Van Zant Get Right With “The Man”

Rich Miller, (host of the nationally syndicated "Power Source Top 20" radio show) was asked by Columbia Records to interview two Southern Rock music legends, brothers Johnny Van Zant (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and Donnie Van Zant (.38 Special) to talk about the new Van Zant country album Get Right With The Man. The following is a transcript from the world premiere radio special that was broadcast on over 300 radio stations across the USA.

Rich: Southern Rock Royalty, brothers Johnny and Donnie Van Zant have collectively sold over thirty five million albums worldwide. Johnny Van Zant is the lead singer for the legendary rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd. Donnie Van Zant is one of the lead singers and rhythm guitarist for the popular southern rock band, .38 Special. Van Zant unites two of the most talented southern rockers and a set list of epic proportions.

I’m Rich Miller joined by brothers Johnny and Donnie Van Zant to talk about their Country music collaboration, Get Right With The Man, which was available May 10th.

Rich: We’ve got Van Zant in the studio! I am excited!

Johnny: Pleasure sir, How ya doing?

Rich: Great to see y’all...takin’ a little break is Donnie from .38 Special and Johnny from Lynyrd Skynyrd and getting together...y’all are brothers, tell me how long it has been since you’ve been together and actually spent this much time together?

Johnny: (Laughter) We are not only brothers, we are best know what..?

Donnie: We spend as much time as we can together… You know that’s what’s really cool about this project. We get to spend a lot of time...So we spend a lot of time catching up on family issues... and we have a bunch of them! (laughter)

Johnny: Yea, we have solved all of ‘em! We have solved most of America’s problems. (laughter) Mr. Bush if you want to call us! We can help you out.

Rich: Let’s talk a little bit about "Things I Miss The Most." I really like this song, it’s all about home man, and it’s about when you’re out there performing. I love the line where it talks about that last half mile of dirt road and the oak tree on the hill. That is what it is all about!

Donnie: It is…

Johnny: It’s life on the road, brother. That’s what it is for us and really to be truthful with you, the kids up on the front porch screaming, “Mommy, Daddy’s home,” that’s us. Our dad was a truck driver and we could see his truck coming down the road with the smoke stack. We would be screaming, Daddy’s home. It’s a true story.

Rich: That was big stuff when Daddy came home!

Donnie: It sure was.

Johnny: It’s life on the road man, that’s what it is. You know, every time he came home, as a matter of fact, they had another kid! I don’t know what’s up with that…. (laughter)

Rich: This is the world album premiere of Get Right With The Man and we are in the studio with brothers Johnny and Donnie Van Zant…they have teamed up and put together what I think is one of the biggest Country albums of the year. That’s right, I said Country! These boys are country to the core even though they can rock; they are country! They rock a little bit on "Plain Jane." Tell me about that song.

Johnny: We were close to the end of this record and we were like, we really need another fun song. We were just going through some of our songs and we were like, hey what about “Plain Jane?” So we took it into Sony and they were like, yea man, that’s cool. We actually went in and cut it, boom, right then! We stuck two microphones in the studio and neither one of us knew what we were going to do.

Rich: Just went for it?

Johnny: Yea, we just went for it!

Donnie: It was fun! A lot of spontaneity.

Johnny: We actually have a cousin that we call aunt…

Rich: I bet that's confusing at family reunions…(laughs)

Johnny: Well you know what, she is a little older, so ...(laughs)

Donnie: Hey we are from Jacksonville... what do you expect? (laughs)

Johnny: Her name is Jane so this one goes out to her!

Rich: "Takin Up Space" is the song that kicks off the album. I love it! As soon as I put it on I said, “Man! This thing kicks!”

Johnny: I know where you’re going with this!

Donnie: Yea!

Rich: Let’s talk about the writers on this song Bobby Pinson and Billy Joe Walker.

Johnny: Yea, Bobby is doing well himself with his new record. This song is about winning and being the under dog. That’s what we have always been!

Donnie: We are from the west side of Jacksonville and most of our friends have either passed on or in Rayford prison down there in Florida. We have actually won!

Donnie: Yea, it’s about going after your dream and not stopping until you get it.

Johnny: You know people ask us, why have you gone Country? We say you know what? We haven’t gone Country; we were born Country. It’s just us. We’re the real deal. We’re not trying to be somebody that we are not. You know? This song, (“I'm Doin Alright”) I think, sums it up.

Donnie: Yeah it does!

Rich: Growing up, how prevalent was music in your house? Was it just playing all the time?

Johnny: Yea, I gotta be truthful with you… the reason why I’m in the music business is I remember watching my brother Ronnie rehearse in my mother and father’s living room. That particular time Lynyrd Skynyd was called, One Percent. Watching him, he looked like he was having a great time so I was thinking, man... maybe I could do this too!

Donnie: It’s just like being in a family with lawyers or doctors. It would be law or medical things and for us, it was music. I think Johnny touched on it a while ago. You know, with the music it really kept us out of trouble, because we were born in the west side of Jacksonville.

Rich: There is so much heart and I can tell there is a lot of honesty in this record. This is the real deal man.

Johnny: Yea, sure it’s all about truth and integrity, you know? That’s us…

Rich: You were looking for songs that not only you wrote but also the ones that were coming to you that really kind of reflected your life weren’t you?

Johnny: Sure, when we went into this record we were thinking we were going to write every song. That’s just what we have done in the past.

Johnny: (laughter) So if anybody needs one, give us a call at www...(more laughter) No, there are so many great songwriters here in Nashville. Some of these other songs just outshined ours. We were born at night but not last night so if you’ve got a great song, do it.

Donnie: Plus, we’re from the old school, I mean, we want to give people their money’s worth.
Rich: One song on the album you didn’t write is called "Lovin You." Tell us about that song.

Johnny: I think for me personally, the way I related to this was that….

Donnie: (Laughter) This guy had it bad!

Johnny: You know, you try everything in life sometimes when sometimes it could be right in front of you but you just don’t know it. For me personally, this is my life. I realize that it’s taken me three marriages to get to this point. To the right women and this is the right one. That’s how I relate to this song.

Rich: We’re gonna talk about another song on the album called, "I Can’t Help Myself"

Johnny: Oh yea, yea!

Rich: Why did you record that song? What was it about that song?

Johnny: It’s the most emotional song on there for us. We actually wrote it with the Warren Brothers.

Donnie: Our guys the Warren Brothers…. (laughter): The Warren Girls... Ha ha!

Johnny: That’s the Warren sisters…(more laughter) Just kidding fellows, We love you!

Johnny: But this song here really touched us. I mean, this guy was really at the bottom of the pits, and it really took getting on his knees and praying to God to come make him someone else. It’s the real deal for us.

Rich: This whole album has a spiritual tone!

Johnny: You know, I think our life in general does. Somebody asked, “ Why are you wearing a cross?” I go… well; it’s not for decoration! It’s because I believe in Jesus Christ and God…This song, I think just hits home. We have had a lot of friends, not only friends, but for me speaking personally….

Donnie: ourselves!

Johnny: Yea, ourselves…who have hit rock bottom and nowadays it’s not only the whisky in the bottle but a bottle can mean a lot of things. There can be a lot of other things in the bottle too.

Donnie: That’s right!

Johnny: It’s drug addition. This particular song is alcohol …
For everybody out there listening, therapy is great and rehab is great, but if you’re down, down, down, just look up!

Rich: I love that. It’ about redemption!

Rich: Let’s talk a little bit about touring... Both you guys have been out on tour for quite a while with your bands.

Donnie: Forever!

Johnny: Well, for a couple of years. (laughter)

Rich: You gotta have some good stories on the road. I’m not going to ask you about the stories I know you have, but can’t tell…

Johnny: Tell on Donnie (more laughter)

Rich: You are brothers aren’t you? (laughs)

Donnie: .38 Special is actually celebrating their 30th anniversary this year.

Rich: That’s unbelievable man!

Donnie: Unbelievable! Time sure flies!

Johnny: Skynyrd is going on... 35 or so. A few years back we celebrated 30 years. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Rich: Y’all are taking care of yourselves. You look like you're drinking the carrot juice! (Laughter)

Johnny: You know, a lot of people think you just come out on tour and it's just a continual party but you have to learn to pace yourself and the main thing for us is to go out and do a good show for the fans every night, so you gotta take care of yourself.

Rich: Do y’all work out? Get on the treadmill? Do any of that stuff?

Donnie: We don’t go that far! (more laughter)

Rich: "Been There Done That" What about that song?

Donnie: Actually .38 was opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd and I don’t always get to watch the show but this particular night I got to watch the whole Skynyrd show and Johnny introduces "That Smell" and before he did it, there is this little phrase he says right before the song comes in. Been there, done that, and I ain’t never going back again! I thought, that’s pretty cool... so I went back to the hotel and wrote it down in my little title book. That’s how it started.

Rich: The little book every good songwriter keeps.

Johnny: Skynyrd has been there and done that … and they ain’t never going back again. Of course, there’s a lot of history there. That song "That Smell" wouldn’t have been written if there wasn’t some shenanigans going on. (more laughter) Anyway brother, we got a lot of demons in our lives... That’s for sure.

Donnie: I think a lot of people do.

Johnny: You know what? The devil is always after you in some shape or form and for me... I think you have to fight that every day of your life.

Donnie: Every day of your life, for me! There is a line that says I’ve seen the devil in the darkest fire and on my darkest nights. That’s the truth!

Rich: I want to talk about the current country hit "Help Somebody:" Man, I just love the message in that song!

Johnny: Thank you! It was handed to us. Clay over at Sony came over and said I want you to hear this song and after the first few words, we were like ok.

Donnie: Actually, the words were, "Yeah I’m American" and Johnny loved it.

Johnny: You bet ya!

Johnny: The song is full of great lines. You know? "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans"... that’s one of the great lines.

Donnie: Like we have any choice, right?

Johnny: I think it’s been planned for us.

Rich: It’s a great feeling, great message song, and I think it’s the heartbeat of the album.

Johnny: Obviously, we write our own songs but for us the melody was just fantastic and the words were just great. These days and times if you look at the world in general, I think people have forgotten the values Grandma and Grandpa instilled in us, and for us not only is it our grandmother and grandfather but it’s also talking about our parents. You know, the cool thing about songs, people put their own version of a song no matter what, of what they are really thinking or feeling in their heart. This song just really hit us. Like Donnie said, "we love writing our own stuff, but this song we thought we could sink our teeth into and capture".

Rich: It’s been an honor to have both Johnny from Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Donnie from .38 Special in the studio today. It’s been a privilege to meet you. You‘re both absolutely legends of the music business and of the whole genre of Southern Rock, Country Rock, and now Country. This album is tremendous.

Johnny: Thank you so much.

Rich: There is a little bit of everything on Get Right With The Man, songs about family values, independence, and lots of love. Brothers, Johnny and Donnie, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure. God bless you both.

Johnny: God Bless you