TG Sheppard likes to quip that his new album “Midnight in Memphis,” set for release on September 20th, was “22 years in the making.” And if you do the math, he’s right. The country legend’s last truly solo album came in 1997 with “Nothin’ on but the Radio,” and he’s been cultivating “Midnight in Memphis” for the past two years. But now it’s ready to roll, and Sheppard raves that he enjoyed the two-year process.
“We had so much fun making this album,” he says with the enthusiasm to back it up. “I was in no hurry. For the first time in my career, I don’t have anybody telling me how to do it or what to do and when to do it. I produced it and I loved doing it.” Sheppard’s wife, singer/songwriter Kelly Lang, wrote four songs for the project, while the title track was composed by his good friend and pop music icon, the recently-knighted Sir Barry Gibb.
The record is sparked by Sheppard’s smash single from earlier this year, “I Wanna Live Like Elvis,” an upbeat, witty tune about the joys of the Elvis lifestyle. No disrespect intended, because Sheppard has the proper cred to put out an Elvis-inspired song. Before Sheppard became a country star, he was a promotions executive for the RCA record label. Presley was one of the artists he worked with, and their relationship ultimately transitioned from the professional to the personal. The two grew to be close friends, with Sheppard spending many a night or weekend at Elvis’ Graceland mansion. When Sheppard decided to embark on his singing career, Presley bought him his first tour bus. All that said, Sheppard never recorded anything that smacked of Elvis until this latest single.
“I was reluctant to do a song about Elvis because I didn’t want people to ever think that I would ride the coattails of somebody who was a friend,” Sheppard earnestly explains. “When this song was given to me, I had already finished the album. But I told the writers that I lived that song. I was there. It’s really Elvis’ life in four minutes. When I went in to record it,’ Sheppard adds, “I had such a blast. The song is so comical and tongue-in-cheek.” Sheppard received the seal of approval, if you will, when he played the tune for Presley’s former wife Priscilla. “She said it was great, so I knew then that I was OK,” Sheppard laughs.
Sheppard is equally pumped about the title track, sent to him by way of Sir Barry Gibb. “We’re almost like brothers,” Sheppard says. “He knew that I was going to do an album and told me that he was writing a song that I might want to include on it. He said, ‘I’m writing this specifically for you,’ and I was so honored. I wanted to record it.”
A bit closer to home, Sheppard’s wife Kelly also penned a personal song with him in mind, “Good Man.” Sheppard describes it as, “A testament to our relationship. It’s how she sees me as a human being and a husband.”
At 75, Sheppard seems to have a caught a second wind in his career. The first one was pretty successful, as he scored 14 No. 1 Billboard singles between 1974 and 1991. He’s one of the rare artists who hit the top with his first two singles, “Devil in the Bottle” and “Tryin’ to Beat the Morning Home,” both in 1975 (Fact: Not even George Strait accomplished that feat). But like many of his contemporaries, Sheppard is seeing a current resurgence in his career, with more activities on his plate than in the last two decades. In addition to recording, Sheppard keeps a manageable tour schedule and plays several charity events each year. He also recently debuted The TG Sheppard Show on Sirius XM’s Elvis Radio Channel 19, airing Friday afternoons at 3 p.m. ET. “The opportunity came up to do a show on Elvis,” Sheppard says. “I bring a lot of my friends on the show and it is a lot of fun to do.” It all keeps him hopping, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We love just staying busy,” Sheppard explains. “Whether it’s taking a trip somewhere or performing a concert or doing the radio show. I just love being active. I think when you stop being active you get old. I’ve often thought what it would be like to retire and I just don’t think that would work for me.”
Since retirement is not in the cards, perhaps “Midnight in Memphis” will spawn more albums. “This has given me something to talk about,” he says, “and it has kind of put me back out there. So, I hope to do more in the future. A lot of people aren’t doing albums anymore because of the way music is being purchased now. But an album to me is like a mini-concert. I think it’s still important to have them.”
TG Sheppard’s album “Midnight in Memphis” will be released September 20th. To keep up with T.G., please visit his website and follow him on social media.