Bucky Covington was riding high in 2007 when his self-titled debut album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Top 75 chart, the biggest unit debut from a country artist that year. Covington’s album also had the best first week sales and was the highest Top 200 debut from any new country artist in 15 years. Several singles from that album hit the Top 10 on the charts. But the finalist from the fifth season of American Idol hit bumps early in his career when his label Lyric Street Records closed and he was unsigned for more than a year.
Now signed with E One Entertainment, he is touring behind his new single “I Wanna Be That Feeling,” from his next album I’m Alright that will be released later this year. Fans can hear the new songs and his hits this summer as he travels the U.S. on his Hometown Tour.
Covington recently chatted about his new record label, his album, and just why he’s such a great guy to his fans.
OS: Life on the road has to be so different. I think I’d be exhausted all of the time!
BC: Yes, it was when I first went on the road. It was weird to be moving [on a tour bus] when I was sleeping!
OS: Carrie Underwood is just one of the country stars that has made her way into the major leagues after being on American Idol. But I know some people still think that’s an easy way to get into the music industry. What’s your response when people say that?
BC: When you come off a show like American Idol, they say you don’t pay any dues. But that isn’t true! My [first] label [Lyric Street Records] closed and I was unsigned for about 1 1/2 years. Now I’m with eOne [Entertainment One, a Nashville label]. It was a difficult time [when I was unsigned]. Hey, dues paid. The way I see it, coming off a great show like American Idol, has been fantastic. It was great to have my [2007 debut] album do so well and I was as happy as a lark. But it’s not as open and shut as people think. It took me about 1 1/2 years [before I signed with another record label]. Once we got the contracts and all those things signed and behind us, I was very happy. The biggest thing is that I enjoy the label but there was a lot of stuff I skipped. So I didn’t know anything about the business [when I first entered it]. I’ve had to catch up. When you trade anything for money, it becomes a business. And there are a lot of different levels in the business. When my [first] label shut down, all I could think was “Now what the hell do I do? Where do I turn?” I didn’t know which way to turn, but I was sitting back and learning a lot. Now I’ve got a new record label, a business management company and am very, very happy.
OS: It has to be frustrating to start out so strong and then have it blow up.
BC: I figure sometimes in this world and sometimes in your life, you have got to go back to square one. When [Lyric Street Records closed], I had never felt so dumb. Never. I didn’t have my eye [on the business]. That won’t happen again.
OS: There are so many musicians who talk about how they lost a lot of money because they didn’t keep an eye on their own businesses. I’m thinking of “Iron Man” by Tony Iommi [of Black Sabbath], but there are lots of others. I’m sure you know that! It’s great that you won’t fall into that situation.
BC: It’s easy to see how that can happen. There is so much money going in and coming out, you take a shady individual working with an artist that is concentrating on music, and you can see how easy it is to get things by [the artist]. The artist is busy [recording and performing], trying to keep the whole thing afloat. Learning the business was one of the cool things I did.
OS: What was your immediate response when your label closed?
BC: I almost got out [of the music business]. But I went back out and put a new album together and got great people to work with [at the new label].
BC: A lot of times songwriters send songs to the label and the [label representatives] listen to all the music and narrow it down. They have you listen to [what they select] so you might hear two songs. They’re trying to make our lives easier. I said, “I don’t need all of you to do that. So I called [the representative], went to his house and sat down and listened to everything. Absolutely everything. That is how I found my new single “I Wanna Be That Feeling.”
OS: So I understand Shooter Jennings is on your new album.
BC: Yes, Shooter Jennings and I duet on it. He’s a great guy! One of the happiest moments in my music career is setting in the studio, talking to Shooter and directing him. That was amazing!
OS: It’s very different, I think, recording and performing. What should fans expect from our concerts?
BC: I am very proud of the live stage show. I try to get you to laugh, I try to get you to cry, and I put a lot of energy into it. I get a lot of compliments on my show.
OS: Have you thought about how your new songs will translate in concert?
BC: Yes. I rode around with this album, with a bunch of songs. I have a 100-acre ranch and it has a bunch of trails. I got me a little blue Jeep Wrangler with a [great] sound system. I put the Jeep in four-wheel drive mode, and it goes everywhere. I don’t have to think. I had a cooler full of beer and ride around on my trails, listening to the music. I love the album. It’s not a cluster of songs, it’s a live album; it’s a show. This song here is full of energy and this song here is a lot like the live set. I formulated my album just like a live show.
OS: I hear a lot of your fans always talking about how kind you are to them. That has to be difficult sometimes.
BC: I made my mind up years ago when my daddy hit me the first time or the third time. I have got to be nice to people! It’s not rocket science. Why are you being a [jerk] to that person? All you have to do is smile, treat people like you wan to be treated. If you walk up to a guy and you are a complete [jerk], that’s just wrong. I have to go out of my way to be nice to people and hope they like me—who I am and what I do.
Find out more about Bucky Covington, his music and his tour on his website.