I'd barely parked the rental car before Bucky Covington bounded out of the studio doors. "Hey ya'll," he said - thrusting an Apple iBook our way, "watch this..." With that, the gangly good ole boy pressed play and a YouTube clip of a foreign gameshow sputtered to life. On screen, timid, middle-aged men desperately try to repeat a singsong tongue-twister before being hit squarely in the nuts. Every time an aging Japanese gentleman dropped to his knees, Bucky convulsed with jagged laughter, almost dropping the laptop in the process. Only when the sixty second clip ended did Bucky formerly greet us, hugging the very pregnant Shannon Smith and high-fiving your humble lenslinger. A few minutes we set up our gear deep inside producer Mark Miller's family studios - a rambling, mannerly spread somewhere outside Nashville.
"When I first came over here, I told them I don't want overnight success, I want 20 years, I want a career."
To help build that career, the 29 year old American Idol finalist has sought the counsel of those who've gone before him. As the first ever winners of 80's talent show juggernaut Star Search, the guys from Sawyer Brown know alot about turning a title into a dynasty. For now though, lead singer Mark Miller's happy just to twist the knobs on Bucky's debut CD - especially since he loves what he's hearing. During our visit, the ballcapped impresario and his fellas exchanged reassuring glances as Bucky belted out finishing tracks to "Empty-Handed" - a Sweet Tea twist on 'Welcome to the Jungle' that is still eching somewhere in my subconsciousness. Miller agrees. "All the musician's who played on this album kept coming up to me saying this is going to be BIG - guys who have been around the business and don't just throw comments out like that."
"It really all comes down to a good song, you get a good song out there and that's what it takes..."
As I skulked about Miller's well equipped recording lair, I found myself bobbing my head and singing off-key back-up. Over on the zebra-print couch, Shannon and her baby grooved in unison as Bucky's smoky snarl filled in the gaps of the Southern-Fried anthem. As outright throbbing as 'Empty-Handed' is, it isn't the only sound Bucky and the Sawyer Brown gang have captured on their Masters. Percolating on a hard drive nearby is at least two honky-tonk ballads that showcase the softer side of this goofy good ole boy. It's those kind of Tear In Your Beer drenchers that will appease Covington''s female fans - many of who are pining for a little roadhouse tenderness. On that he can deliver, for the former body shop worker fairly oozes swamp grease and Sunday School. For now though, Bucky's gettin' his growl on.
"I knew I wanted to make a country album -- but I'd like to get as much rock in it as I can get away with..."
What Bucky Covington ultimately hopes to get away with is a full-blown music career. American Idol brought him to the attention of millions, but the show's hokey pop structure failed to showcase this giggly hillbilly's impressive pipes. With veteran producer Miller at the helm, the oldest Covington twin is about to surprise alot of people. Sure, Chris Daughtry can breathe fire through an amplifier stack and Kellie Pickler's still damn cute in red high heels, but my boy Bucky has the homegrown tone, the vocal chops and the goofball charisma to blow the back-doors off the Nashville star factory. Here's hoping country radio will give him a chance, before some hotshot Hollywood producer builds the next Hee-Haw Variety Hour around him. S-a-a-a-LUTE!
(Thanks to all the Bucky fans who looked forward to this report. Be sure and check out the sneak preview, the photo gallery, the bloopers and of course the three minute opus Shannon Smith and I crossed a mountain range to produce. Lenslinger...OUT!)