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edge staff writer


John Schneider returns to music with ‘The Odyssey’

August 31, 2018
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John Schneider returns to music with ‘The Odyssey’ (Image courtesy John Schneider Studios)

“I had been out of the music business so long, I didn’t realize how much I missed it,” musician, singer and actor John Schneider says of “Ruffled Skirts,” the album that rekindled his passion to create music. The former star of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” says that record came out of the loss and struggle he and his friends and neighbors endured in the catastrophic 2016 Louisiana floods that virtually destroyed Schneider’s film and music studios.

During the 1980s, Schneider scored 13 Billboard top 40 country singles, including four number-one songs. After a decade of hits, he refocused his energy on acting for most of the ‘90s and ‘00s until he once again got the itch to record and perform.

Schneider jumped back in with both feet earlier this year by announcing his most ambitious project to date: “The Odyssey” - a 52-track collection of never-before-recorded songs crafted by some of Nashville’s most celebrated songwriters.

Previously unrecorded songs written by Paul Overstreet, Chuck Cannon, Keith Stegall, Jenee Fleenor, Mac Davis and Bill Anderson, among others, have been recorded and mixed for “The Odyssey.” The project bridges country, Americana, blues and R&B among its 52 tracks.

“It’s a massive undertaking, but I don’t believe in sneaking back into anything,” Schneider told me with a laugh during an interview.

A new track from “The Odyssey” is being released each week this year, each with an accompanying video, including the new single, “Can I Buy You a Beer,” dedicated to all men and women in uniform, including first responders. It’s a catchy as all-get-out track with a heartfelt message that sounds like an obvious country hit. I told Schneider that I believe it will be his fifth number-one Billboard single.

“It’s a new way of saying ‘Thank you for your service,’” Schneider said of the song that was first played for him by Nashville publishing company Chicks With Hits.

“When it got that line, ‘I saw the flag on your shoulder, I saw the stripes up there on your sleeve, I just had to come over and make sure your next round is on me,’ I thought it was a great way to say ‘thank you’ to all of those people who are running toward things that most of us are running away from,” Schneider said of the song.

The first 20 tracks from “The Odyssey” are out now as digital downloads from iTunes or as two-CD set directly from Schneider at Schneider’s site gives buyers the option of purchasing just the music or they can choose to have him autograph and personalize the CDs. The site can be easily accessed via the “shop now” link at the John Schneider Studios Facebook page.

“I encourage people to do it that way because this is an entirely independent undertaking,” Schneider said of the ambitious project. “There is no label or corporation involved; we’re doing all of this ourselves.”

By “we,” Schneider is referring to himself and his partner and producer, Alicia Allain. He says that without her, he probably wouldn’t be making music today.

Schneider says he remains closely connected to Children’s Miracle Network, the non-profit organization he cofounded in 1983 to raise funds for children’s hospitals and medical research.

“When you donate to CMN, you never had to worry about where your money goes,” he said. “One hundred percent of your donation stays with your local children’s hospital.”

Of his former castmates on “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Schneider says they remain close friends, nearly 40 years after the show premiered.

“I just saw Tom (Wopat, Luke Duke) and Catherine (Bach, Daisy Duke),” Schneider said. “Not a lot of television shows from way back – or even now – can boast that the characters are still around, still hang out and still love each other. We get along just as well in life as we did on the show.”

The instant success of the program generated myriad memorabilia bearing the cast’s images, from lunch boxes to action figures.

“Even ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ underwear!” Schneider laughed. “The strangest one was probably the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ calculator. Calculators became very popular as the show was taking off. That’s probably the strangest merchandise tie-in of all because we certainly weren’t doing math in the General Lee, that’s for sure.”

After spending much of the last two years rebuilding his studios, Schneider says he looks forward to creating more music after “The Odyssey” project is complete.

“We are so proud of these new songs and I can’t wait for people to hear them,” he said. “We want to really come back strong on the music scene. Not only strong but this time we hope to recoup our money so we can make another album next year.”

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