Oct. 7, 2009
How will you feel singing the National Anthem at a Texas game?
First of all, I’m a native Texan. I grew up in the Panhandle in Amarillo. Most of my friends were Red Raiders fans, but I was always a University of Texas fan, so it made for interesting Saturdays watching football on television up there with me and all my friends. When I got into the music business in Nashville as a teenager in a band called Lonestar, we were all big University of Texas fans, everyone in the entire band. As time moved on, Big & Rich kicked up and started, and we landed the theme song for College GameDay, "Comin’ to Your City," and in all of the College GameDay commercials we’ve done in the last five years, I’m always wearing University of Texas. Then (Big & Rich member) Cowboy Troy, who’s actually a UT alum, he’s always wearing Horns stuff in those commercials. It’s cool to me to be such a big fan of the Longhorns and be able to promote it on ESPN and sing about it and be a part of it in a musical way. It really puts together two of my favorite things – music and football.
When you grew up around so many friends who were Texas Tech fans, what was it that drew you to the Longhorns?
It’s just one of those things. They have incredible history and they were winners. They just had such great players and coaches. As a little kid what probably drew me to it was simply the steer horns – the Longhorns – it was the ultimate Texas symbol to me. When I moved to Tennessee in high school, I wore Texas ball caps and t-shirts just about every day. Of course that’s in Tennessee, and they’re all UT fans, but the other UT – University of Tennessee – but I’d always tell them Texas is the real UT, which didn’t set well with the guys in Tennessee either, but like I said, I’ve always been a staunch supporter.
I met Mack Brown about three or four years ago, went to breakfast with him and spent some time with him. I’ve met Darrell Royal a few times and sat around there in Austin in Willie Nelson’s place and played music with Darrell Royal in the room, and I just feel like it’s a real tradition that I’m glad to be a tiny, tiny little part of. When I was talking to coach Brown a couple of weeks ago, he asked, “Do you sing the National Anthem at games?” I said, “I do every now and then.” He said, “You ought to come do one at the Longhorns game.” I said, “I’d love to, tell me which one works.” He said, “How about the Colorado game?” I said, “Perfect.” So we marked it down and we’ll load up and I’ll come down and get to see a University of Texas (home) game for the very first time at the stadium. I’ve never seen a game there. I’m really, really excited about that.
You’ve gotten to know both coach Brown and coach Royal, what kind of similarities do you see in them as men and the programs they've built?
They’re leaders, first and foremost. As far as personally, from talking to both of them, they’re probably two of the most kind-hearted people you’ll ever meet to be such brutal, unbelievable competitors. The way they go at their programs, I don’t think anybody is more aggressive than Mack Brown, and I don’t think anyone was more aggressive than Darrell Royal, but on a personal basis, you can really see why the players would want to fight for them. They really do have just a down-to-earth quality that makes you just want to go hang out with them. That’s one thing I was struck by. When you’re meeting Darrell Royal for the first time, you’re meeting one of the greats. You’re nervous and anxious, and he’ll sit there and talk to you for two hours, not even knowing you, just because he’s a good guy. That was a really nice thing to find out.
Do you have any special memory as a Longhorns fan?
Absolutely, the National Championship game was the first year that Big & Rich was doing the theme song for GameDay, so ESPN flew us out to California on their jet, which was cool. We loaded up everyone we could get on there and we played a big tailgate party for ESPN and we got to sit on the 40-yard line. I was sitting right next to Steve McNair the entire game. I’ll never forget that last quarter and we were down by 12, and here comes Vince, doing his thing. When he ran in that last score and we won over USC, that’s truly one of the most unbelievable energies I’ve ever felt. I’ve played a lot of big buildings and played a lot of big concerts over the years, but that’s a different kind of energy when you have 100,000 people and 50,000 of them are all pushing in the same direction, and I was sitting right in the middle of it. I would say that would be it. I bought every National Championship t-shirt and ball cap I could buy that day.
Speaking of playing concerts, you’ve also done some solo work recently, what’s going on with you right now?
Big Kenny and I just finished a 45-city national tour. We toured from the beginning of June all the way up to about a week and a half ago, and that was a really successful sold out tour. I’m doing a bunch of solo shows between now and the end of the year and planning on doing another Big & Rich tour next year. While I’m in Austin, after the football game I’m going to be playing a concert. I’m doing it just for fun. I haven’t been booked in a nightclub in probably 10 years. We’ve been too big, but I love playing a good Texas honky tonk. I said, “Hey, if we’re going to be down there, why don’t we do a concert?”
Do you have anything else you want to tell Longhorns fans?
If fans are interested in what I’m doing, they can go to JohnRich.com. They can also follow me on Twitter, and I’m all over the world, literally, so my tweets are pretty interesting, but I’m looking forward to a great experience on Saturday, and I can’t wait to be in that stadium with all that burnt orange.