Something Else! Interview: Everyman country star Sammy Kershaw

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by Nick DeRiso 

Sammy Kershaw has always come off as a working-man’s country star.

It’s no put on.

He arrived for a scheduled interview having just finished mowing his own grass, weed eating and all.

“I love physical work,” says Kershaw, a Louisiana-born son of a farmer, a former Wal Mart employee who became a hit-song singer, then an out-of-nowhere candidate for lieutenant governor. “I can’t sit still. I think when you stop and slow down, that’s what eventually kills you.”

The 51-year-old ain’t anywhere near dead yet.

“I didn’t stop doing music, even during the campaign,” Kershaw said.

He’s also at work on a new album, tentatively titled “Better Than I Used To Be,” slated for released sometime in the next couple of months. Kershaw says it recalls his breakout sophomore release, 1993’s “Haunted Heart” — which produced Top 10 hits “I Can’t Reach Her Anymore,” “Queen of My Double-Wide Trailer” and “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful,” which hit No. 1.

“Those were the stories of my life,” Kershaw said. “I won’t record an album unless I
have lived the song.”

He’s since piled up 25 Top 40 country tunes — including “Cadillac Style” (which had a video filmed in New Orleans, embedded below), “Anywhere But Here,” “National Working Woman’s Holiday,” a remake of the 1970s Amazing Rhythm Aces’ “Third Rate Romance,” “Meant To Be” and “Vidalia,” among others.

Favorably compared from the first with cornerstone country singer George Jones, Kershaw admits not just to the similarities but to working hard at times to transcend them. Still, there are few more recognizable sounds in popular song, and Kershaw remains humbled to be mentioned with a legend.

“Let me tell you: If I was baseball player, it sure wouldn’t bother me if they compared me to Mickey Mantle,” said Kershaw, who eventually recorded a duet with Jones in 1995, “Never Bit a Bullet Like This.” “George Jones is the greatest country singer who ever lived. That never bothered me.”

In his 2007 try for lieutenant governor, Kershaw polled at a respectible 30 percent — that’s 376,000 votes — against incumbent Mitch Landrieu. Kershaw said he was hampered by a late start in the election, and a series of previously booked singing dates that took him away from the campaign trail.

Kershaw says he won’t make the same mistake next time. And, yes, there could be another run.

“I’m seriously thinking about 2011,” said Kershaw, who lives in Lafayette. “That’s the job I want. I know I can do that job better than anybody ever has. It’s an entertainment job, a promotional job for the state of Louisiana. It’s not exactly a political office. It’s about bringing in tourism, promoting the people, all parts of entertainment, the different cultures. I believe — I don’t just believe, I know — I would be the best at it.”

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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