Q: You live in Nashville when you aren't on the road, right?
A: Yes, I've been in Nashville about 11 years. The faces come and go. It's where everybody migrates to become a superstar, and unfortunately it doesn't happen for everybody. But it's kind of wild to look up on a stage and see someone who's 21 years old and think to yourself, I was here half of your life ago, and you're more successful than me.
Q: Speaking of success, you've gotten the country-star makeover yourself, with the Keith Urbanesque do and all.
A: Before I moved to Nashville, I was more of a tight haircut kind of guy. Well, I don't mind growing my hair out and all of that stuff—I just think the music should come first. It's unfortunate if you have to buy music based on someone's looks, but that's a reality. I know some ugly people that can sure sing.
Q: Since you're marketed as a ladies' man, do you ever feel trapped? Like you can only perform love songs?
A: Yeah, definitely. I have something else to say, but sometimes folks do not want to indulge in that. They want to keep it light. Songs like "Kerosene Kid" and "Where You're Going"—I love to write those kinds of songs. I call ones like "4515" crossword-puzzle songs, because you have to listen to them multiple times. If you dial in on a radio station halfway through the song, you miss the story.
Q: You're from North Carolina, so I bet you have strong feelings about barbecue. What's your favorite?
A: I mean, Carolina barbecue is great, and I'm not a traitor. But I tell ya, man, Rendezvous Ribs in Memphis, Tennessee—unbelievable. They say they have the most famous ribs since Adam's, or something like that. The waiters have been working there since 1954, some of them, so they're old-school.
Q: You were a prison guard before your music career took off. It's sort of the opposite of Johnny Cash: You sing about working there, and he sings about being locked up.
A: I know, isn't that funny? I could have easily ended up in there, though. I don't even know how it happened—or didn't happen.
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