By Annie Reuter
Heads turned as soon as Big & Rich walked into Johnny Utah’s last Thursday afternoon (Sept. 25). The country duo, best known for their 2004 crossover hit “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy,” were joining me at the Midtown Manhattan honky tonk to talk about their new album Gravity.
Released just two days earlier, Gravity is also the duo’s first album on their new record label Big & Rich Records.
‘Big Kenny’ Alphin and his longtime bandmate John Rich had no problem meeting up at Johnny Utah’s—it turns out they were already very familiar with the place. As they described it, the club is their favorite place “to get in trouble” when they’re in New York. Me, I simply figured it would be a good place to sit down and chat about Gravity, have a beer and perhaps, if all went well, learn how to two-step. I had high hopes that these two outgoing, fun-loving country stars might be game to teach me.
“It’s really the closest thing to a straight-up country bar you can get,” Rich explains of Johnny Utah’s, after he and Kenny sit down with me at a table in the bar’s back room. “They play country music, there’s a [mechanical] bull, there’s normally live bands in here.”
According to Rich, the last time he was at Johnny Utah’s he was with Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath. “It was right after Celebrity Apprentice, and I dragged him down here. We had a good time.” Rich, who won the 2011 season of Celebrity Apprentice (McGrath was a participant as well), admits that he and McGrath even took over the band that night. McGrath sang “Every Morning” while Rich did “Save a Horse.”
Throughout our chat the guys were very animated, often finishing each other’s sentences. And they weren’t shy about singing a few songs from Gravity, including new single “Look at You,” “Lovin’ Lately” and “That Kind of Town,” a song Rich says includes some of his favorite lyrics.
“Show me where the Bible says dreaming’s a sin/Around here you’re supposed to die in the town you’re born in,” they sing. “If you cheat, if you fight, if you get knocked up/Lord they’ll pin you down and never let you back up.”
“That’s a hardcore lyric,” Rich says. “That’s not a lyric you’re going to see on a lot of modern-day country records, but it’s real. It’s the real stuff.”
The ability to include “hardcore lyrics” like that is one of the benefits of releasing Gravity on their own.