Tim Atwood Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
Lamitschka: Music has many new fans
throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would
you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or
Hello. My name is Tim Atwood, and I love country
music and gospel music. I’ve never had a
piano lesson in my life, and I can barely read sheet music; yet for almost four
decades I played piano on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry for thousands of
country crusaders—from Roy Acuff, Little Jimmy Dickens, Jean Shepard and Porter
Wagoner to Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood and just
about everyone in between. My ability to
play piano the way I do is a God given gift.
Today I play my piano as my gift back to God.
I write and perform
all genres of music, but my favorite music to play is traditional country and
gospel music. I think the one thing I’d
like for you to know about me though is that I’m not just a piano man–although
I am extremely proud of that fact–I’m also a singer. When Grand Ole Opry patriarch Roy Acuff
discovered I could sing, he began to share large portions of his Opry segment
with me on stage—he loved my voice. One
day, at Mr. Roy’s request, I performed 4-5 songs in a row on the Opry
stage. In the middle of my set, Mr.
Roy’s dobro player Bashful Brother Oswald jokingly whispered to Mr. Roy’s
guitar player, “What in the world is Roy doing?
He never even gave Elvis an encore!”
So, how would I
describe my music to people? My albums,
my live performances and the songs that I write, are a journey—my journey, and
I’m taking you along for the ride. That
journey includes my love and faith in the good Lord above. I’m going to showboat on that piano and make
you clap your hands and shout with joy; then I’ll turn around and sing a tender
ballad that will make you feel something deep inside—maybe even shed a tear,
and hopefully I’ll return that smile to your face with a joke or funny story. If you attend one of my shows I want you to
walk away saying, “I had a great time, and I received a great message!”
Lamitschka: What kind of songs do you
like to record the most?
When I record a gospel song, I choose a song that makes you feel good
inside. I want you to feel joy because
when I think of the love and grace of Jesus Christ that’s what I feel.
When I record a country song, I record a song that make you feel one of
life’s emotions, and not all of life’s emotions are happy ones. I think my favorite country songs to record
are tales that have a beginning, middle and an end. Some have happy endings; some have sad
endings, but the songs are relateable because we have lived those songs. It is through those times in life that we
experience trials and tribulations that I hope my audience remembers the
messages in my gospel music, and they once again remember the jopy that Christ
has placed eternally in their hearts.
Lamitschka: Do you have any interesting
stories about how fans have been affected by your music?
For the Livin’
The Dream album I recorded the song I’ll Stand Up and Say So— a
patriotic anthem that echos the beliefs of millions of Americans that it’s time
to stand up and speak up for the love of God and country and for the men and
women who died in service to this great nation ensuring those very freedoms.
In the summer of 2017, I performed I’ll
Stand Up And Say So in concert, and a woman in the audience was so moved by
the song that she presented me with a treasured gift. She removed a silver-toned, cuff style
bracelet from her wrist and explained that it was a Memorial Bracelet designed
to honor U.S. military men and women killed or missing in action.
years she had worn this bracelet in memory of Capt. William D. Grimm, a U.S.
Airman Killed in Action during Operation Desert Storm. In all those years, she had never removed
that bracelet from her wrist. Through
tear filled eyes she confided that she was so touched by the way I sang the
song, with a visible love for God and country, that she wanted me to wear the
As she walked
away, she said, “It’s time I share this bracelet with you…and it’s time you
share Capt. Grimm’s memory with the world.”
hesitation, she removed the bracelet from her wrist and presented it to me
asking that whenever and where ever I sing I’ll Stand Up and Say So
I sing this anthem to honor Capt. Grimm and the thousands of other men
and women who gave their lives in combat so that we may live another day in the
Home of The Brave.
Today I wear Capt.
Grimm’s Memorial Bracelet with pride. I
take this honor very seriously, and I’ve never removed this memorial bracelet
from my wrist since the day that fan placed it there.
On stage I always
share the story behind the bracelet with my audience, and I dedicate the song
to Captain Grimm and the thirteen other U.S. Airmen who lost their lives
twenty-seven years ago saving a group of Marines on the ground from enemy fire.
This bracelet is by far the best gift I have ever received from a fan, and
it means the world to me that I’ll Stand Up And Say So touched her heart
the way it did. It touches hearts every
where I sing it.
Lamitschka: Who inspires you musically and
how deep do your musical roots run?
Growing up I admired my Uncle Tommy Atwood.
Uncle Tommy was a member of the renowned gospel quartet the Florida Boys
and is now a member of the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame. I used to travel some with the Florida Boys
when I was a kid, and I’d sit in the wings and watch and listen to my uncle
sing those high tenor parts with the group on stages across the country. I knew then and there that I wanted to sing
for the Lord too, and like Uncle Tommy, I wanted to move people with my
music. To this day my uncle is one of my
Lamitschka: What do you think about today’s
music scene versus its past and where do you see it going in the future?
Ibelieve any kind of species has to evolve to
survive. The world is constantly
changing. Likewise, it’s inevitable that
our music changes.
I remember a time
when some country music fans were outraged when Eddy Arnold and Ray Price added
strings to their music or when Jeannie Seely introduced hot pants on the Grand
Ole Opry stage. Change happens. Some people fight the changes; some people
embrace the changes. Me? I understand different people like different
things. I just do what I do, and I hope
some of those people like what I do.
Although I don’t
listen to a lot of the newer music on big radio now, what I do is new music—at
least I’m recording new albums for my fans.
It just so happens that my own modern music is filled with piano, fiddle
and steel guitar. The songs I record
have real melodies, and they tell stories.
I record songs that evoke emotions:
happiness, sadness, patriotism, gratitude and a love for Jesus Christ—I
want you to feel something when you listen to one of my recordings.
There is new music
out there for every taste. You just have
to find it, and when you do find what you like, please support it by buying our
albums and attending our shows so we can continue to perform the music you enjoy. There’s room for everyone in this
industry. This is an exciting time.
Lamitschka: If you had the chance to change
something about the music industry, what would it be?
I think I would pray for more honesty.
There are so many good people working in the
music industry now, but like every business there are those who are in it for a
fast dollar. It makes me sad when
producers and studios over charge a client for the job they do, or promise them
the moon knowing the “moon” is undeliverable.
Many times when clients come to Nashville to
record their music, it’s not just a business transaction to them; it’s their
dream. They have saved their money to
live their dream. I want them to have a
great experience with great people!
Lamitschka: What was your big break that got
you into the music business?
My big break came when I was twenty years old. I left the road with the Harris Family, a
gospel group from Peoria, Illinois, and began singing country music. I was on
my way to Florida on vacation when I spent the night in Nashville and sat in
with the band at a club in Printer’s Alley.
It just so happened country star Faron Young was in the crowd that
night. He heard me sing and play and
called me over to his table. He said,
‘Son, you’re good. Really good. You need to move to Nashville. We need more people like you here.“
Two weeks after I got back from vacation, based on those few words from Faron
Young, I sold my house and moved to Music City.
I had faith in God and faith in myself because I knew God was with me. Two weeks after arriving in town I had a job
with country star Mel Street playing piano in his band, followed by three years
on the road with Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius, a short time with Lynn
Anderson and then amazingly a job playing in the staff band at the Grand Ole
Opry. I was only twenty-three when I
began playing in the staff band. I stayed with the Grand Ole Opry for over
three decades. God had a plan for me.
Lamitschka: What inspired you to become an
It’s all I ever wanted to do…as far back as I can remember. When I was in shcool and other kids were
playing outside at recess, I spent my time inside in a rehearsal room teaching
myself how to play piano. When I was
supposed to be doing my homework in class, I was actually drawing stage
plots. I’m glad my Plan A worked out for
me because I never had a Plan B.
Lamitschka: What has been your greatest
challenge in music business?
challenge has been stepping outside the box.
Americans love their labels. The
challenge isn’t how the audience sees me; they see me as an entertainer. The challenge is how people working inside
the music industry see me.
For 38 years I was
known as the piano man on the Grand Ole Opry.
That in itself is an amazing accomplishment–but to industry insiders,
all those years working as a sideman placed me in a box labeled
“Musician.” It surprised me to discover
that once I began to step outside of the “Musician Box,” and cross over to the
“Artist Box” there were musicians who wanted to keep in the “Musician Box.” They didn’t want to see me broaden my
Like wise, there
were several singers who were slow to welcome me into the “Artist Box.” There was no room in their box for anyone
else. Even though these artists had hit
records and household names, they saw me as competition, or maybe they thought
I hadn’t earned my place alongside them.
I believe four decades of survival in the music business has at least
earned me the opportunity to be there. I
had no idea how territorial the “Artist Box” could be. It’s been a challenge, but I am making
believers as I go.
Truth be told, they never have been able to box me in completely. At least that’s how I feel. I’ve always played the piano outside of the
box, and even when I sang a cover song, I made it my own. So, I guess you could say my greatest
challenge has been acceptance by those longstanding peers who define people
with labels. I am both a musician and an
artist. If you’re going to put me in any
box at all, I hope you put me in that box labeled “Entertainer.” In today’s world, that box gets smaller every
Lamitschka: What moments in your career stand
out in your memory as highlights and achievements which you are proud of?
The past two years
have been an amazing time for me. A few
months ago I performed as a featured artist on Huckabee and flew out to Los Angeles to perform on the
Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family show. Also my new album Livin’ The Dream was
nominated as AWA Pure Country Album of the Year. I was recently awarded R.O.P.E. Musician
of The Year from the Reunion of Professional Entertainers, and received a
nod for R.O.P.E. Entertainer of The Year along side country
legends Gene Watson, Leona Williams, Jeannie Seely and Rhonda Vincent. I was also named 2017 Fan Favorite by
the Genuine Country Music Association.
2017 also brought
about some incredible television opportunities for me. As a featured artist on the TV shows Larry’s
Country Diner and the TV series Country Family Reunion, I was
introduced to a broader country music fan base who didn’t know me at all.
I first understood
the full power of those TV appearances when I was on tour in Missouri and
stopped for a hamburger at a McDonalds in the middle of nowhere. A lady came running out from behind the
counter and exclaimed, “You’re Tim Atwood!
I saw you on TV. I’m your newest
fan! I just love you!” I thought WOW. This is very cool.
And For the first time ever—after playing over 8,500 shows on the Opry
stage during my career—I played the Grand Ole Opry completely as an artist, as
a guest of Opry legend Jeannie Seely.
That was HUGE!
Lamitschka: What message would you like to
send your European fans?
It is never too late to live your dream.
Look at me. I’ve been in the
music industry all of my life, but I didn’t start my professional career as a
solo artist until I reached my late fifties.
Believe in yourself. Believe in
God and remember this Bible verse:
Philippians 4:13 I can do all
things through Christ who strengthens me.