He might be a multi-award winning, chart topping, Hall Of Fame icon, but family-man Kenny Rogers hasn’t exactly let the perils of stardom go to his head.
“I am so, so sorry I am late,” he ever-so-gently apologises. He is indeed late, but by a measly two minutes. Fans at the LG Arena waited more than two and a half hours for Rihanna last week, and she just swanned in and bopped someone on the head with her microphone.
“None the less, I am here now, and I really appreciate this chat.”
These days, Kenny is clearly more The Charmer than The Gambler. The 74 year-old country music legend is still making music, for now, whilst new challenges rather than age threaten to engulf his evergreen career. His new album, expected in September, is mysteriously shrouded in secrecy, with lips sealed pending an announcement in the summer. Kenny says it’s the most diverse record he’s ever made, however, priorities may have to take centre stage in the near future, rather than the man himself.
He confesses: “It may be my last album, and this summer’s tour may be my last trip to Europe. I’m lasting a bunch of things!”
“I have identical twin boys that are nine years old, and the thing I’m sorriest about in my early years, is that I wasn’t really there for my two other boys [Kenneth Jnr and Christopher]. It breaks my heart. You just assume their life goes on, but it doesn’t without a father. The two younger ones, they’ve given my life a purpose, beyond music. I was in Australia last year, and I was so worried while I was over there, because I felt like if something happened to me it would take me three days to get home. It just... it just really bothers me.”
Wife Wanda, 46, who Kenny married in 1997, is mother to young sons Jordan and Justin and completes the current Rogers clan. Kenny also has an older daughter, Carole, from a previous marriage.
With his idyllic family life taking up a vast majority of Kenny’s time, he insists that next month may be the last time to catch him live in the UK. On his tour, he will play not only Birmingham’s LG Arena on July 1, but Manchester, Cardiff, and the holy grail of Glastonbury. He will play on the main stage alongside The Rolling Stones, Arctic Monkeys and Mumford and Sons.
Kenny admits: “I’m flattered to be invited but I am so far out of my comfort zone. I’ve worked with that many people many times before, at the peak of my career, but they were all my age at the time! It’ll be fun. It’ll be interesting. The hardest part of working outside of the USA is you don’t know what songs were hits. It’s hard to pace your show, because you want to end up with the big hits at the end, and if the big hits come in the middle, I don’t know what’ll happen afterwards!”
He shouldn’t fear, because his longevity is as impressive as his list of hits. He’s incredibly managed to chart a record in each of the last seven decades, whilst hits such as The Gambler, Lady, Islands In The Stream and Just Dropped In were accepted with open arms by a younger generation last year, as he played Bonaroo Festival in Nashville.
“When I was up and coming, you had to buy 10 songs to hear one. You got more in-depth knowledge of the artist – what kind of songs they did, what their choices were – whereas nowadays, you click one button and you get one song. But you don’t get to know the artist. I think it’s a sad by product of today’s music generation. And I think, especially in my case, the faster you go up, the faster you come down. On my way up, a lot of people listened, and so I’m hopefully part of their history.”
Though global touring may soon be off the agenda, Kenny is showing no signs of giving up on music completely. He’s recently been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which will have him take part in a formal induction event in October.
“I think, basically, music is what I am, and everything else is what I do. I think that success is no reason to quit. I love performing, and I need it. Once you’ve had that kind of acceptance, it’s hard to just walk away from it. I work about 90 days a year now, which doesn’t sound like much, but when you put travel on top, it’s enough. Believe me, twins take up a lot of your time!”
* Kenny Rogers plays LG Arena on July 1. For tickets, tel: 0844 338 8000. Kenny Rogers - The Gambler, The Charmer, and now, most of all, The Father and Husband.