Mellons takes Rural Route to Sevierville
(Special to SeviervilleBusinessJournal.com) Ken Mellons chatted with CelebrateKnoxville.com by telephone this week to talk a little about music, BBQ and about why Sevierville, Tennessee has a special place in his heart. Interview/content used with permission.
Kingsport, Tennessee born, Nashville-raised, guitarist/vocalist Ken Mellons is known for his success in country music. His 1994 debut, self-titled album produced a Top 10 single in "Jukebox Junkie", a song which also received ASCAP and BMI awards for surpassing one million spins on radio. He's also got some impressive songwriting credits (George Strait – “Honk If You Honky Tonk”; Dierks Bentley – “I Bought The Shoes That Just Walked Out On Me”; George Jones – “Institute Of Honky Tonks”; Hank Williams Jr. – “She Don’t Do Nothin’ For Me”).
More recently, Mellons finished "Rural Route", his first bluegrass album. Rural Route boasts an all-star bluegrass line-up which reads like a who’s who of bluegrass hierarchy: Rhonda Vincent, Larry Cordle, Dale Ann Bradley, Adam Steffey, Carl Jackson, Phil Leadbetter, Sonya Isaacs, Darrin Vincent, Cody Kilby, Ronnie Stewart, Don Rigsby, Steve Gulley and Vince Gill all came in to be a part of the project.
Mellons is scheduled to perform in Sevierville on Saturday at this year's Bloomin' BBQ and Bluegrass Festival, May-18-19, 2012.
CK: Ken Mellons, where does this lovely morning find you?
KM: Well, I just dropped off my oldest son at school and I’m headed back to the house to do some “honey do” stuff. Gotta put some new shades up in the baby’s room, keep the light from blaring in so bright.
CK: Well, that sounds glamorous!
KM: I’ll tell you what, you think of the glamorous life of a country singer, but this is the stuff you don’t get to do when you’re on the road. I got off the road to focus on writing songs and being a dad and a husband, you know, coach Little League baseball and other stuff I wouldn’t get to do.
CK: Since you’ve brought it up, country music went through a lot of changes in the 1990’s, which is when you first came on the scene.
KM: We opened up for Billy Ray Cyrus and I thought it was an odd pairing because we were playing traditional country and Billy Ray was not playing that kind of music. But we learned that when you’re opening for a band, and their fans like you, then those fans are going to stay loyal. And Billy Ray treated us like kings on that tour. Then about four years later, Garth Brooks started selling triple platinum albums. He knew how to market himself well. And Shania came on the scene and that changed everything.
CK: And now you’re playing bluegrass, which has a different reputation now than it did when we were kids. There’s a lot more respect afforded towards bluegrass now. Are you seeing that as you go around and play that kind of music?
KM: I grew up around a lot of bluegrass festivals and that’s what I was raised on. As a kid, I was showered with it. I saw Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs when they were playing with Ralph Stanley, which was a big deal. Bluegrass is about as close as you can get to traditional country. It’s grown tremendously. What’s funny is when you see the young kids who are into it. There are seventeen, eighteen year old kids singing every word. So many talented younger artists are playing it, too. It’s pretty cool. People want to hear bluegrass at our country shows and country at our bluegrass shows. The fans who bought our records in the 90s didn’t just fall off the face of the earth. Some of them might have died, but a majority of them are still around. And I just signed a deal with a Canadian record label called Dirt Road Records. They’re trying to bring traditional country back to the airwaves and I think they’ve got the tools to do it. The Canadian fan base is huge. With that and social media, there are ways to sell records and merchandise and to tour in different parts of the world. It’s a very exciting thing.
CK: So you’re getting ready to roll into Sevierville and make a little noise. Have you been to Sevierville before?
KM: I love it there! I love that whole area. My wife and I got married in Sevierville and had our reception up at the Christmas Inn. We’ll make two or three trips up there a year, rent a cabin or something. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.
CK: Will you be playing any new material at the show?
KM: We’ll be doing a lot of stuff off the bluegrass album, Rural Route. We’ll do some of the hits, of course, and if somebody out in the crowd yells something out they want to hear, we’ll see what we can do.
CK: Well, you’re playing Sevierville. I can just about guarantee somebody’s going to yell something out. One more question, since you’re coming down for the Bloomin’ BBQ: do you prefer a dry rub for your barbecue or do you just pour the sauce on?
KM: I am more of a "dry guy". I might dip it a little, but I am more of a dry guy. Now my son, when he gets done, he’ll probably have more sauce on him than there was on the sandwich.