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For Jeff Bates, his life is a country song

By Jeffrey B. Remz, June 2003

When considering the ingredients for the prototypical country song, how about a character who grows up poor, not knowing who his real daddy is, quits school, holds down a blue collar job or two, encounters brushes with the law and the inside of pokey, drinks and does drugs too much, is on his fourth marriage, but somehow manages to overcome life's travails.

Well in the truth is stranger than fiction category, meet Jeff Bates.

The small town Mississippi native has had all of the above and more during his 39 years. Not to mention a strong debut disc about his life and love.

In effect, his life is a country song. "Someone told me the other day that I had country music in my DNA," says Bates in a cell telephone interview while on his Brooks & Dunn Neon Wild West Tour bus going somewhere between Sacramento, Cal. and Portland, Ore. "I've done a lot of living. For a 21 year old, I've done a lot. Plus about 18 more."

Bates, with his smoky, somewhat gravelly voice, maintains a sense of humor about life as he knows it.

But, in effect, there is a connection between the life of Jeff Bates and Jeff Bates country singer.

"Country music to me is reality," says Bates. "I'm not very good at catering to (songs with) no substance, no subject. That's (reality) what I look for in country songs. The people that I write with, Kenny Beard, Harley Allen. We try to look for things that are relatable. We look for real live subject matter. I've lived a lot, and we have a lot of things to write about, and I believe every man can relate to me. That's what makes a country song - that people can relate to it as real life."

Before getting into his life story on his "Rainbow Man" debut CD, which hit the streets in late May on RCA, Bates makes it clear he loves country music from the get go.

The disc's lead-off song, "Country Enough," penned with his guiding hand, Beard, and Tim Owens, carries the refrain, "If you hear it on the radio and don't turn it up/It ain't country enough."

"Some other station's playin' some other junk that folks don't listen to where I come from," sings Bates.

Bates says he thinks the song "sets the tone of the album up. Look at the album after 'Country Enough,' and I think it sets up the album pretty well. Kenny and I set up an album that we'd go to the store and buy. This is one that we're pretty proud of. A lot of sleepless nights. A lot of nights that Kenny spent at the studio...not to just satisfy the label, but to satisfy he and I. We're both country music fans. That's what brought us to town."

The album - Bates had a hand in writing all 11 songs - shifts between love songs and autobiography.

In fact, the first single from the album, which has done well on the charts and getting the all-important radio airplay, is simply titled "The Love Song."

The song, a power ballad country song, describes the story of falling in love with the girl next door, marrying and having a child to "complete the circle of love."

"The Love Song" was written about Beard's two little girls, according to Bates.

"Kenny took them to bed one night," Bates says, recalling the genesis of the song. "We were going to write the next day."

Beard apparently got an idea for a song and called Bates.

"What's the premise of it?" Bates says he asked Beard. "Love" came the reply.

A sarcastic Bates responded, "Well that ain't never been done before."

Beard was sitting at his piano and played a melody for Bates over the telephone. Thinking it "infectious," Bates says, "I fell in love with it right then. 'Man from what we're talking about, there's got to be a baby born in this song. We hashed it out the next day with (fellow songwriter) Casey Beathard. We got all mushy together. We took different parts of all of our lives. Love, marriage, the child being born (Beathard and Beard both have children). I'm so proud of how it turned out. I'm so pleased with how it's done as the first single."

RCA label head and stalwart Joe Galante was "was extremely hands on with the project," Bates says. "When we went on the radio tour (promotion tours done by artists to build a following and airplay), the label had a couple of songs that they wanted to try it. It was an effort in picking the first single. They wanted something that (had) first, universal appeal and something that was fresh."

"For me, I think it's the perfect first single. This is what I told the producers, I'm all about - love, and if we could get this on the album, great. This happened to be the first single."

Bates says he was surprised "in some respects" about how the song has done.

"I didn't have any idea. You have to understand that I understand I walked into Joe Galante's office on Jan. 29, 2002 and sang three songs....It's been a get up every day and learn a lot kind of process. I didn't have a clue this is how it's done. But I'm very pleased with it."Bates makes no bones about it - he loves writing about that age old song topic, love.

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