Bo Bice might have seemed right at home in front of the cameras during his tenure on American Idol, but that’s Bo the performer. Bo, the husband/dad/musician, is much more comfortable on his farm outside of Nashville, Tenn. On a recent Tuesday morning, Up & Coming Weekly caught up with the southern rocker as he was gearing up for a mini-tour in support of his new album See the Light.
    Bice, who was the runner-up in the fourth season of Idol, had just returned home from a late morning breakfast with his wife and son. He was thinking about looking at new merchandise for the upcoming tour, but the beauty of his farm had him putting it off for a little bit. That left him plenty of time to commune with nature and take our questions. Bice is as genuine in conversation as he seemed on stage, sharing bits and pieces of his life, and even inquiring about mine. He was affable in that good ‘ol boy way, but it was honest, and that’s something that Bice wants his fans to know about him.
    See the Light is a true southern rock album. It’s a big change from his first album, Real Thing. Bice explained that the first album had a lot of hands in it. There were several songwriters and producers who all had a say in the sound and feel of the album. See the Light is really different — it speaks to the heart of who Bice is.
    “I always say this album was a labor of love. Real Thing was such a fun album, but all I had to do was sing and watch,” he said, referencing all of the music industry professionals involved in the creation and production of the first album. “With this album I got to get back to what I love — producing and writing.”{mosimage}
    Bice took it a step further, building his own recording studio at his home, where he recorded the whole album. “We did about 90 percent of the album here. That was really cool. It was very laid back, and I got to work with the people I wanted to work with. I enjoyed the whole process,” he said. “It never felt like a day of work.”
    Bice, who was the first “rocker” on Idol, said the new album seems to surprise some members of the media, but he’s not sure why. “I’ve had quite a few interviewers ask me about my going country,” he said. “I’ve never not been country, it’s just more the rocking side of it — you know like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers.”
    The love of southern rock has spawned Bice’s next project, a project led by the late George McCorkle of The Marshall Tucker Band. Brothers of the Southland will feature a number of southern rock legends, and Bice is honored to be included in the project. He contributed to two tracks on the CD, and you can hear him singing lead vocals on a remake of The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See.”
    The past year has seen Bice popping up all over the place. That’s quite a change, since he all but disappeared from the music scene for about a year, following his time on Idol and the release of his new album. Bice had suffered from a gastrointestinal illness for some time, and it sidelined him for almost a year at the time he should have been his busiest. “At the time, it was a curse,” said Bice, of his illness, “but it ended up being a blessing. I was really sick — sicker than I ever knew for over a decade. There I was laid up in bed thinking everything was over … but there was a lot of good. I got married and we had a son. God got me through all of it. In fact, He gets me through everything. It’s true that  He never gives you too much to handle.”
    Bice said at the time he went through a bout of depression, but he spent some time with friends and started writing new music. “It was very therapeutic,” he said. “I also had the chance to be a dad. I was on tour for the whole pregnancy deal — so it was very important that I had this time. Being a dad has humbled me. I’ll never take that for granted. We just kind of looked at everything and decided to press on and started from ground level again.”
    Part of starting over was working without a record deal. He separated from RCA and created his own record label. “I loved working with RCA, and without RCA and Clive Davis I wouldn’t have had the success I’ve had. The Real Thing wasn’t the album I would have put out, but they did a great job — and it was a fun experience. But it was the total opposite of See the Light. This album gave me a lot of freedom. On the next CD, I’ll probably do a bit of the same, staying true to the music the fans want to hear. I assume that they would want me to be me — to be genuine.”
    If See the Light is the kind of music that is true to Bice’s soul, we had to ask which of the songs on the album was his favorite. “Each song is different. ‘See the Light’ and ‘Witness’ are a decade old, but they are close to my heart. ‘Can’t Take the Country Out of Me’  – I wrote that song in five minutes at 5 a.m. in the morning. All of the songs together as a collection mean a lot to me,” he said. “But my favorite, favorite song is ‘Sinner in a Sin.’ That song means a whole lot to me. It’s an older song and when I perform it, I remember the place I was in my life when I wrote it. I’ve lived through a few mistakes and moved forward and I get a sense of real peace when I hear that song. You don’t want to forget the past because you might have to relive it.”
    Bice has had the opportunity to work with some really big names in recent months, so we asked him if there was anyone he dreamed of performing with. It was surprising when he said his biggest thrill came on the finale night of Idol. “I don’t want to sound arrogant in anyway, but you have to understand that when I was standing on stage with Lynyrd Skynyrd singining ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ there was nowhere to go from there. What do you do when the biggest dream you’ve ever dreamed happens first?”
    That being the case, Bice still doesn’t hesitate to get out and work with other performers. In recent months he has worked with mega-stars like Carlos Santana, Richie Sambora and Willie Nelson. “Every day is like a dream for me,” he said, adding, “Brothers of the Southland opened me up to more collaboration. I recently finished a project with Joe Diffie which was a really incredible experience.”
    He says he would love to work with Shooter Jennings. “I have a lot of respect for him and would love to work with him,” said Bice.
    He also says spending time with Kid Rock wouldn’t be too much of a hardship either. “I met Bobby (Kid Rock) at a show with Hank Jr., Lynyrd Skynyrd and Three Doors Down. We had a blast. He seemed like a really cool guy, and I would love to do something with him. I’m not closing the door to working with anyone — I’m keeping all the doors open.”
    There has been one group that Bice was adamant that he got to work with — and that is the men and women in the U.S. armed forces. Last fall he spent some time in Kuwait and Afghanistan, and plans to head back across the ocean later this year. “It’s a lot of fun to greet and see the troops,” he said. “It was especially important for me to put my hand in theirs and say thanks for putting your life on the line for us. I can’t wait to go back.”
    But in the interim, he will stay busy, as his wife is expecting to deliver baby number two in August, and after that miracle, he will hit the road again after Christmas. “We love touring,” he said. “It’s the greatest time. We enjoy making music in the studio, but the payoff is being with the fans.”

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