Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Hollercast podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.
Today, country music singer TG Sheppard has released one of the best duet collections that preserve country music and gospel music heritage. With “Legendary Friends & Country Duets,”country music fans receive a musical journey that has been many years in the making. TG Sheppard recently spoke with Kentucky Country Music in regards to the album, as well as those that he worked with.
With those listed on the album, you have the legends like Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as those that have passed away. This album is definitely a musical piece in history.
I think that is what I was striving for. I’m glad that you recognized that. One of the main reasons to do this project was every time I do a concert, during the autograph line a few will mention that they are glad that I’m still touring. They love the older country, the classic country, and they wish they could hear some of the ones that they really grew up listening to. I kept thinking why don’t I try to bring everyone together for one project and give back to the people that they have been wanting? That was one of the catalysts that made me want to do this.
One of the interesting duets is that with Conway Twitty on “Why Me Lord?” How did you create this duet considering that Conway passed away years ago?
Conway and I were dear friends. We were in business together as businessmen invested in things. I didn’t want to do an album without Conway being involved somehow. I’d always wanted to record with him and he and I talked about recording together so many times. Life got in the way and it never happened. So when it came time to do a legendary friends and country duets project, I said, ‘How am I going to do this without destroying anything that he’s done with his version?’ So I went to the estate and family and got the blessings of everyone. I said, ‘I want to take Conway’s vocal, but I want to build an entirely new track. I don’t want to do anything to his version because to me, that’s hollow ground. I would love to go into the studio and build a whole new track and then sing this with Conway.’
The strangest thing happened the night that I went into the studio. I had come in off the road. It was very late and I put the headphones on in the studio. I walked up to the mic and I heard his voice in my headphones and the tears started flowing. At that moment I knew I made the right moment to do this because I felt his presence so strong. I heard his voice and I felt his presence; I really did. It was a very magical moment and I don’t know if I’ll ever live that moment again. I was with him again for just an hour or so.
Conway was one of the most gentle people I have ever known. He was so consistent in his friendship with me. It never wavered; it always stayed the same from the day we met until he passed. It was very special to have him on this album.
Another legend that is on the album that is no longer with us is George Jones.
I was very lucky to catch George Jones before he passed. This album took a long time to happen. George came into the studio and met me. We recorded “It’s a Man Thing.” That was a real treat. Then George died shortly after that.
How did you match the song with each particular duet partner for the album?
That was the hardest part, matching the singers and getting the right key for everyone to sing in because everyone’s range is different. So my record producer, who is a great producer that has worked with every major act in the world, just submitted a ton of songs. Lo and behold, the songs he picked were some of the songs that my wife, Kelly Lang, had written. Some of the artists that was on the project, we had co-written prior to ever doing the album. They just kind of happened.
What was the hardest part of the project?
The hardest part of the project was scheduling and catching the artists at the proper time where they could record, or come into the studio with you. It was very difficult to try to get the key picked that everyone was comfortable in. I let each artist pick their own key and I sang with whatever key they were comfortable with. It just seemed to work. Everybody’s range seemed to fit in together. The project was just very magical.
I have to pinch myself every day to say, ‘did I really do that?’ It really fills me up on the inside of my heart because it was always something missing. I know that number one records are great and make you feel good, but I never had that feeling of completion and validation in my career and life until I was able to sit down and listen to this album. Then I realized that I was validated and it filled me up. These people thought enough of me to come and do it. I felt like I had achieved something in my career.
Country music fans should definitely pick up a copy of TG Sheppard’s latest album. For more information on TG, as well as where to see him perform live, be sure to visit www.tgsheppard.com.