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Interview: Hank Jr. lets us know what he’s been up to (Includes interview)

Born on May 26 1949, the only son of the great Hank Williams and his first wife Audrey Sheppard, Hank Jr. has been a major star in his own right since the mid-1970s, when he dropped the pure country sound made famous by his father for a more personalised southern rock vibe.

Despite his occasionally controversial views, the lover of the great outdoors – and all the pursuits that that often entails – remains a highly respected figure within the country music community, and in recent years has collaborated with the likes of Gretchen Wilson, Brad Paisley, Kid Rock and Rehab.

When we spoke, Hank – a keen hunter and fisherman, also known as Bocephus – was preparing for the autumn leg of his 2015 tour. “I only do about 25 shows a year,” he observes, suggesting a state of semi-retirement. “I am spoiled as I have some of the most loyal, hardcore fans in the country.

“No matter where I’m performing, the crowds have been great and we’ve been setting some merchandise records in places we have never played before.”

Discussing the songs that fans can expect to hear this time around, the lifelong Republican and father of ‘Crazed Country Rebel,’ Hank 3, states, “My shows are a combination of new stuff and old stuff. You could expect to hear many of the hits including ‘Family Tradition,’ ‘A Country Boy Can Survive,’ ‘All My Rowdy Friends‘ and many others.

“But I think the best part of the show is when I do the acoustic set… I just sit out there with the guitar and do whatever comes to mind; some of my stuff, some Johnny Cash stuff and whatever hits me at the time.”

Although the star, a pioneer of ‘outlaw country,’ clearly enjoys being out on the road, he doesn’t like to be away from home for too long, meaning that the bulk of his concerts take place stateside, a disappointing reality for the many Hank Jr. fans all over the world.

“I have performed in Japan and lots of other places,” he reveals, “but I prefer to do shows right here at home in the United States, so that I can fly back and forth to my farm and spend the day in the hunting blind or on a lake somewhere.”

As touched upon earlier, Hank has enjoyed bouncing ideas off other musicians over the years (his 1975 LP Hank Williams Jr. & Friends – generally considered one of his best – features contributions from Charlie Daniels, Toy Caldwell, Chuck Leavell, Dickey Betts and Waylon Jennings) and I asked him if there was anyone in particular he would like to get together with, either on stage or in the studio – someone with whom he has not previously worked.

“Not really,” comes the reply. “I have had some good partners to sing with throughout my career… I had a big hit with a song ‘Mind Your Own Business,’ which Reba and Willie and a few others were on, and then I recently did a song with Eric Church for my new album.

“I also cut ‘Born To Boogie‘ for the new album with some special guests on it too, and to top it all off, I got to sing with Daddy on ‘Tear In My Beer,’ which won us a few awards. How can you top that?”

We moved onto the subject of the new album, the singer’s first for Nash Icon. “I signed a new record contract and am making one of the best albums in many years,” he says in his most recent press release. “I am testing a few songs on the crowds at the shows and the fans are reacting to them, which is a good sign in this business.”

“Well, on this album I didn’t write all the songs,” he tells me.”I wrote some, but we looked for songs that would fit me and also fit the sound of what is happening today in country music, and I think we did that. There are some special songs on this project…

Scott Borchetta, the president of Big Machine and Nash Icon Records, has let me make the record that I wanted to make and when he came to the studio, he heard the magic that was going on, let me tell you!

“Scott is a smart man, having created Taylor Swift, Justin Moore, Florida Georgia Line and so many others, and then he saw a void in the business with only a few places for artists like me, Reba and Martina. Now he has created a home for us and is making lots of heads turn on Music Row. Stay tuned for what he’s doing ’cause it’s real…”

When will the record be out? “We haven’t set a release date yet as I just finished recording it… We will soon let everyone know when it’s coming.”

“I can’t really choose one because I have had many great moments in my career,” muses Hank, pondering his most satisfying professional achievements to date.

“When you win Entertainer of the Year at five different award shows and then win multiple Emmy Awards for a football theme song… and then I get to go home and make some little boy or girl’s day by taking them on their first deer hunt, wow, when you think about it, I have had a great life and couldn’t ask for much more.”

English thespian Tom Hiddleston is set to portray Hank Williams Sr. in a soon-to-be-released biopic entitled I Saw the Light. Williams’ grandson, the aforementioned Hank 3, has openly criticised the casting of a non-American actor in the role, despite Hiddleston’s astonishing resemblance to his grandfather. What does Jr. make of it all?

“I have heard of some of the cast members, but I haven’t met them or seen any of the footage or work on this movie just yet… I am waiting to see it all done so I can then see how real it is.”

Hank Jr.’s tour kicked off last night in Springfield, Illinois.

For more information, visit his official website.

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