TV GUIDE AND TVGUIDE.COM - "Jamey Johnson Sings George Strait's Praises"
by Joseph Hudak
May 13, 2009
With his devilish beard, icy stare and a voice as deep as the Mississippi, rising country star Jamey Johnson cuts quite an intimidating figure. But he’s actually one of country music’s most humble guys—despite writing one of George Strait’s biggest hits and releasing a spellbinding 2008 album, That Lonesome Song, that’s been widely praised by critics. At May 27’s Academy of Country Music tribute (CBS, 8/7c) to George Strait, the ACM’s Artist of the Decade, Johnson teams up with Lee Ann Womack to perform “Give It Away,” the song about Johnson’s divorce that Strait took to No. 1. We caught up with Johnson, who was in Key West for a songwriting symposium, to get his thoughts about the man they call King George.
Can you talk about how George has influenced you and your career?
He’s influenced quite a bit of my career. I would say he’s been an example of what country music is supposed to be. And bigger than that he’s an example of how a real man is supposed to act. The first word that comes to mind when you think of George Strait is “example.” He’s a great person to study and to try to be like.
What did it mean to you to have him record “Give It Away”?
A second chance. I’d just been dropped by my label and I was in the middle of a divorce. I’ve had so many things that were attacking me all at once, or so it seemed. That was kind of a little bit of sunshine right in the middle of a really dark period. And I really needed that. It was also the very thing that made some people sit up and take notice of my writing and welcome me into the country music business as a member and not just somebody who got lucky on a song.
We understand that after your performance with Lee Ann, you asked George to sign your guitar.
Yes, sir. I’ve never had my guitar and George Strait in the same place at the same time. I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity.
You recently appeared on a terrific episode of CMT’s Crossroads with Shooter Jennings. It looked like you guys were having a blast.
We had some conversations [about what to play] and made some plans and then threw all the plans out the window. We hit the stage and let it happen. It was just a very real thing. You hear what’s playing around you and you respond to it.
Have to ask...You were on Fox’s quickly canceled 2007 reality show Nashville. What do you recall about that experience?
[Laughs] I don’t know what to say about that show, but anything I do say is going to be held against me. It was a short-lived experience!