Q&A: Billy Currington Talks Tim McGraw Tour, 'Summer Forever,' and Debuts New Video for No. 1 Hit 'Don't It'
By Sophie Schillaci
Universal Music Nashville
We bet Billy Currington wishes this summer would last forever.
The country star released his sixth studio album this week, titled Summer Forever, and in just a few days will hit the road with Tim McGraw on his Shotgun Rider Tour.
"I've always wanted to tour with him," Currington tells ET. "I've mentioned it to him probably 10 times through my entire career when I would run into him -- 'Hey man, don't forget about me!'"
And when McGraw came knocking earlier this year, Currington "jumped at the chance" to ride shotgun.
Meanwhile, Currington just scored his 10th No. 1 single with "Don't It," topping the Billboard Country Airplay chart. In honor of the milestone, ET has an exclusive look at Currington's new live performance video of the song. Watch below.
Read on for more from our interview with Currington, including how Summer Forever came to be and why this album is different from his last.
Summer Forever is out now. What do fans need to know about this album? Does it have a different feel than your last few records?
I think it does have a different feel. There's a different producer on this one versus the producer on the other five albums, Carson Chamberlain. But this time, I decided to work with a guy named Dann Huff and change things up a little bit, and we just have such a good chemistry. We worked together on one song with Lionel Richie and that's how I met Dann. So we just decided to do a whole project together and it totally changed the vibe, the feel, the types of songs and everything involved with this album to make it sound a lot different than all the others.
So it was time for a change?
It wasn't so much that it was time, like I had to do something [different], it was just a natural thing that happened. I look back, and I didn't even try to control it. I didn't ask questions, we just became friends really quick and just made an album together -- and before we knew it, here we are.
I understand the title track was written by some hit-makers, the Florida Georgia Line guys, Cole Swindell, Jaren Johnston. Why did that song resonate with you?
When I first heard "Summer Forever," it was sent to me by Jesse Frasure, he's one of the writers on the song also. He had told me that Cole Swindell and the boys from FGL were writing so many songs and they had already finished their albums, and they were just loaded with songs that they weren't gonna do anything with. He was like, "I'm a writer on one of these, I'd like to send it to you and see what you think." I listened to it one time and I immediately called him and said, "Man, you don't have to pitch this to anyone else. I'm good for this one."
Why did Summer Forever become the album title?
It fits me, that's for sure. I am Summer Forever, no doubt, and I was actually in a pinch with the label. They called me up and they're like, "Hey man, you didn't get my email?" I'm like, "No..." They're like, "We need an album title yesterday." I'm like, "Oh, no." So I just started looking through my songs and listening to them quick and I don't know, that title "Summer Forever" popped out. It was screaming, "I'm what you wanna call this album!" Real simple. I just called 'em up and said, "How's Summer Forever? It feels right to me." They said, "It feels right to us, too."
You're heading out on tour with Tim McGraw this week - how exciting is that?
I love Tim! I'm so excited to be a part of this Shotgun Rider Tour. I've always wanted to tour with him, I've mentioned it to him probably 10 times through my entire career when I would run into him. "Hey man, don't forget about me!" So one day this past year, I think he remembered. He called us up and said, "Hey man, why don't you come out on the road with us?" And I jumped at that chance. Not only did we not have a tour already planned, but we didn't really have anything on the books to keep me from saying "yes" to it. It just seemed like it worked out perfect.
Have you spent any time with Tim before this?
I've only really spent time with him one time I went out to his farm and we did a little bird hunting, hung out all day with some friends of his and probably got to know him a whole lot more than just listening to his albums all them years. I definitely, while I was in high school, I was wearing out the Tim McGraw CDs. But in that one day, I really got to know him pretty good and learned that if I ever got the chance, he's one artist I would love to learn something from. To go on tour with and sit on the side of the stage, and watch how he does it. Ask him questions, business- and artist-type questions.
Has he already given you any words of wisdom?
Back in the day, he came to one of my shows at the Wild Horse Saloon in Nashville and when I first walked out on stage, I was wearing the front of the stage out. I was just tearin' it up, and he kinda gave me some advice on my stage presence and my stage show that night after he saw what he saw. He talked me into laying things out a little more in the beginning. Simple tips like that really work for my live show today. He also offered advice like, "Be careful and really pick the right opening act for yourself, because little things like that really matter as far as ticket sales." He's full of advice, so I haven't had to ask him anything.
It must feel pretty good that he chose you to be his opening act then, after saying that.
It's nice to be picked! A man of his caliber and things he's done, he knows how to run a tight business and a successful touring business.