Rodeo fans are Rodney Atkins' kind of people

Friday, July 29, 2011
This Jan. 24, 2007 file photo shows Country singer Rodney Atkins in Nashville, Tenn., Jan. 24, 2007. Atkins is nominated for six Academy of Country Music Awards, including male vocalist, album of the year and song of the year. The awards will be held on Sunday, May 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, file)

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Country music star Rodney Atkins says rodeos are one of his favorite venues to perform.

"When you pull into a rodeo, you know how folks are -- I'm completely at home and the hospitality is so wonderful," Atkins said.

Then, the performer sings a blip of his song "These Are My People."

Atkins has performed at several rodeos and even been an opening act for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

"It's a blast," he said.

This makes him all the more ready to put on a big show in Sikeston as he rounds out the rodeo performances on Aug. 13.

Atkins said he works to bring the party during his shows.

"I love it when the crowd starts singing along," he said. "My shows are about celebrating the simple things in life like friends and family, and I hope folks come prepared to have a good time. But it's also a party: We come with a rocking, high-energy show."

The performer said he believes it's his job to be a sort of distraction -- just for a couple of hours -- from real life for those who attend.

"We all go through tough times," he said. "But when we're at these shows, it never fails to amaze me that it feels like we're all in it together."

Atkins hums "we're giving this life everything we've got and then some," -- again from hit song "These Are My People" -- saying that is how he and his band approach all of their shows.

"Getting asked to come somewhere and play is an honor I don't take lightly," he said. "We approach every show like its our last one."

Craig Templeton, chairman of the entertainment committee for this year's rodeo, said those qualities in Atkins are what makes the singer a perfect fit for the rodeo's final night, typically a high-energy show led by an up-and-coming artist.

"We thought he was a performer that could get the crowd moving, dancing and singing," Templeton said. "He's high-energy, and most everybody knows his music. We think he's really going to put on a great show."

Templeton pointed out that the performer has two songs -- "Farmer's Daughter" and "Take a Back Road" -- in the Top 40, with "Take a Back Road" looking to peak in the Top 10 by the time Rodeo comes around.

"I think this is a show that's very likely to sell out," he said.

"Take a Back Road," is from an album Atkins is recording now and expected to be released this fall.

"It is a very come-back-down-to-earth song," Atkins said. "It kind of reveals more the more you listen to the song."

Atkins said he's been told people can really connect with the song.

"Folks are saying that they had a rough day, got in the car to come home, and this song will just make them take a breath and bob their head," he said. "That is what I think a great song is supposed to do."

He compared a great song to a movie, something the viewer or listener gets caught up in.

"You forget you're listening to that song because you're just caught up in it, and it takes you somewhere," he said.

And that's what he looks for when choosing songs to record.

"I try to find something that is really relatable, gets me and sticks with me," he said. "It's all about following your heart -- it's something that really hits you and strikes a raw nerve."

One of the best parts of performing, he said, is seeing how the audience makes that connection with his songs.

Atkins' single "Farmer's Daughter," which is still on the airwaves, was part of his 2009 album, "It's America." It's also on his 2010 Cracker Barrel Farmer's Daughter and More exclusive CD.

Other hit singles include "It's America," "Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)," "Watching You" -- the most played song of 2007 -- and "If You're Going Through Hell," the most played song of 2006. All of these were also multiple week No. 1 singles.

While ticket sales have been swift for Atkins' performance, "there are still plenty of great seats left," said Cal Crader, general chairman of this year's rodeo.

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