by Ryan Meehan
Troy Coleman, aka Cowboy Troy, entered the country music fan’s consciousness with the multi-lingual breakdown in the middle of “Rollin’ (The Ballad of Big & Rich)”, the opening track to multi-platinum-selling label mates Big & Rich’s 2004 release Horse of a Different Color. However, he had been on the Texas circuit long before that. During his years at the University of Texas, he started playing clubs with a blend of rap and country music that would come to be known as “hick-hop.” Born Dec. 18, 1970, Coleman grew up in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area listening to country artists (Charlie Daniels, Jerry Reed, Kenny Rogers), rock artists (ZZ Top, KISS, Boston and the Eagles) and rap artists (Run DMC and LL Cool J) who subsequently influenced his style of music. A former employee of Foot Locker, Cowboy Troy signed to Warner Bros. Nashville in 2004 and released his first single, “Playing Chicken with the Train,” in early 2005. A decade later he’s still a key element in the Big & Rich party machine as well as a successful solo artist, and I am proud to have Cowboy Troy as my guest today in 10 questions.
RM: When you were growing up in Victoria, how did music first come into your life as something you saw as a release for stress? What was the first record that you played non-stop to the point where anybody who knew you might have thought you were overdoing it?
CT: I was born in Victoria, TX but we moved when I was 6 months old. I spent my childhood in Ft. Worth and adolescent & teen years in Dallas. I remember by 12 years old I focused on my own interests in music as opposed to just what my parents listened to. The first album that I bought with my own allowance money was “Eliminator” by ZZ Top.
RM: What was the first country or rock n’ roll song that you started to hear rhyming patterns in your head as far as the possibility of adding a flow to it? How shortly thereafter did you start actually composing rhymes to go over the music you thought it could accompany?
CT: “Devil Went Down to Georgia” by Charlie Daniels was the first song I remember having a rap delivery to it. Back then, I later learned, this was considered a recitation. However, if you listen to “Eastbound and Down” by Jerry Reed it could very well be considered a precursor to that song. By 1984, I started listening to rap music by Run-DMC which inspired me to learn how to rap. In December of 1989, I started writing my own original lyrics.
RM: How would you best summarize the first few years before you actually came to be known on a national scale and were just doing shows in the South? Were there ever times where you felt like people didn’t give you a fair shot at country or rock n’ roll venues because of the fact that you’re African-American?
CT: Early on, I spent a lot of time just sitting in with bands that I was friends with that would let me get up and rap with them while they were playing country venues. There were friends who were DJ’s that let me rap in dance clubs over break beats and instrumentals, even though I was wearing a cowboy hat and jeans. These times helped me practice in front of crowds instead of just in my dorm room or apartment.
RM: When and where did you first meet Big Kenny and John Rich? Why do you think that you fit so well with their vision of what they wanted their project to become; and what did the first rehearsal with those guys sound like?
CT: I met John in Dallas at Borrowed Money, in 1993 and Kenny in Nashville, through John in 1999. We’ve been friends since. First time on stage with them was fun and still is.
RM: You and the rest of the crew performed at The Great Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport, Iowa back in August, and one of the cool things I noticed is that you actually came out to the FM broadcast and did radio while taking pictures with fans…When you’re not out mingling with the people who are there to watch you perform, how do you usually prep for a show back inside the tour bus? Do you have any superstitions or rituals that you typically go through before you take the stage?
CT: No superstitions. Usually, I like to listen to music. No particular routine.
RM: I also couldn’t help but notice during that time you were out there that you seem to be in extremely good shape…How do you stay in such peak physical condition during these summers where you seem to have endless access to jumbo corndogs and powder-sugar covered funnel cakes? What can you bench these days?
CT: I generally try to exercise when possible. I usually do a lot of cardio to ward off the effects of the corndogs, late night pizza and other junk food. If I mess around with weights, it’s usually light work.
RM: You’ve identified yourself as being on the Republican side of the political spectrum, and you supported Arizona senator John McCain during the 2008 Presidential election…In order to get more young people excited about politics and willing to listen to what conservatives have to say, how do Republicans go about finding a balance which allows them to step outside of their comfort zone without compromising the traditional values that have been core GOP beliefs from day one?
CT: I think Republicans need to speak to young voters in terms they understand. Using big words to describe policy – without actually explaining the actual impact of those policies – has been something that tends to lead to voter apathy, especially with young voters. Republicans need to reach out to the young people where the young people are…on campus and online.
RM: Although you have a very wide selection of musical tastes, can you give us an example of an artist that we might be a little surprised to find out you’re a big fan of? What was the song by that musician or group of musicians which initially drew you to their work and sparked your desire to explore the rest of their catalog?
CT: I’m a big fan of Social Distortion. Their song “I Was Wrong” was the gateway for me to the rest of their music.
RM: How does the solo material that you are currently working on differ from that which appeared on “King of Clubs”? What is the key to consistently finding ways to take your work to the next level?
CT: The current music I’m working is a little further out on the edge than “King of Clubs”. Each album I’ve recorded is a little more of a stretch than the previous. I try to keep at least 40% of each record close enough to my original base to make certain I continue to entertain my core fans. The remaining 60% is a stretch in an attempt to reach new fans and help my core fans grow with me musically.
RM: Going back to that record, the single (“Drink Drank Drunk”) not only featured Kenny and John but also fellow hick hop artist Big Smo…The two of you have very different styles that mesh well when put next to each other: You’re more of a direct lyricist that’s very concerned with staying close to the beat, where is his voice is much grainier and had more of a laid back West Coast hip-hop feel to it…Could you not only see yourself working with him again, but potentially doing an entire EP, just the two of you?
CT: I’m open to the idea of working with Smo again. He’s a cool fella. I like his work.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
CT: I’m finishing up the new project and am working on details to expand my fan base for the coming years.
Official Website: http://www.cowboytroy.com/
Cowboy Troy on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cowboytroy
Cowboy Troy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cowboytroy
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