Masses of hungry Floridians will be filling up Cruzan Amphitheatre this weekend to slurp up succulent ribs and dance the day away to good ol' country at the fourth annual WIRK Rib Round Up.
Rodney Atkins will be crooning in his deep voice and strumming to his own songs at the festival. He admitted that his favorite type of barbecue is, appropriately, "all of the above," though he favors pulled pork. We spoke with him as he was driving in his tour bus from Nashville to Florida. "I know different places have different kinds of barbecue. South Carolina, Memphis has good ribs. There was once a place called Rendezvous in Memphis."
But much like how food brings people together, country music fosters a sense of community according to Atkins. It's a vibe, one that expresses "the rural heart," which beats in both the country and city.
"Country music is just so relatable. Whether you're a little kid, 5 years old, 55 or 95, I think you can relate to most of what country music is built on. There's something about the stories of country music." It's family oriented, much like the Rib Round up.
"A song that I've had success with, 'These Are My People,' is a song about life not being perfect." Atkins says. Reflecting on the shared values of country listeners. "There's a line that says 'It ain't always pretty, but it's real.' I enjoy those kind of songs about life not being perfect. We're all in this together. Most of my hits have been about that."
Another of his tunes, "Take a Back Road," for which he won song of the year at the BMI Awards, is, he explains, "about wanting to get to the basics, to the things that make you tick, getting stuff in traffic, if you're going through hell. We've all been through tough times. It's important to know you're not alone."
Of the songs he's penned, his favorite is one he wrote for his song, "Watching You." He didn't write it because he was hoping for a hit, but more just because he loves his son.
As an infant, Atkins was, himself, adopted from the Holston Methodist Home for Children in Greeneville, Tennessee. He's still involved in the center. "It's our job and our responsibility to give back and to help each other out. I think it's a blessing to work with these kids and spend time with them and talk to them." He remembers, "They ask questions. One kid asked me, 'did you come up out of here,' and I said, 'I did,' and he said, 'you've got cred then.'"
Along with the Academy of Country Music, he provides them with instruments. "There's something about when you're learning how to make a chord on a guitar, you kind of forget what else is going on, you can focus on that. It's good therapy. These are just great kids and you want the best for their lives," Atkins says.
He's on tour promoting Take a Back Road, which is an album as well as "a song about real life," as he puts it. It's about relating, lifting people up, and connecting with others. He's also finishing a mix on a single for a new album over the next few weeks.
Besides chewing on swine, while Atkins is Florida, he'll be bass fishing his son, who's on spring break. He sounded genuinely more excited about spending this time with his son than the ribs. Which is pretty cool.
Favorite thing about riding in a bus: "When you get to where you're going, you have a hotel room. You can camp in this thing. It's kind of like spring break."
Worst thing about riding in a bus: "In between getting to places. When you finally get to where you're going, you wish you had a time machine sometimes."
103.1 WIRK presents the 4th annual WIRK Rib Round Up, With Josh Turner, Rodney Atkins, Justin Moore, Chris Cagle, Florida Georgia Line, Kip Moore, Lauren Alaina, Greg Bates, and Jon Pardi. Noon on March 9 at Cruzan Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansburys Way, West Palm Beach. Tickets are $30. Visit wirk.com.