In The Spotlight

A Royal Conversation

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MBotW: Aug. 18

Star, songwriter to host annual benefit concert

By Susan Porter

Country music star and songwriter Royal Wade Kimes

Country music star and songwriter Royal Wade Kimes comes back every year to his hometown of Chester, just south of Fayetteville, to present an outdoor concert and lead a trail ride to raise money for the Backpacks for Kids program. The event helped feed 2,500 kids last year.

This year, the trail ride is Sept. 9 and the concert is Sept. 10. Gates for the concert open at 6 p.m. Chuckwagon dinners will be available. Tickets are $14 at the gate and $12 in advance. Advance tickets are will-call by calling 615-351-3167 or locally at Basham Grocery in Mountainburg or Chester Cafe in Chester.

For information on the trail ride go to www.royalwadekimes.com.

TFW interviewed Kimes to find out more about his career and the event.

TFW: When did you first begin playing music, and how did you break into Nashville?

Royal: Bought my first guitar at 15 years old after working cattle and a sawmill for a summer. I knew I wanted play music when I was 4 years old. I was drawn to guitars and melodies that early.

My first big break came when I met the late Eddy Arnold. He and I became friends by chance, which is testimony that you need help from God to make headway in the music business.

With his help, I began writing, and he happened to be friends with Bob Doyle who had just signed a new kid by the name of Garth Brooks. He hooked the two of us up and we wrote “Bury The Hatchet,” which came out on “Ropin’ The Wind” and sold 17 million copies. I quit my day job after that! Then I went on to write several other gold records and hits for other artists until I signed with Asylum Records a few years later. I had two big hits there, “Leave My Mama Out Of This” and “Another Man’s Sky,” which had a hit video, too.

TFW: How do you describe your music?

Royal: My music is “cowboy country.” It is love songs mixed with cowboy feeling tunes that are hard-driving to gunfighting ballads. I guess it would remind you of Marty Robbins. He sang “El Paso,” a gunfighting song, and “White Sports Coat,” a song about a prom, all at the same time.

My style turned out to be what Johnny Cash said — who by the way had all my records — “If they like rock or country either one, they’ll dig you.” He was right, and I am amazed that my audience runs from 15 to 70.

TFW: Who are some of the artists you have enjoyed working with?

Royal: People I have toured with and just hang out with over the years include Garth Brooks, DeAnna Carter, Trace Adkins, Bellamy Brothers, Mel Tillis and lots more.

TFW: What are you working on now?

Royal: I’m writing, cutting records and touring around the world, fall tour and a big tour for 2012. “Crossing The Roads” is my latest record and my 10th. The record is called “Crossing The Roads” because it crosses all things in music. It has a little blues, a little country, a little western, a little rockabilly, gospel and even one song of what I would call “easy listening,” but then it also has a couple of patriotic-type songs on it as well.

For the first time, it has two cover songs. I cut the Bobby Bare tune “500 Miles Away From Home.” Bare called me after he heard the song and said “You did a fine job on my song.”
I also did a video. The video play chart has it red hot in Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee, and it is also heating up in other states.

I also cut “Mr. Songman” by Donnie Sumner, JD Sumner’s son.

The CD is being downloaded like nothing I’ve ever experienced since cutting records. Find it at www.cdbaby.com, www.bestbuy.com and www.royalwadekimes.com. I have a new video out that can be seen at YouTube.com or on GAC and at www.royalwadekimes.com.

I’m also cutting a project unlike anything Nashville has seen. I’m more than excited about it.

TFW: What’s next?

Royal: As a songwriter, we wait and we hope that we write that one song that you know in your heart is “the” song. I have done that. I can say from my heart, from what I think I know about this biz, that I have now written that song.

It will be a full year before we release it, but I feel it will depict who Royal Wade Kimes is. I told my wife, “It’s OK now. If I should meet God tomorrow, it’s OK. This song will be here, and it will be released to the people … and they need it.”

Someone like me that creates, not just gets up on a stage and sings, but creates, lives and hopes he can leave something behind that will be remembered for many years to come, if not forever. I think this song is one the people will say, “He left me something that touched my heart, something special.”

TFW: Tell us more about the concert in Chester.

Royal: When we do the Chester show we try to bring the people who actually make the music happen in Nashville.

This year, I will have Laurie Canaan, who has played Broadway and Nashville both. She is a fiddle player with style and a piano player unmatched with her ability to make a song come alive. Larry and Ryan Crowley, a father-son pair that light up a stage with their guitars will also be there.

It is one thing to go see a concert where it’s “drive it to the wall,” but it’s quite another to watch the ones who not only play it, but composed and make it.

That’s what separates them from the gang, the pack of would-be’s. They are the true Nashville pickers.

The opening band will be a local bluegrass band, Yesterday’s Wine, headed up by Vander Atwell from Red Buff, Calif., who co-wrote “Jacob’s Well” with me on my “Strikin’ Matches” CD.

The concert opens with the local band … then there’s a silence … then there’s a hint of music, then the show suddenly takes off like it’s on jet fuel. It’s a show for everyone, the whole family, from 9 to 90.

There is something very special that happens at this concert.

We recognize and give away a handmade statue to a cowboy or cowgirl. It is an award called “The Cowboy Rides,” which is in honor and now memory of TJ Brown, a local, but famous, bronc rider.

Winners are chosen from three main criteria points: living the life of a cowboy, promoting the life and personality. It is somewhat emotional for me to watch the humbleness of the winners. TJ received the first one before he passed. Mark LaRue of Cedarville was given the second. Last year’s winner was Linda Johnmyer of Missouri.

TFW: Tell us more about the trail ride.

Royal: This is the sixth year for the ride. It leaves Chester and takes the 1800s wagon route out and crosses the mountains. It took me several years of planning and working to get the road open. It is only open one time a year and that is for the ride.

The riders will see an old wagon thimble where a wagon broke down and a rock where wagon wheels ran through it cutting a groove.

There’s a campfire show that night for the trail riders and chuck wagon steaks.

My favorite is the homemade cobbler. The man ought to be hung for causing the riders to have to wait until the next year for more.

I also give away Montana Smith Belt Buckles for the five-year riders. Last year, over 20 got them, and about that many this year will receive them.

TFW: What do you like about Northwest Arkansas, and why do you do the events here?

Royal: My folks live there, and I love them but what draws me, what I love, not just like, is “my mountains.”

They speak to me. I tear up as I think about them.

When I was a kid, it was my job to look after the cattle across those mountains.

How do you think I knew where and how to cut that trail out to have the grandest trail ride in Arkansas?

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