I am not a morning person. But guess what? Sometimes you have to get up at 5 a.m. when you are going to be interviewed on a radio show. Lately, I have been getting up at 5 a.m. a lot! I’ve been promoting my latest single, “To Pieces," and I have spent several weeks visiting radio stations in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa and Wisconsin. Most radio visits involve an interview with the DJ and a live acoustic performance of one or two songs. One of my guitarists, Thomas Estep, usually accompanies me. Not only is a great guitarist, but he also helps make things more fun while driving from one town to the next, for hours at a time.
Being from Virginia, I was already pretty used to traveling through Kentucky and West Virginia, but Iowa was a totally new experience. Never in my life have I seen so much corn! Actually, the corn had already been harvested by the time I got there, but there were fields full of stalks for miles and miles in every direction, as far as the eye could see! It was really kind of spectacular.
Another new experience for me was traveling through Wisconsin. They don’t call it America’s Dairyland for nothing! There were cheese shops everywhere, some of them with a statue of a giant mouse out front. I stopped at a cool little place called The Cheese Store and More in Hillsboro, Wisconsin, where the owner, Jan Levy, introduced me to CHOCOLATE CHEDDAR CHEESE! Yes, y’all, this is a REAL thing. It was absolutely delicious! It actually had the consistency and taste of chocolate fudge, but with far fewer calories. Jan told me that Jennifer Nettles had stopped at the store recently and bought chocolate cheese. If I ever meet Jennifer, I will have to ask her about that.
As hectic as a radio tour can be, I try to find time to stop and visit interesting things along the way. For example, I toured The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, the last place Buddy Holly performed before he was killed in a plane crash in 1958. It is still a music venue, but also a museum dedicated to Buddy and many other legendary musicians who have performed there.
Another very somber place I visited was the American Legion Veterans Memorial Park in Richland Center, Wisconsin. This park consists of hundreds of American flags, each one honoring a veteran from the area who paid the supreme sacrifice. In Muskogee, Oklahoma, I toured the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, which has all kinds of memorabilia related to Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Toby Keith, Kristin Chenoweth and countless others musicians and singers from Oklahoma. (Thanks to Jim Blair, executive director, for showing us around!) Just a few miles from Muskogee, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, I spent some time at the Cherokee Heritage Center, which has many fascinating dedicated to the history and culture of Native Americans in the region.
One day, while traveling through northeastern Iowa, we saw a sign advertising a place called Spook Cave. It sounded interesting, so we decided to check it out. We took a boat ride through a cave, which wasn’t really all that spooky, but it was super fun! The place has a really great campground with lots of ducks running around. Great for families and of course, I was feeding the ducks before we left.
When possible, I enjoy performing for kids. On my recent radio tour, I had the privilege of performing at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital and also at two schools—the Garner-Hayfield-Ventura Intermediate School in Ventura, Iowa, and also at Sadler Arts Academy in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The kids always seem to enjoy getting out of class to listen to live music, but I think I have just as much fun meeting them! Thanks to all the students, teachers, cheese sellers, DJs and the many other interesting and nice people I have met along the way! I hope to meet many more of you very soon!