car, would bring us over and we’d stand here and see these people perform here at the Opry. It is an absolutely humbling place to be. I didn’t ever think I would have a shot to do that and if I was ever to do that, I would sing my own stuff and then I could say I sang a song at the Opry that I wrote. It was an incredible experience for me. I have been blessed to be able to do a lot of stuff. When you drive a race car or you do music, you meet people in other aspects or places of life whether it be actors or writers or whatever.
Holly: Love and Theft, would you tell us about your upcoming tour with Tim McGraw and how you got started with that and what you are doing right now?
Love and Theft: Starting in April, we will be out on the road with Tim McGraw. We have all grown up as huge Tim McGraw fans; he is an incredibly talented guy. We are inspired by his music and his fans as well as his acting career. We are still on tour with Jason Aldean through January. We are promoting our new song “Dancing In Circles”, talking to radio as much as we can and doing shows. We are staying as busy as we can.
Holly: Jason, would you tell us what you are doing?
Jason: We are going to headline a lot of shows on our own this year. Right now, we are coasting on our single we released in the fall called “Hurry Home”. It is now #14 on the charts and it looks like we may have a top ten soon. Then we move onto the next single and there will be a video to do with that. There is going to be a lot to do this year. It’s like what Kyle was talking about with NASCAR on the stage with the Q & A, in this business we are all friends but it is a very competitive business. There are only so many spots in an hour to fill and trying to get out there and be a part of that, you really have to do something to stand out. That is what we are continually facing.
Q: Kyle, how important is this event, as a fund raiser for Victory Junction?
Kyle: It is hard to say how important it is and what I mean is it not only brings in cash which is important to any charity, and this obviously benefits the Victory Junction in North Carolina and the one we are building in Kansas but also the great building and institution like the Country Music Hall of Fame. When you put those two together, the cash that it brings in is great, but for us, it is residual benefits that we get from the exposure from being here in Nashville. It is a totally different area from the events that we have, from the press that you guys generate. People that aren’t even at this event will watch it on GAC, CNN and the NASCAR publications, they will think they need to donate something to the camp or donate a little bit to the Country Music Hall of Fame, that is an intangible. You can’t touch it, you can’t feel it. You get thirty or forty thousand people here or whatever the number of people that show up. The thing that we do at the Groove is, so much happens. Jason Michael, you meet guys like him, they come, they are a part of camp, they do fund raisers, and they help you at camp. There are so many connections that you make here. For us, this event, in the last five or six years has sent 300 to 400 kids to camp which is a phenomenal stat; just off this event. For us, it has become one of our mainstays, one of our main fundraisers. We have to raise in the neighborhood of 6-8 million dollars a year to keep camp up and running because it is totally free for the kids. We bring kids from all over the United States to camp and we pay for them to come so that we are not a financial burden on their families. It is a heavy undertaking and to have events like this and have guys like this come out and be a part of it, it is a lot bigger thing for us than I think they even realize.
Q: Jason Michael, what prompted the new haircut?
Jason Michael: I guess it is that old saying “If you want someone to do something, don’t say anything about it”. For the first two years I was signed to the label, I kept getting calls “you need to cut the hair”, “you need to do something with the hair” and to their credit, when they signed me, it was about down to my shoulders and I let it grow almost down to my elbows before I started cutting it. One day I woke up, it was one of those months where I had been told what to do all month long, I had a day off, I thought “you know what? I going to take my own personal day and do my own thing, I am not going to tell anyone what I am doing”. I literally didn’t tell management, didn’t tell the label and I didn’t tell my wife, Wendy either. I literally went straight to the salon, walked in and told them I wanted a haircut and I wanted to look ok when I walked out and they did it. I literally held my breath when they took the first snip, I don’t know why but at that point it was like jumping in cold water I guess. It is something I decided to do on my own.
Q: Jason Michael, you have your sophomore album out. How much more difficult was it working on that album than your first album?
Jason Michael: You know they say you take your entire life to make your first album and only two or three months to make your second. I didn’t realize how true that was. On my first record, I got caught up being on tour, being on the bus, going out and hanging out, going to a lot of different parties and being invited to the after parties here and there. That is one of the reasons we decided to call the second record “Growing Up Is Getting Old”. At that point, we were suppose to be working on the second record, the label came to me and asked me what I had. I told them I’d get back to them. At that point we went from “I can sleep when I’m dead” attitude to “I can’t go to that thing tonight, I have to wake up first thing in the morning and I have this to do and that to do and I need to go and take a nap”. That is when we thought growing up was getting old.
Q: Kyle, you remember what The Preview was like in Winston Salem, will you compare that to Sound and Speed?
Kyle: The Preview was a totally different animal and a totally different time in sports, let’s be real clear about that. The Preview was one of those ideas that T. Wayne and the folks at R.J. Reynolds came up with. It really was a local event that blew up into what it became in later years. Trying to replicate The Preview is like trying to replicate a great fraternity party. You can’t go back and do it again. You have to start somewhere else and I think that is what this event was. We didn’t try to duplicate that when we came here and looked at Sound and Speed with the late Brian Williams from SunTrust, when it was his project and his baby. It wasn’t about The Preview per se. It was about taking NASCAR to a place where we don’t come to and race, a different market. They have their fan festivals here for the music industry in June. We are doing this in January to bring a totally different audience to Nashville and to bring NASCAR to an area where we are not at right now. It’s a great area, great opportunity to draw people from Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia, Mississippi. It has a great airport facility and we can bring in the music industry at the same time. The music gave it a little bit of a twist for NASCAR core fans. For us, it is a different event, a different feel to the event. It is a little bit of an upscale event but everybody can reach out and touch at the same time. The fans get autographs and ask questions and that is a piece of The Preview that was there. We don’t have 38 show cars, we don’t have all the drivers, we try to keep it a little bit more special for the guys that come and a little bit more special for the artists that participate in it. If this was T. Wayne and this was our organization starting the event today and not having The Preview to compare it to, I think this is what we would have come up with. It has grown and evolved into what it has been in the last couple of years and I hope it continues to grow.
Q: Carl, there is a lot of talk that NASCAR is going back to the blade spoiler, do away with the double yellow lines and make some other changes to liven up the racing. What do you think needs to be done?
Carl: That is a good question. First of all, to tell you what I think needs to be done; I think it is cool that NASCAR is willing to make changes to try to do anything they can to make the racing as exciting as it can be for the fans. That is what NASCAR is about, having the most fair competition and things people want to watch and cheer for. My opinion is they need to take all the down force away from the race cars. Then you don’t have any down force to lose. If I pull up behind someone, I don’t have any to start with, it sure can’t get any worse, I think that is what they need to do. The blade is a good idea, taking the front splitter away is a good idea, making the cars where they drive like they use to at Darlington and Atlanta, places like that. You have to drive the race car, that is what I think needs to be done. I don’t like to go down to the corner and turn my wheel and find out how great my engineers are or aren’t. That is not what I like to do in a race car, I want to drive.
Q: Kyle, you mentioned your father; you grew up with a father that was known for his racing and set a lot of records. However, since you have come on the scene you probably fill his shoes as well as anybody, just in a different manner, a philanthropist. You have done a lot to draw more attention to philanthropy and NASCAR by being involved. How special is it to you to be known as a philanthropist?
Kyle: I think we are very blessed. We all talked about it when we go out there; how cool it is to wake up in the morning and think, my God, this is what I get to do today, this is what I do for a living, whether it is play guitars and sing or drive a race car. It is pretty cool to be at this point and time in my life and I have never had an office-I’ve never had to work in the office. We all feel blessed and I think we all look at whatever the subject is, whatever the cause is and each one of us looks in the mirror and says but for the grace of God, there go I. That’s how simple it is. We are very blessed to be in a sport, to be in a business where you can use what celebrity status you attain to help other people. NASCAR and the drivers have always done that for years and years. You go back to Cale Yarborough and Pierson, my father and guys like that; go back to the late 1960s and that; they always did stuff in their communities, whether it was at a local high school or somewhere else. We just grew as a national sport and are able to do it on a totally different level. When Adam was killed, we as a family kind of looked at the camp and said this is something we want to do and are blessed to be in this sport where your competitors like Carl, Tony, Jeff, Junior and Michael and guys like that say “yeah, we’ll help out, whatever you need”, and they built that camp. It is something that happened to us that the NASCAR community, the NASCAR drivers, the NASCAR foundation now and the fans have built. In turn, Carl has his foundation and does his stuff, Jeff does his stuff. It is not all about the camp; it is about giving back to different causes and different areas. So, I think if we look at it, I think it is important for all of us, me, everyone sitting up here, all of you out there to be known for giving something back. However small, however big, it doesn’t make any difference.
Q: Love and Theft, from the very beginning of your career, you have been on stage with heavy weights like Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean and soon Tim McGraw. Do you look at it as an honor or does it put some intimidation into it to tour with names of that stature? Also, the songs you have recorded, is there one song that you guys can identify with? A song that best defines who Love and Theft is?
Love and Theft: “Runaway”, our first single is what we identify with. One of the reasons we all wanted to put that song out is we all picked up and moved from our home towns of Charlotte, Austin and Tampa Florida; became runaways in pursuit of country music dreams. We wanted a song that kind of says a lot about us. We were all kind of runaways and that song is about moving on to something positive so for us, I think that song fits us. We write all of our own songs, we are very passionate songwriters.
As far as the first question goes, before the first show with all those folks, you are obviously very intimidated. We had never met Jason Aldean or Taylor Swift. Probably we were intimidated to meet her the first time and the same thing with Jason. We have become really close friends with both of them now. We kind of know Tim but not too well. We are good friends with the Warren Brothers and they will be out there. That will take the intimidation factor down a little bit. They are best friends with Tim. We feel privileged to even be mentioned in the same sentence as those people. We’ve worked very hard to get where we are now but we feel incredibly fortunate to be included on tour with those folks and get out there and play our music for the people.
Q: For Kyle and Carl, this event is kind of the kickoff to the 2010 season. One of the main things is going to be, on a part-time basis at least, Danica Patrick. Is it going to be too big of a step for her or do you think she is doing it the right way? What is it going to be like for her?
Carl: It is going to be tough. Honestly, at first, I thought there was no way but then I heard just yesterday, my friend told me that at testing, she was really fast. You never know. What I have been saying from the beginning is for her to be successful over here would be not only a huge benefit to her and her sponsor but to the whole sport. It would be great. I hope she does well, not any better than me but I hope she does well. I think it will be tough, just like it is for everyone.
Kyle: Here is what I say, and this is what I have said from the very beginning. She is an incredibly talented driver. Can this be huge for her and for NASCAR? Yes it can! Obviously, open wheel built what the sport is now off of her because it was a floundering sport. That is not a criticism of that sport or what they do because the guys over there are incredible drivers too but the sport was not growing like NASCAR was growing. They took her and that marketing machine that she is and they went there. I agree with what Carl says. Talking to people that saw her test, she was fast but going fast and racing are two totally different things. That is like being a fast ball pitcher and being a pitcher. There are pitchers out there. Carl is a driver, he can drive fast but he can drive too. There are guys out there right now running cup that are fast but they can’t drive. That is just blunt, sorry. I think, when you look at that and think she can come here, I look at Franchitti, I look at Tony; when Tony first came over from open wheel to run the Busch car, and I look at Juan, and they are incredibly talented individuals. Juan Montoya, car control wise is the most amazing human beings I have seen in a car. He struggled for three years at this level before he really got to where he could race. She is not Juan Montoya, sorry; and she is not Dario Franchitti and she is not Tony Stuart. She has done stuff over there and won races over there but numbers wise, she is just a marketing machine. When you look at it like that and from what she has done on the race track, I hope she is successful. Let’s look at the facts; she is going to help the sport, the publicity of the sport, she can help a lot of that stuff but in the end, will she perform on the race track. It is going to be all on her shoulders.
Q: Would you say it is fair that all those other guys you named don’t have as good of equipment that she might be coming in with?
Kyle: What do you mean?
Q: They don’t drive necessarily for the top teams.
Kyle: She is coming into a situation where that car, the one she is getting into has won races. If she gets in that car and doesn’t win races, it’s not the car, it’s not the engine, not the team. They only changed one thing. Will she have an impact on the sport? Yes, initially she will have an impact on the sport. Will she have a long term impact on the sport? If she is successful, she will have a huge long term impact on the sport. If she is not successful, the only impact she will have on the sport is she wasted two or three years in a car that a good driver could have been in, could have been developing.
Q: Carl, you have been really busy lately, you took a trip to Costa Rica, shot a commercial for AFLAC in LA recently, your wife is not here, she is going to have a baby in just a couple of weeks and you are headed to Daytona. Tell us a little bit about Costa Rica, a little bit about what the AFLAC commercial will look like and your thoughts about going to Daytona and having a baby.
Carl: We had a really great time in Costa Rica. We were going to go to Cozumel and the trip this year was going to be extra fun because I flew my own plane. I had never flown it to Central America or anything like that. At the last minute, the weather looked really good in Costa Rica. I didn’t even know where Costa Rica was to be honest with you. Three years of Spanish didn’t help either. We went there and had a good time and then we went to California and shot this really neat commercial for AFLAC. I just can’t say enough good things about AFLAC. They are an amazing corporation, they do good things for people and they give back a lot too. At the AFLAC cancer center, they treated over 6,000 patients, children, last year whether they could pay or not. They are nice enough to use me in their marketing campaign. This commercial was a lot of fun. I got to stretch my acting skills out a little bit. You will be seeing it right around the winter Olympics. Now, we are getting ready to go to Daytona, I can’t wait. I am like a lot of you guys that cover racing all the time. After a couple of weeks off, I don’t know what day it is, and I start to think “what if I can’t drive like I use to”. I want to go drive something. I am excited about testing next week. The baby, I don’t know where to start there. I am kind of still in denial. That baby is really well behaved in her stomach, they say they are not that way when they come out so we will see what happens.
Q: Carl, can you tell us what you think about possible changes to the restrictor plate rules and the yellow line rules? People talk about your accident possibly being part of that.
Carl: I don’t know if my accident in Talladega was the product of the yellow line. It was probably more of a product of Brad Kesolowski and I both wanting to beat the other one really bad. We talked about that with Mike Kelton and them the other day. They think the yellow line rule is a good rule for most of the race because it keeps people above that slowdown area. It gives people a lane to slow down in if they are having a problem. Also, you can’t see through the cars, I have a feeling that if we didn’t have the yellow line rule, we would just be down there in the grass a lot, even if you didn’t mean to be. What we told NASCAR from Roush Findley’s driver’s side is that the yellow line rule is good but I personally like, and I think my teammates like the idea of when you see the checkered flag, anything goes. I think that is kind of fun. We are already wrecking every time so we might as well get to shoot for the grass and go for it. I hope they go back to that. The checkered flag just needs to be a race, no holds barred.
Q: Carl, talk about the tick and the performance of your team at the end of last year, maybe what you have learned over the off season and what RPM has brought to the table.
Carl: There was a tick but we did gain a little bit at the end of the season. I was as fast as I had been in the mile and a half in Homestead. RPM; we are getting Allmendinger, Sadler, Cain, their engineers, their expertise on things that they have been spending time and energy on. Hopefully, we will be able to combine a little of that. We are not in the same shop, we are separate teams. To me, to be able to have another guy of Casey’s caliber to go talk to about things. His crew chief, maybe be able to share some stuff with them, that would be huge. The big thing now is to show Casey that we can do well enough and that Ford’s the company to be with, get him to stay to help make our team strong in the long run.
Q: Carl, I enjoyed your impressive driving in the 2008 Race of Champions. You represented Americans very well. How did you feel to be in the same race as Michael Schumacher? Did you convert any European fans to NASCAR?
Carl: I went over to London to the Race of Champions. The first thing is they said they had “duckies” in their tub, they didn’t understand why I had a duck (AFLAC) on my driver’s suit. They gave me a hard time about that. The first race, I went up against Tinson Button. We were on separate tracks, I drove down to the first corner and hit my barrier so hard I moved the barrier and almost wrecked him on the other side. The guy that decided to bring me there to represent America was mad after that race. You could tell he was thinking he didn’t know why he brought “this idiot” from Missouri over to race. In the next race I got to race Michael Schumacher and I figured this is it; one of the greatest drivers to ever live. My trainer, my good buddy wears this Ferrari hat all the time just to make me mad and tells me Michael Schumacher is the greatest driver to live. So Michael is standing there and I am thinking all I want to do is beat him. That way I could have something on my buddy for wearing the hat. We had a great race and I beat Michael Schumacher and that was cool. That was one of the true highlights of my career. I was proud to do that.
Q: Did you convert any European fans to NASCAR fans?
Carl: I don’t know. I have some European fans on my Facebook page. I would like to go do some more stuff like that. I think it would be a lot of fun to go race some of the rally drivers. Sebastian Lowe is probably the best driver I have ever seen in my life. I got to ride a couple of laps with him. That raised my expectations of myself, just being in that car with him. I would like to go back over and do more. Did you guys see my Daytona prototype debut in Montreal? The first guy to almost kill himself before the green flag! I still have the scar on my arm. I am not a great sports car driver, it is like hit the wall or win.
Q: Carl, you are going into year seven now in the Chase. Does it seem that last season’s strategy has changed somewhat for guys like Montoya who were clearly saving stuff for the final ten. What is your outlook for 2010? Are you guys looking at it a little bit differently? Are you going to change things a bit?
Carl: It is tough. We have a chase format like the playoffs to qualify to get in and then you race after that. The year before that, I thought we did well. I get in the race car and I go as fast as I can all the time. Bob and the crew and team have to have a strategy where they try some things throughout the year but the way that the 48 teams perform and even the five teams for that matter? There are two goals. First is make the chase and then be the best you can be in it. Where we found ourselves having trouble is we got close to the chase; we were on the edge of not being in it so now we have to devote everything we can to just making it in. When you get to the chase you are like “wow, we made it”. That doesn’t work, those guys are geared up and ready to go so you have to be so strong and after about the first ten races, if you aren’t just flying and not in the top two or three points, then it is really tough. For a while, people were focused on the last ten and then they were focused on the ten leads and now you have to win Daytona, you have to be good from the beginning. You can’t even begin to focus on the end. What I am saying is you have to be fast in every turn, every race. You have to have something in reserve.
Kerry: Thank you guys very much for being here.
Transcribed by Pam Stadel