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One on one with Charlie Daniels 
by Andy Argyrakis

Legendary Grammy award winning southern rocker Charlie Daniels is getting busier as he gets older, or so it seems with his whirlwind schedule planned for this summer. First up the fiddle playing sensation will be headlining the "Volunteer Jam Tour 2000" from May through June, with special guests on various dates to include Little Feat, Hank Williams Jr., and Edgar Winter. Next up, the Charlie Daniels Band will be promoting their latest CD Road Dogs (May 30 street date) performing countless dates across the nation in major arenas, clubs, festivals, and fairs. Plus, the group will be making an appearance in early June on stage at the latest installment of the Billy Graham Crusade.

"Things are busy, but we are all having a great time," says the hit maker responsible for the multi-millions selling single "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." "Playing a set is the highlight to everyday and I look at the busy schedule as being a part of the job. My wife travels with me, so that makes it a lot better, and the summer is our busiest time since it is the concert season."

The Volunteer Jam kicked off the start to summer in May and Daniels is excited to play many more dates in coming weeks. "It been a great time for us and it is the second year we have taken it out on the road," he says.

The "Jam" has evolved throughout the years. It initially began in 1974 when Daniels invited several recording artists to play a set with him for a live recording. Daniels restaged that show and over the years many gigantic recording stars come along for the ride. "What started out as a live recording session turned into a frequent event and eventual tour," says Daniels. "We've had so many great artists join us ranging from Billy Joel, to BB King, to Garth Brooks. I'm thankful to everyone throughout the years and it is always fun to travel with a diverse group of artists."

At "Jam" dates and those in which the group plays solo, the guys are showcasing tracks from their brand new CD Road Dogs. The project is the follow-up to 1999's successful Tailgate Party in which Daniels' paid tribute to some of his favorite artists. "I really wanted to record an album with brand new original material that would have songs that would translate well on stage," he says. "We cover a lot of bases and styles on the record with some fast rockers and some slower tunes."

"Road Dogs" has thus far received fan approval, as demonstrated at Daniels' recent "Volunteer Jam" date at the World Music Theatre in Chicago. Take for instance the rock and roll styled track "Sidewinder," which drew tremendous crowd support. "I really enjoy playing "Sidewinder," says Daniels. "It's one of those tracks that we can just jam to and throw in a lot of impromptu riffs and sounds."

Another standout track on Road Dogs is the touching tune called "The Martyr." "That one's a very special one to me because the meaning is so important," says Daniels. "It's about the death of Cassie Bernall in the Columbine tragedy and how she said 'yes' when asked if she believed in God. She was killed for her statement and I think she is a modern day martyr. The song really makes you get introspective and think about if you were in that same situation."

That song is Daniels' most spiritual track on the project and to him writing music and performing are gifts God has blessed him with. "I think your faith permeates every part of your life," says Daniels. "When you first become a Christian, you might not let the Lord into certain areas of your life, but as time goes on, at least for me, I let Him into all areas of my private and public life."

Perhaps that's why Daniels is so excited to share his faith as part of the Billy Graham Crusades. This is going to be his fifth year participating and each time out, he feels honored to be asked and moved to hear the Graham's message. "The experience is very hard to explain except for the fact that you are a part of a very important day in which you pray a lot of people will come to Christ," says Daniels. "The message is awesome and each time we play, I am so moved to see the reactions on people faces followed by the accepting of the Lord into their lives when the invitation is given."

Interestingly enough, Daniels sometimes gets singled out by some Christians because of what they would say is a conflict of interest between his faith and participation in the mainstream music industry.  "Sometimes Christians will come up to me and ask me why I want to play secular music," Daniels says. "I just say to them, 'why should the devil have all the secular music?' Although all of my songs don't address faith directly, I still have a positive and entertaining message without conveying any themes contrary to my faith."

In fact, Daniels has recorded Christian albums in the past including Steel Witness in the early 90s "When I first did Christian albums and songs, the people in the mainstream market embraced it, but when I continued on in my mainstream recordings, it was some of the Christian fans that expressed their concern," says Daniels. "I simply tell them that I have not felt that calling to always make Christian albums and I can't understand why they would want me to abandon all of my music that may not be directly about Christianity. It's like Bob Dylan said, 'I gave you my heart and you want my soul.'"

"But that's fine when people make comments because I will explain myself and not hold that against them," he continues. "I think getting legalistic about it is bad and one of the biggest things the devil wants. You don't get to heaven by following a legal set of rules, such as listen to this type of music or that type, but you get their through your faith in Jesus."

Above all Daniels is thankful for his ability to play music for a living while sharing his faith, and is pleased that his sound appeals to so many people. "The music is styled so that all ages can get into it," he says. "The younger people, the older people, and from any walk of life seem to enjoy it and I hope I can continue to do that throughout the rest of my career and continue to live my faith."

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