Country Music award winner Rodney Atkins is the genuine article. Describing himself as intense with a laid back demeanor, this Tennessee gentleman is first and foremost a loving husband and father. He also professes a commitment to living up to the expectations of his many fans, an obligation that has driven him to become one of the top acts in Country Music today.
"My family life is very important to me," said Atkins, "The people who pay to hear my music or come to see me, their time is also valuable."
"In family life, or at this level of country music, the good ones aren't just participating or involved; they're totally committed," Rodney, who has been married to his wife Tammy Jo for 10 years and enjoys spending as much time as possible with his 7-year-old son Elijah and two teenage stepdaughters explained his philosophy of performing.
"If I am going to be away from my home and family, it has to be for something that I am going to be proud of," he said in an interview.
"When you come to one of my shows, you are going to get more than your money's worth, we put it all out there," he continued. "I can't waste people's time, that is my goal."
"It is tough to keep pushing the envelope, I make myself crazy with it sometimes," said the Academy of Country Music's Top New Male Vocalist award winner. "It is also a blast."
Atkins' platinum-selling 2006 album, "If You're Going Through Hell," included four number one hits. In addition to the title song, "Watching You", "These Are My People" and "Cleaning This Gun (Come on in Boy)" all went to number one on the country charts endearing him to fans everywhere.
This was actually the singer-songwriter's third album. He recorded the first after signing with Curb Records in 1996, but never released that album. "I could not relate to it, it wasn't me at all," said Atkins. "I asked myself, where is this going," if you are really going to do this at this level you have to get honest with yourself."
"Did I get frustrated or discouraged at that time, oh yeah," Atkins reflected. "At the same time, when I look back I was so buried in the moment, in what I was doing right there and then."
"It didn't really matter to me if I had a hit or not," he said. "If the songs are not genuine, if they don't connect with the folks listening, then none of that stuff matters."
Atkins abandoned the high tech studios of Nashville and headed back home to his own modest studio, "It is just a little more than a closet," said Atkins who recorded most of his hits at home where he could work next to his family.
"I have an old tower with Pro Tools hooked up to an old television set," he chuckled. "They told me it would not work for a monitor but I kind of messed with it a little and got it to working."
Using a small booth with a microphone he cuts his own tracks, "Those recording studios have the producers, with the best engineers and equipment, but the studio pays for the time and I always felt like it was just something to make money on for those guys," Atkins stated. "It was like 'Next-Next' and I didn't want to give up all that control to someone who realty didn't care about my music or my fans."
"When you listen to my songs, you really know me and who I am, what I am all about." He continued. "There are good songs, bad songs, clever songs then there are great songs, hit songs that scratch your soul and make you feel something, not just go in one ear and out the other."
The singer compared it to good cinema, "It's like a movie you really get caught up in, and you forget you are just watching a movie."
Atkins makes that same connection again and again on his much-anticipated new album, It's America. Just listen to the down-home philosophy of "Got It Good" and "Tell a Country Boy," the heartfelt balladry of "The River Knows," the fist-pumping feel good "It's America" and much more from across the musical and emotional spectrum. "I try to sing songs with an honest view of ourselves, of myself, of the struggle, of the laughter," he says. "It's about being human."
Still the hopeful dreamer who paid his dues in honky-tonks across America, still the small-town boy who inherited his parents' warmth and work ethic. He still feels an unbreakable connection to the fans who buy his albums, request his songs and fill up his shows. These are his people, and he has no intention of letting them down.
"With this record, I knew I wanted to keep making songs that folks can sing along with and laugh at and pump their fists to," he says. "Sometimes it is the simple things in this great country that really make me appreciate it. When we share this sense of pride through music, you become friends with everybody listening. It's an honor to go out there and represent the everyday man, and to represent country music and what it's all about."
Atkins spoke about a recent show where he opened for Alan Jackson, where the "Make A Wish Foundation" brought a young fan to the concert, to fulfill her wish to meet Rodney Atkins. "I went and picked her up, she was frail and didn't have any hair." He said reverently. "She just had a little ball cap on"
His voice trailed off as emotions welled up inside the father who referenced the meeting to illustrate his motivation to never disappoint his fans.
Atkins' felt a special connection with this young fan, as he states in his biography, "Rodney was adopted as a frail, sickly infant from the Holston Methodist Home for Children in Greenville, Tenn. (for which he has passionately raised awareness and financial assistance since finding stardom), but two families returned him to the home because the burden of caring for him was too great. Then Allan and Margaret Atkins took him in.
"From what I understand, I became more sick than I had ever been during that time," he says. "But it just never crossed their mind to take me back."
Never passing up an opportunity to help with causes that mean a lot to him, such as the National Council for Adoption, he has also made an appearance at several disaster relief concerts for flood and tornado victims this year. Rodney says it is fun to play the charity concerts and he enjoys the special privileges stardom offers. "A lot of my dreams have become reality I'm living the American dream," he acknowledges. "It's amazing to me."
He also has had the sobering experience of visiting wounded veterans at The Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the United States Army's flagship medical center. During that visit the news that a United States Special Forces unit killed Osama bin Laden. "I will never forget being in the room with this guy getting ready to lose his eye," recalled Atkins. "He was shouting, 'Bin Laden, We shot him. We got him.'"
The concert in Belmont County will the third appearance for Adkins at Jamboree in the Hills and he is looking forward to the event. "They always have supported us and we love to play there because every time we go up there we have a great crowd and they have a good time, cheering and singing along."
Atkins stated that he has always felt a real connection with the people in our area of the country,
Rodney Atkins will appear at Jamboree in the Hills on Sunday, July 17, with Neal McCoy, Loretta Lynn and Montgomery Gentry for what might be dubbed Blue Collar Sunday. "I really like Neal and I hope that I get a chance to sing with Loretta, that would be a dream come true.'
Rodney will take the stage at Jamboree in the Hills Sunday after the opening act "The Fabulous Bender Boys" and he promised that campers who plan on sleeping in will know when he gets on stage, "Oh, we will wake 'em up."
For tickets or more information visit the Jamboree in the Hills website at: www.jamboreeinthehills.com.