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Country Legend John Anderson Talks Working With Josh Turner, Merle Haggard on New Album

Billboard logo Billboard 5/29/2015 Chuck Dauphin
John Anderson performs at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on October 27, 2013 in Nashville, Tenn. © Jason Davis/Getty Images John Anderson performs at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on October 27, 2013 in Nashville, Tenn.

Country music legend John Anderson unveils his new album, Goldmine, this week. The stylist tells Billboard that he felt no inclination to re-invent the musical wheel on the set, which marks his first release on more than six years. In other words, if you're a fan of Anderson's '80s and '90s work, you'll feel right at home with Goldmine.
 
"Fortunately, we've always been blessed with our own style. Writing the songs has a big part to do with that," Anderson says. "Down through the years, we've recorded records the same way -- with a great group of songs and our friends in the recording studio. Half my band played on this particular record at times. The main thing is knowing that you have good material, and enjoying the process of making the recording."

The first single from Goldmine is "I Work A Lot Better," one of two cuts Anderson wrote with Josh Turner. He says working with the hitmaker is a blast, but just being a friend with Turner is equal.

"I think he's one of the finest young men I have ever met -- in country music or not. It just so happens that he's a great artist," Anderson says. "I'll always treasure the times we get together and write. He's done a couple of our songs on his albums. I was so tickled to get a Josh Turner cut. I hope he's happy with what we've done."
 
Another fellow artist with a writing credit on the album is Country Music Hall of Fame member Merle Haggard, who penned the thumping "Magic Mama." Anderson tells The 615 that the legend actually wrote the song while in the hospital room.
 
"I got a call from him one afternoon. He was in the hospital in Macon, and he had written this song," Anderson  recalls. "He said the more he worked on it, the more it sounded like me. I told him to finish it up and we'd do it. We talked a little while longer and hung up. About six months go by, and I see him in Nashville. I asked  him if he had finished the song, and he pulled a piece of paper out of his back pocket, unfolded it, told his son to go get the guitar, and he sang it. I was thrilled, to say the least."
 
Anderson says that what was the most flattering was that Haggard wrote the song with his style in mind. Since he broke out on the music scene in the late 1970s, his vocal approach has been one of the most appreciated -- and imitated in the business.

When asked if he had heard a John Anderson impression, he laughed and said, "I've heard a few of them over the years. First of all, I'm flattered and honored that people think that way about the music we've done. I've always heard that imitation is the highest form of flattery. I'm glad I did something that is worth mimicking. But, I know when we do our thing, we aren't joking. When I do 'Black Sheep,' it doesn't sound like any of those other guys," he says humbly.
 
One of those magical Anderson hits was the 1983 blockbuster "Swingin," which netted him the CMA single of the year trophy that year. He said the song was an instant crowd-pleaser.

"We started breaking the crowd attendance records wherever we went. It didn't matter if it was a club, a water park, a stadium, or wherever. I knew it from when we started doing it," he says.
 
Speaking of those fans, Anderson pays homage to them on the touching "You All Are Beautiful," of which he stated "That is nothing but a thank you to the fans. I have to admit that I'm a bit embarrassed on how the song came about. I was writing with Jim Hicks, and he asked me, 'Have you ever written a song for your fans?' I said 'Hell, every song I write is for my fans.' He asked me again ... Have you ever written one to them, for them? I thought 'Well, no... I guess I haven't.' He said 'Well, you oughta think about that. At that point, we did. It is an appreciation to the fans," he says, adding that their devotion is never-ending -- and not weather dependent.

"I've seen them standing in the pouring rain, in the heat of the summer. They may complain to each other, but they don't complain to us. They'll be dancing out there when it's 110 degrees, raising cane, and having a good time. They deserve a thank you, for sure."

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