Neal McCoy Talks New "Pride" Project

Singer discusses new tribute to his mentor and idol, Charley Pride.

Neal McCoy became one of the biggest entertainers in country music’s past 25 years thanks to his ability to meld the traditional with the new sounds of the day. This has allowed him to consistently tour through the years and now he’s gotten to take a chance to toast a country music legend, a legend who helped Neal McCoy start his career. That legend is Charley Pride. Released to good reviews in 2013, the album’s Deluxe Edition was issued by Cracker Barrel in early November. Get to know more about the project and why it’s so special to Neal and why he’s so happy to have it now featured in Cracker Barrel stores.

Roughstock: What does it mean for you to be able to have crafted the Pride: A Tribute To Charley Pride?

Neal McCoy: Oh, man, It’s huge! Charley was the guy who got me into country music 33 years ago. It’s just really special that I got to go in to do a tribute to him, something that’s never been done before. And I had his blessing to go do it and when it was done to hear him say, “son, that’s real good.” Well, that’s all I needed!

Roughstock: How did you come to work with Slate Creek Records on the project?

Neal: Well, the owner of Slate Creek, Jim Burnett is out of Dallas, TX and we’ve done a couple of private things for him and he was interested in seeing what he could do to help us. He believed in me and my team and said “I’d like to get involved and do something if it makes sense to do it together.” And we knew that the cost to promote stuff at radio is pretty outrageous right now but we talked and he’s a big Charley Pride fan also so I said, you know I’ve always wanted to make a record for my hero, Charley, in his honor and I said what would you think about doing that. He said, “Oh, that’d be terrific.”

He’s the one responsible for going to Cracker Barrel and working with them for probably for the past year and a half and getting their interest up and getting together and figuring out this would be a great project to have in their stores. I’m glad he did. I’m tickled to death to have an album in there because I love Cracker Barrel and whenever I eat there, I’ve always thought it’d be great to have an album in there and now i’m getting that chance.

Roughstock: Well, I think the fans that eat there and buy music there are going to really dig the album. Like it’s the perfect project for them to sell; with you and his music ads the best of both worlds, it seems…

Neal: Well, that’s the way I look at it. I sure hope people see they’re getting the great classic country music they like in Charley Pride’s songs and an artist they like in me singing it. We think we’ve done a really good job of updating the music a little bit with a few instrument changes but what I really tried to do was to stay true to Charley’s vocal lines. Sing what he sang, because with songs like this, fans love them, and they love to sing along. They hate it if you change it up too much. Charley approved of it. I knew he’d be the toughest critic because he’s sang those songs for all of these years.

Roughstock: I think that The hardest thing for you to do might’ve been to choose the songs that you wanted to record for the project…

Neal: You hit the nail right there. Paring it down to the original 10 or 11 you’re gonna record, Garth Funds and Jim Burnett, they brought in songs they like too but they said, “you know, this is your album, you worked with him for five or six years and these songs mean more to you than us so why don’t you pick the ones you like the most.” I think we’ve got a great variety of stiles that Charley sings through out the years and he just loved it, so I guess if we got the man to approve it, we done good.

Roughstock: Have you worked with Garth Fundis before?

Neal: No, it was my first time to work with him and man, what a jewel he is with his history in country music. In fact, Garth engineered some of those early records that Charley recorded years ago with Jack Clement producing, so he knew the style that we are going for. Plus being able to work with the guy who produced records for Trisha Yearwood, Keith Whitley, Vern Gosdin and…

Roughstock: Don Williams….

Neal: Yeah, so to work with those classics, he knows what a good country song is supposed to sound like. I think he was happy with my singing. We’re terribly proud of it and honored to have it in Cracker Barrel. Like you said earlier, it’s a win-win situation, we hope…

Roughstock: Well, if it’s successful enough, you could always make a second one…

Neal: Yeah, there you go…

Roughstock: or maybe invite some of your friends like you did with Darius and Raul and Trace and make a complete country tribute album for Charley…

Neal: What we didn’t want to do is turn it into one of those albums because we wanted it to be my tribute and my album. But Trace made sense because he’s such a huge fan of Charley and wanted to sing “Roll On Mississippi.” Darius, well, up until he came along, Charley was the only really successful African-American guy in country music. We were glad that Darius said yes when we asked, he admired Charley for what he’s done for country music so to have him on “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” was special. Then you have Raul Malo, who is just a great, great singer of all styles and Genres. Garth Funds actually called me and said “Raul is singing some harmonies for the Trisha project. What would think if I asked him to come sing on your record?” So I said yeah and he agreed. He came along and sang a straight-up country song (“I’m Just Me”) that maybe you wouldn’t think he could do.

Roughstock: It just proves right there….

Neal: Yeah, how good he is…

Roughstock: Yeah, that a real singer can sing anything.

Neal: That’s right.

Roughstock: How have fans been reacting to the project?

Neal: They love it. It’s funny because I kinda pick and choose the audiences I do it on and and the middle ages and older people will get it and maybe the younger kids won’t get it but when you sing a bigger song like “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’,” some of these younger kids are singing along. I thought, well maybe they heard those songs from their grandparents and parents but then they were singing along to other stuff.

Roughstock: Yeah, and they may have found your music or someone else’s to be a gateway into the genre...

Neal: I think it’s great the country fans that have come in with some of the newer sounds and dug deep into the older stuff and gotten to know it.

So they are fond of the project and we are too. We think it’s a great album and I think it’s one for us all to be proud of and hopefully it’ll work well with Cracker Barrel and the fans will enjoy it.


Neal McCoy's Pride: A Tribute To Charley Pride [Deluxe Edition] is now available in Cracker Barrel stores nationwide.