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Charlie Daniels looks to do it again

By Brian Baker, May 1999

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Although the concert was often forced from its annual status by scheduling conflicts, there have been 17 Volunteer Jams since 1974, and this year's marks the debut of the Jam as a tour rather than a single concert event.

Most importantly, the Jam has always been a forum to expose Daniels' audience to new kinds of music each year.

"I don't like a steady diet of anything," Daniels says. "I love rice and gravy, but I don't want it every day. I always felt that other people are basically the same way. You take a band that's been around as long as we have, and you aren't going to come to see the same show every year for 20 years. So we try to do something a little different every year."

Daniels left Epic in the early '90's, signing with Liberty (now Capitol).

He also branched out into gospel, recording a pair of Christian albums - "The Door" and "Steel Witness" - both Grammy nominees.

1996 marked the first acoustic Volunteer Jam, and in 1997, tiring of the label mentality, Daniels formed Blue Hat and released "Blues Hat" and followed that up with his first children's album, "By the Light of the Moon."

Last year's "Fiddle Fire" was a retrospective of sorts as Daniels reworked a number of songs from his voluminous catalog with the fiddle taking center stage.

"'Fiddle Fire' was just another one of my little ideas," he says of the project. "I wanted to do all the old fiddle tunes over again. I'd wanted to do that for a long time, and we finally got around to doing it. I've got all kinds of little ideas. I'm thinking about doing a jazz album, maybe a bluegrass album. There's no telling what I might do."

Daniels seems happy with the label.

"It's a full-fledged record label, and we're going to be releasing other artists. It's not necessarily in the mainstream of things. It's the little projects like 'Tailgate Party' and 'Fiddle Fire' that would not so much excite a major record label because there's no hit singles on it. But it's something that classic rock radio seems to enjoy, and our fans love this 'Tailgate Party' album. I do what I want to basically and not worry about what record companies think about it because we are the record company.

Daniels shows no signs of letting up. He's already hit the road with the first Volunteer Jam nationwide tour, and he's currently producing Rhett Atkins, Daniels' first production job since The Youngbloods.

He's also preparing an album of all new material sometime this year and his autobiography.

"I've been writing it for several years," says Daniels of the his book project. "I just literally have not had time to work on it. I don't know anything about writing, as far as how to go about it. I've never been a notetaker or someone to make outlines. All I know to do is sit down and start typing. I get to a certain point, and I start reviewing, I think of something I left out, or another story I wanted to tell, or another phase of my life that I didn't go into. It's a very time consuming thing, but I think I can get it finished the first part of next year."

"I call it 'Never Look at the Empty Seats.' The point being, and it's pretty obvious by the title, accentuate the positive. Do what you can do at the time you can do it. You can't think about yesterday and you can't think about tomorrow when you're trying to do something important today. Don't worry about the ones that didn't come, entertain the ones in front of you."

Daniels also has designs on developing new talent, possibly through Blue Hat.

"I want to find a talented person, whether it's country music or pop rock, who's still got some stars in their eyes, who still has some illusions, and just dying to do something and willing to work for it," says Daniels about his as yet unknown prospect. "I've got some ideas that I want to do that nobody's doing right now. I think music, especially country music, has gotten bogged down. It's gotten too much into image and not enough into the music. I think it's time to move on and do some different things."

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