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A little chat with a country music star

Every now and again when you work in community journalism, you get to interview someone famous.

Now fame is relative. There’s local fame, and I’m proud to have had good conversations with the many well-known faces across Franklin County. There’s also broader fame, like that attached to those who hold state political office for example, and I’ve enjoyed becoming acquainted with a few of those folks too.

Then there’s national fame and beyond – and of course all these types of fame can start to overlap for certain people. I bring to mind the interviews I’ve had with the lovely Madeline Mitchell Gwin, famous here and abroad for her pageant titles.

Well this week brought with it the privilege to chat with another person of renown – someone we’ll all get the chance to hear sing in less than a month: Marty Raybon, lead singer of Shenandoah, who will perform on the local stage for Jam on Sloss Lake July 4.

When I found out Shenandoah would be the Jam headliner this year, I was struck with nostalgia. Maybe you were too. Shenandoah has a long history in country music – a history that started in nearby Muscle Shoals – and has enjoyed great success with a number of No. 1 singles and top 20 hits.

For me, my introduction to Shenandoah came when I was a 10-year-old little girl battling cancer at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Band members had just reunited to revive Shenandoah and produce their new album Shenandoah 2000. Someone gave me an autographed CD, and I have vivid memories of lying in a hospital bed, old-school headphones over my ears, listening to that CD in my little portable CD player over and over. You might say Shenandoah – along with Shania Twain, Joe Diffie and a few others – provided the soundtrack to my treatment and recovery.

Shenandoah 2000 was produced during a time when Marty Raybon had left the band, but it was nevertheless a thrill to grab the opportunity to speak with him to put together a story previewing Shenandoah’s July 4 performance in Russellville.

As I waited for our phone call, I listened to a song the band released last year, “That’s Where I Grew Up.” If you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor and check it out. It just might move you to tears.

Marty called me up the morning of June 11, and it was a genuine pleasure to chat with him for a few minutes. I always get a little giddy when I get to talk with famous people, but time and again I am struck by a simple truth – famous people are still people, and in all the ways that matter, they are just like the rest of us.

Marty and I had a nice conversation, and he told me how much the band is looking forward to coming and playing in Alabama. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to it, too.

From their beloved hits to a few new tunes, Shenandoah is going to bring a couple hours of great music to the stage. After my phone chat Tuesday morning, I’m that much more excited for the show.

Hope to see you there!