Atwood Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
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 heard you?
Hello. My name is Tim Atwood, and I love country
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 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 their 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. 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
No. I never took a music lesson in my life, but
every night I played on the Grand Ole Opry was a lesson in how to
entertain. I’d like to believe I was a
very good student.
Lamitschka: How was the last year for
you? What were your highlights?
The past twelve
months have been an amazing time for me.
I won the 2017 R.O.P.E. Award for 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.
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. Then there were those fans who already knew
me, but only as a musician; they saw perhaps for the first time, that I was an
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.
For the first
time ever—after playing over 8,500 shows on the Opry stage during my career—I
played the Grand Ole Opry in September of 2017 completely as an artist, as a
guest of Opry legend Jeannie Seely. That
And for the
second year in a row, the beginning of 2018 placed me on the big country music
cruise sponsored by Time Life. Not only
did I headline my own show on board, but I performed alongside Larry Gatlin
& The Gatlin Brothers, Johnny Lee, T Graham Brown and other country
notables as a peer.
I also began to
work on my new album Livin’ The Dream.
I can honestly say, this project is my best work yet. I’m anxious for every one to hear it. So yes.
The past year has been full of
highlights…and I am thankful for each and every one of them.
Lamitschka: How did you choose the
title for the CD? Is there a story
behind the name?
Absolutely. My new album is called Livin’ The Dream. For thirty-eight years, I had the best job in
the entire world. I played piano for all
of the greats on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. During that time, I looked at a lot of famous
backsides. A few years ago, I decided to
change my view. I love what I do center
stage now. I love singing my songs and
connecting with the audience. I enjoy
hearing an audience laugh as much as I enjoy hearing them applaud.
I’m at the age now
where most men consider retirement, yet I’m starting a whole new career, and
fans seem to like what I do. This is a
crazy, wonderful journey, and I’m loving every minute of it. I’m proof that it’s never too late to go
after your dream. I’m Livin’ The
Dream right now!
Lamitschka: Please tell us about the
songs on your album (influences)
Dreamconsists of twelve songs that are all
me. It’s what I believe a real
country album should sound like. There’s
high energy, toe tappers like Traveling Band; tender love
ballads like I Love You (What Can I Say), humor in Boney Fingers
and songs of praise to the good Lord above in Mom and Count Your
Blessing. I took the country shuffle
Cinderella and made it into what I think is a beautiful ballad, and I
rocked the country classic Under Your Spell Again. If I’m going to record a song that was once a
hit for someone else like Buck Owens, I’m going to put my own spin on it. I want to make it my own.
My wife Roxane
also sings a song that she wrote on my new project, and I think it will make
you smile. It’s called You Pop My
Corn (You Melt My Butter).
If you sit and
listen to my album all the way through at one time, I want you to feel like
you’ve been to a concert. I want you to
be excited to hear the next song…and the next…and the next.
Lamitschka: How much creative control
do you have over your music?
100%. If you like the music, it’s all me. If you don’t like the music, then well,
that’s all me too…but I hope you LOVE the music!
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: What do you think about today’s modern
I believe 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—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
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 boundaries.
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: Is there any place you
haven’t played that you would like to?
Yes. Believe it or not, I’ve never played Europe! You have to remember for 38 years I stayed in
one place performing in Nashville on the Grand Ole Opry. Country music fans came to me. Now that I’m traveling and taking my music to
the fans, I would like for my travels to include Europe.
For years my
performing friends would come back from a European tour and talk about how
beautiful the countryside is and how warm and generous the Europeans are. I’ve heard from a multitude of sources that
while Europeans like our current country music, they continue to embrace the
history, heritage and sound of our country music roots. If that’s the case, then I think I would love
Europe, and I would hope the fans there would love me. I wish more people in America cared and
respected our country music roots.
I was performing
on the TV show Hee Haw one day and country star Roy Clark turned to me
and said, “Tim, to me country music can best be represented by a tree. Traditional country music is the trunk of
that tree, and all of the branches that grow from that tree represent the other
derivatives of our music: Contemporary
country is a branch; Americana music is a branch; Country-Grass is a
branch. You can cut a branch from the
tree, and the tree will survive, but cut the tree at the base of the trunk, and
the entire tree will die.
I want to
perform where the fans still understand the importance of real country
music—whether its a hard core country shuffle, or a rip-roaring Jerry Lee style
piano ride. I think Europe and I would
get along very well.
Someone please call me, and let’s book some dates!
Lamitschka: Many music fans today get their
information about artists online. Do you have your own website and what will
fans find there?
I have a website
where you can learn all about me, my concert dates, order my music and even
read about special memories of my life in a section titled “Blog.”
I’d love for you
to visit my website. It’s easy to
find. Just go to www.timatwood.com
I also hope that you go to Face Book and actually LIKE my page. People are important to me, and if you took
the time to write a personal message to me on fb, I try my best to give you my
time in return with a personal response.
You can find me
on face book at Tim Atwood Music.
I look forward to being friends!
Lamitschka: Fans are always hungry
for good road stories. Do you have one you can share with us (come on don’t be
I can’t believe
I’m telling this, but back when I was in Jim Ed Brown’s band in the late
1970’s, we were taping the television show Nashville on The Road
in Estes Park, Colorado. We pulled the
bus over at Great Bear Lake to stretch our legs. Well, I was young and fearless—some would say
foolish–and since the lake was called Great Bear Lake, I decided to bare it
all. So I hopped up on a rock, turned my
back to my friends and “mooned” them.
It just so
happened that on this particular trip we were allowed to take our wives. My wife had a camera with her, and she took a
picture of my rear end shining in all its glory. Even though you couldn’t see my face, I had
forgotten that I had on my tour jacket.
So right above my hiney in bold letters it read: THE JIM ED BROWN SHOW.
I thought it was
hysterical until somehow Opry star Jeannie Seely heard about our escapades and
managed to talk my wife out of that picture.
Jeannie then framed that photo and placed it in her bathroom where my
butt literally remained on Jeannie’s wall for the next 30 years.
Nashville suffered a horrific flood, and since Jeannie’s house is on the river,
she sadly lost nearly everything she owned. She lost her furniture, her
clothing and much of her belongings….but guess what survived the flood. Yep.
The picture of my behind remained unscathed.
It was during
this time that Jeannie’s new husband Gene confided that, while he liked me, he
did not enjoy looking at my rear end every morning. Jeannie still has that framed photo, but it
now resides in a trunk in her attic. I
think that’s a very good place for that picture!