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DailyBoom Your Old School Music Authority

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Exclusive Interview: John Schneider's 'Odyssey' is a Healing Inspiration for Everyone it Reaches

(John Schneider Promo Shot- Official Facebook)

When I mention the name John Schneider I'm going to bet that the first image that comes to mind is a flash of the 70's breakout television hit, The Dukes of Hazzard, right? If you're a little younger than me then maybe you're brain races to that dad you wished you had on Smallville. Schneider has made a name for himself by breathing life into characters that are uniquely embedded in our own personal history. He is also a well-established country music veteran that has spent this entire year piecing together a labor of love called, The Odyssey.

The concept is simple enough, one new song is released each week and it is intended to touch on topics that we all feel- death, illness, love and all of the other complications that weave in and out of a life well lived. Actually recording this kind of extensive catalog is not as simple as the concept and Schneider has brought in the big guns to help. Fifty-two songs have been recorded with the help of esteemed songwriters like Paul Overstreet, Chuck Cannon, Keith Stegall, Jenee Fleenor, Mac Davis, Kyle Jacobs and Bill Anderson, to name just a few.

 The Odyssey has unfolded in ways that even Schneider couldn't have anticipated, making this fantastic project a personal awakening even for him. I was able to spend a few minutes with him this week and it was an absolute pleasure to be able to share his excitement while appreciating his depth and keen sense of the things that matter most of all. 

Check out the conversation below!

(John Schneider Promo Shot- Official Facebook)

Cate Meighan: How are you doing? 

John Schneider: I'm doing really well and in many regards, my life has just never been better. I've never felt more creative or like I was making more of a difference than I am now and it's all about this music. I wish I could tell you that this is what I thought that it would be about when I first started The Odyssey, but I'm not that smart (laughing). I'm just ecstatic with where it's all at now and the direction that it's going in.

CM: How long did it take for you to realize that The Odyssey was going to become a transformative project for you?

JS: When Alicia Allain (The Odyssey producer) and I went back to Nashville with this project people that we talked to like musicians, songwriters, and producers, all said it's about damn time because they missed the way that I tell a story. That is just the biggest compliment that I can possibly get. There are a lot of singers out there and a lot of people can sing a song well but not a lot of people can really feel the story of a song. I'm a dad that cried at Finding Nemo (laughing), I mean I weep when I think about the movie Up, the first 45 minutes of that movie just tear me apart (laughing). I feel things and so when I tell a story, I'm really feeling it. We knew we were heading in the right direction pretty quickly.

CM: I've noticed that your audiences are equally receptive to your storytelling.

JS: It's just great, not only to see an audience singing along with the fun songs but to be wiping their eyes to something a bit more serious. We did a song called "I Want to Hear It Again" which is basically a very one-sided conversation between a man and his father who is losing his hearing. It's about how he would give anything to hear tires on the gravel road or his moms' windchimes again and it is wonderful to know that there are other people out there like me, who have not been totally hardened by whatever has gone on in their life up until this point.

CM: I think that the details in your lyrics trigger their own memories and personal nostalgia.

JS: I guess that's probably a big part of why it seems to work and it's just so wonderful. This also goes back to Smallville and Dukes of Hazzard for me. When people talk to me about those shows it's part of their own personal history. You know, they spent Friday nights at their grandparents and it was their grandfather's favorite show. It's the same thing with Smallville, many people have shared that their own relationship with their father wasn't great, but that my character gave them hope, What an awesome position to be in where so many people connect me to some of their fondest nostalgic memories and what an honor that really is. I also feel a tremendous responsibility to try, in some way, to reflect the person that they think I am. This music does that, and it has a sense of humor in songs like "I Hate Cancer" or "My Wife Ran Away With My Best Friend, I'm Sure Gonna Miss Him" (laughing).

CM: Life is hard though and you have to have a sense of humor. to get through everything. What has the actual process of creating these songs been like for you?

JS: I'm really excited about the process because it has enabled me to work with some of the most sought-after musicians on the planet and the best songwriters in the business, not just currently but over the last 40 or 50 years. Music, at its' best, is an amazing tool to bring people together. What else in the world can make you feel like you're in high school again? You know it's THAT song, the one you heard on THAT trip with your buddies when you went to wherever it was and were doing whatever you shouldn't have been doing (laughing).

What makes this music exceptional is that everybody who either wrote it or played on it is that guy or girl, so it means something to them or they wouldn't have been attracted to it. People of this caliber don't do something because it's a job, they do something because they want to do it and because it means something to them.

CM: Was there a kind of personal enlightenment for you that happened as this project started to unfold?

JS: Oh yes definitely and I'm realizing it as I'm talking about it to other people, more so than when I've actually been recording it. We just finished the final 18 songs last week, so they're still hot off the presses, and I'm realizing that I'm not putting out something that I need to find a way to sound excited about. I'm not trying to figure out a way to somehow give the impression that this music has changed my life, because it just has! I'm crazy about this stuff, I just love it and I think people can feel that.

CM: I think that comes through in the music, the feelings involved are obvious and I think your audience catches on quickly.

JS: I think that they can just feel it and so many odd things happened along the way. Jim Martin has quite a few cuts now and is one of the guys who wrote: "Wherever She is I Hope She Stays There".  He has worked at the Opryland Hotel as the nighttime janitor for 28 years and anyone else, once they started recording their music would have probably stopped being the janitor of the hotel. Jim is still there and he still does that, because it's his job.

Alicia and I decided to do a video for the song "Phantom of the Grand  Ole Opry" and we knew that Jim, who is 6 foot 4 and has had some pretty serious health issues, had to be in it. He's just a sweetheart with an infectious laugh. So we called him up and told him that we want him to do this video and that's when he tells us that the man who wrote this song, wrote it about him! The songwriter, who I never had a chance to meet, was very close to Jim and eventually passed away because of cancer and Jim in turn then wrote "I Hate Cancer" with this friend in mind. So in a really unique way, a lot of these songs are interconnected on a very emotional level.

We also want to make the audience part of The Odyssey so for "I Hate Cancer" I asked people on Facebook to send me photos of their loved ones who have been affected or afflicted by this horrible illness. I have about 200 photos that were submitted and looking at them one at a time to the words of the video is just pretty heavy. We wanted to include these precious people in this video, not only as a tribute to them but as a way to help these families support one another. They aren't alone, we have all been touched by cancer.
CM: There's often a real comfort in actually seeing that you aren't alone in your pain.

JS: Yes and it seems as if this music is not only healing to me and important to the people who play on it, but it has some tremendous healing properties for those who wrote it and those who are living it as well. I'm not a believer in just hanging out and waiting to see what happens. We're working our asses off and this music really touches nerves. It's life-changing for those who are involved and I believe that it can be the same for those who listen and hear it.

I am honored to be a part of this project and the further down the road Alicia and I go with it, the more we realize that this was not our idea, we just so happened to be open to doing it and so it became ours. Somebody else would have done this. Somebody would have put these songs together and I'm just so thankful that it was us. We could have stopped at 34 songs easily, but if we had stopped then we would have been missing some really fantastic and important material.

CM: Based on the way that things have been unfolding for you in the last year or so, do you feel like you can even guess what will come next in your career?

JS: It seems to always end up better than I thought, especially now. This time next year I believe we'll take this music from The Odyssey and we'll be playing it everywhere, from large venues to little clubs, radio stations, hospital wards- you name it. This is the kind of music that will work just as well in a large venue as it will for just a few people because it means something and it has real emotional value. I'll always have my guitar in the back of the car and ready to play, I'll never stop being that guy when this music takes off. Our lives are short and we're here for such a brief amount of time but while we're here, we should smile. I'm excited to be able to help people to smile.

Check out John Schneider's official site for music, show dates and everything else that he has going on. Also, join him on Facebook and become part of his interactive community!