Six years ago, Chad Bushnell released his first single, “Texas Size Heart Attack,” and has steadily released music his way ever since.
With two albums and a handful of singles released, Bushnell created a loyal following and achieved great success in those six years.
Bushnell is currently finishing work on a new EP, which will have a slightly different twist; it will be his first release with producer Dave Gibson, writer of hits such as “Jukebox in My Mind” by Alabama and “Ships That Don’t Come In” by Joe Diffie, among others.
As Bushnell gets closer to the release of his EP, get his take on recording with Ben Haggard, meeting Merle Haggard, releasing an album where he covers some of country music’s biggest rodeo songs, his new EP, and more!
Pro Country: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Chad Bushnell: Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam, and Merle Haggard were three pretty big ones!
PC: You’ve been playing guitar since you were four and have continued with music ever since. What was it about music that spoke to you back then, and what is it that has kept you hooked?
CB: When I was little, I was always enamored by it. My dad played in a local country band, and my great-grandmother played piano at church, and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. It’s all I want to do when I get up every morning.
PC: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to pursue music as a career?
CB: Ever since I was little, I was in a lot of contests, so I’ve known pretty much my entire life that I wanted to do this.
PC: Were you feeling any type of pressure, internally or externally, as you were preparing to release music for the first time with the “Texas Size Heart Attack” single?
CB: A little bit. When I write, I try to go off of other people’s lives or my own life, and then try to go off of other songs that were hits. That’s kind of how I write. I got “Texas Size Heart Attack” out of “Texas Size Heartache” by Joe Diffie. I heard that, and then I put my own thing to it, and that’s how I got the idea for that song.
PC: You recorded two songs with Ben Haggard on lead guitar and backing vocals. How did that opportunity come to you, and what was it like recording with Ben?
CB: It was amazing! I met Ben when I did my first album. He played on my first CD that I produced at After Hours Recording in Redding, CA; he was only 15 or 16 at the time. We were close to the same age, and we’ve been friends ever since. About 5 or 6 years later, I heard they did recordings at Hag Studios, and I was wondering what I had to do to get out there and record. One day, I called in and said that I would really love to record there, and asked what I needed to do. They told me me to talk to the chief producer, so I gave him a call, and they got it all set up. It was a great experience; it’s a beautiful studio, and I got to have The Strangers play on it!
I didn’t know if I was going to get to meet Merle or not.The second day I was there, all of a sudden, the keyboard player comes up and says, “Hey, you want to talk to Merle for a little bit?” I said that would be awesome! While they were doing the guitar work, I went on the tour bus, and I talked to Merle. It was pretty awesome!
PC: “She Don’t Even Like Country” has become one of your signature songs. What do you think it is about that song that has connected with people the way it has?
CB: Probably because I mention a lot of country singers. I tell a story before I sing it at shows about my experience with The Voice. That song came together mostly on the plane ride home. I was standing in line all day trying out for The Voice, and I was chatting with a girl that was standing in line in front of me. I was talking to her all day, and I was going to ask for her number, and she said that she didn’t like country music that much, and I thought that we were probably not going to work out (laughs).
PC: The “Tennessee” album features a few interesting covers, ranging from a Cody Johnson cover to an Elvis Presley cover. What goes in to selecting the songs you will cover on an album?
CB: Cody Johnson is one of my new favorites right now. My mom heard “Dance Her Home” on the radio, and I had six or seven songs written, but I needed ten for the album. We were brainstorming, and she heard that Cody Johnson song, and said that I needed to record it. We listen for stuff like that, and it was only big in Texas at the time, so I thought that I might be able to sing it out here in California.
Elvis is one of my big influences too. I wanted to put an Elvis song or a gospel song on there, because I grew up in church.
PC: Your newest album, “Rodeo Dance,” features a common theme of both original and cover songs about the rodeo. What drew you to record an album with that theme?
CB: A lot of my family have all been rodeo people. My parents are both rodeo athletes: my dad rode bucking horses and bulls, and my mom was a barrel racer. My dad always talked about releasing a rodeo album to try to get my name out more, so I decided to do it after doing three other albums. I thought having more fans in rodeo would be awesome!
PC: Do you feel any pressure when you’re covering classic songs like “Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold)” to do justice to the original song?
CB: Absolutely. I always try to make it a little different and put my own feel into them. “Everything That Glitters” is a tough song to sing. My uncle sings on it with me, so it became a special song to where I just wanted to go for it!
PC: What do you hope people take away from the “Rodeo Dance” album after listening all the way through?
CB: I think those classic songs need to be heard more. Songs like “Everything That Glitters” and “The Littlest Cowboy,” those are songs that I grew up listening to, and I know a lot of people did as well. You just don’t hear them as much anymore, so I wanted to redo them and give people who still love traditional country something to listen to with rodeo influences.
PC: You’ve opened for major artists such as Kris Kristofferson, Mark Wills, and Mark Chesnutt, among others. What can you take away from those experiences that will help you in your own career?
CB: It’s been a dream come true. It’s really inspiring. It can be intimidating to open for guys like that, but it helps keep me going when I get to do things like that.
PC: It’s been almost six years since the release of “Texas Size Heart Attack.” Where do you think you’ve grown the most since that release?
CB: Vocally and my songwriting. Every time I record an album, I learn so much more. I’m recording a new EP now, and it’s kind of like going into the military for music (laughs). I’ve always produced my music myself. I’ve had little bits of help, but this time, I had a full-on producer, and he guided me through everything. I’ve never done it like that before.
PC: Do you see working with a producer on your material as the next step in your career?
CB: For sure. It was really good for me, when I recorded before, they kind of helped me, but I would just record two vocal takes, they would mix them up as best as they could, and we would just go for it. We spent seven hours straight in the studio doing three songs of just vocals with this one. I never done that before, so it was definitely different. But I kind of caught on after a while. Now I know what I need to do to sing better and to make my songs sound better. Dave Gibson is my producer, and he’s written a bunch of hit songs, so that is awesome, and I got to work with Jeff Bates on a Christian country song, so that’s exciting too!
PC: What are your plans for the rest of 2019?
CB: We’re just finishing up the mixing and mastering on the EP. I’m hoping to release it in May or June. I have a bunch of shows booked, and I’m looking forward to traveling! I have a lot of opening act shows this year as well. We’re going to release a couple of the songs from the EP to country radio and see how they do, so I’m most excited about that!
PC: Is there anything else you would like to add?
CB: I want to thank God, my mom, dad, sister, my wife, and the rest of my family for everything. They all helped me out a lot. I really want to thank my fans as well. With this EP, I did a Kickstarter campaign, and was able to surpass my financial goal, so that is pretty cool!