For longtime fans of Country Concert in Fort Loramie, Ohio, Neal McCoy is a household name. He put on some memorable performances at Hickory Hill Lakes campground, including climbing to the roof of a 40-foot stage and breaking into a rap song.
He’s still around, touring almost as much as ever, and “XII” will be released on March 6. It is his 12th studio album, but his first album in almost five years. It was produced by his longtime friends, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. I caught up to him this week while he was in Nashville for the Country Radio Seminar. As usual , he had a lot to say.
How’s your family?
“Everybody is great. My son is a senior in high school. I visited a college with him the other day on my one day off. My wife is great. Our daughter just gave us our first grandchild seven months ago - a little boy - and that is the coolest thing ever.
On the new album you’ve got a song called “Judge a Man By the Woman,” which talks about how you can know a man by the type of wife he has. How would people judge you if they could sit down with Melinda?
“Hopefully people judge me the way I’d want to be judged. She’s a quiet person, very behind the scenes. Hopefully people see that and understand that, because I don’t want them to think she’s not supportive because you never see her in the news or talking about me. She thinks I do a pretty good job of promoting myself. Which is great for me because I talk enough for both of us.”
It’s been five years since your last record. How did this record deal with Blaster Records come about?
“I wasn’t looking that hard. The most recent thing I’ve done was my own record label. I tried that, and it didn’t work out too good. It took so much money. I had some success with ‘Billy’s Got His Beer Goggles On,’ but not much after that off of that album. I said I was a little bit older and nobody will want to sign me, but I still feel I have a lot to offer, and I’m as good as anyone on stage. This independent label found out about me and asked if I’d be interested in cutting another album. I said I think so, and that’s when I thought, ‘You know another album from Neal McCoy, is radio going to be willing to play it?’”
How did Blake Shelton get involved?
“I thought, if I get Blake Shelton involved - I know how hot he is - maybe somebody will say ‘He’s got Blake Shelton involved, so we’ll give it a listen.’ I texted Blake asking if he’d be interested in producing an album with me. He of course just wrote back a bunch of cuss words. I texted him back, asking if it’s even possible for him to do it. He wrote back a bunch more cuss words. And finally I called him. He cussed me out on the phone and said ‘Are you serious?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think it would be pretty cool. As smart as you are in the biz. I just didn’t know whether you’d be able to do it.’ He said, ‘I’d love to do it, but I’m not sure if I can either.’ He called me not too long after that and said he could. About a month after that, he called and said Miranda would like to get involved too.
What was it like in the studio with Blake and Miranda?
“If you go into their environment where they work - the studio - you’ll understand why they’re so successful. Miranda can talk it up good, and no one talks smack like Blake. They can shuck and jive with the best of them, but when they get in the studio and it’s time to stop all that and go to work, they know when that time is. I understand why they’re so successful. It’s not just sheer luck, they’ve worked very hard.”
What did Blake and Miranda bring to the project?
“They brought a lot of great music that I might not have been able to get my hands on. I was excited when they said they wanted to be a part of it. There are a lot of folks who know about Neal McCoy, but there’s a lot who don’t - especially the younger generation. I’m hoping that having Blake and Miranda involved that those fans will get turned on to us. Blake and Miranda grew up on my music, and they’re just trying to be helpful, and I sure am appreciative and sure hope it ends up paying off.”
How do you think the album turned out?
“I think people are enjoying the album. The radio folks we got it to really seem to like it. ‘Judge a Man by the Woman’ I always put a song like that on the albums for my wife because I’m not very good at being romantic even though I am in my heart. There’s a song on there that I absolutely love called ‘Van Gogh.’ It’s a masterpiece. I think people who go out and buy the album will really enjoy it. Obviously, it will help if we get a couple of hits off it.”
Are you still climbing stuff?
“[Laughs] I set the bar too high for myself. If I play a festival or fair where there’s a lot of really talented people in the lineup, my goal is to be that guy everybody talks about when the festival is over. So I sometimes get crazy and do stuff I shouldn’t do. Now when I go back to these festivals, right away people are like ‘What are you going to climb?’ My goal when I go out on stage is not to do that, but I get caught up in the moment. And the crowd starts feeding off you and you do stuff you shouldn’t do. I tell you what, it’s a lot easier going up than it is coming down.”