The Hick-Hop of Cowboy Troy
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
I'm Farai Chideya, and this is NEWS & NOTES.
In some ways, Troy Coleman looks like your average cowboy. He's tall and wears an oversized hat, big boots and a shiny belt buckle. But this Texan is anything but typical. Known on the music scene as Cowboy Troy, he's one of a handful of African-American country singers. His music is upbeat and entertaining, blending country, rock, rap and Tejano influences.
(Soundbite of song, "El Tejano")
Mr. COWBOY TROY (Rapper): Escuchen a la musica, the beat is groovin' ya, groovin' with the record in secreto y la publica. It's the Cowboy with the fresh genre, the groove kinda smooth, make it wanna stick on ya.
CHIDEYA: In addition to his music career, Cowboy Troy is co-host of the reality TV show, “Nashville Star.” The fifth season debuts tomorrow. Howdy?
Mr. TROY: Howdy? How are you doing?
CHIDEYA: I'm doing good. I don't get to say howdy much, so you've got to forgive me for that.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CHIDEYA: Did you grow up saying howdy?
Mr. TROY: I think the older I got, the more I said howdy.
CHIDEYA: So where did you grow up, and what was it like?
Mr. TROY: Well, I spent my childhood in Fort Worth, and then my teen years and high school years in Dallas, Texas. And it was kind of an interesting time for me. I spent a lot of time as a kid listening to Charlie Daniels and Jerry Reed, and also listening to ZZ Top and Run-DMC. So it's kind of a fun time for me, and watching a lot of “Hee Haw” and “Dukes of Hazzard.”
CHIDEYA: Oh, my goodness. So you've got a blender of pop culture references to go through.
Mr. TROY: Oh, of course, of course. That part of Trivial Pursuit I tend to win.
CHIDEYA: You get to run around wearing a huge cowboy hat, and you're 6'5”, and then you get to rap, sort of, in the country music world. How do people approach you when they see you and then they listen to your music?
Mr. TROY: Ah, literally: man you're crazy.
(Soundbite of laughter)
That's pretty much what I get.
CHIDEYA: Tell me about your first gig, I mean, do you remember the first time you got up on stage?
Mr. TROY: Yeah, I do. As a matter of fact, I was the opening act for the two opening acts at a club in Dallas that is no longer in existence. I got paid $25 for the 30-minute set and the lights were still on because the bar backs and bartenders are getting the bar stock for the show later on for the headliners. So I do remember that.
CHIDEYA: So who's your listening public?
Mr. TROY: For the most part, you know, my original target demographic were, you know, wrestling fans, NASCAR fans, people like myself who like, not only other sports but like, you know, country and like rock and like rap.
If you go to any country bar in Texas, for the most part, the first, you know, 45 minutes of an hour, the DJ or the band is playing your traditional top 40 country songs and then the last quarter of the hour, the DJ or the band will play rock, dance, or hip-hop or rap songs. And whenever those rap songs come on, the dance floor gets packed. So I know I'm not the only cowboy that likes hick-hop music.
CHIDEYA: Hick-hop What's that?
Mr. TROY: Yes, hick-hop music is a blend of, you know, country, southern rock and rap, you know. It's got fiddles, banjos, screaming rock guitars and me running me off at the mouth.
(Soundbite of song, "I Play Chicken With The Train")
Mr. TROY: Uh huh that's what they said. People said it's impossible, not probable, too radical. But I already been on the CMA's. Hell Tim McGraw said he like the change. And he likes the way my hick-hop sounds and the way the crowd screams when I stomp the ground. I'm big and black, clickety-clack.And I make the train jump the track like that.
I play chicken with the train, train, chicken with the train, train.
CHIDEYA: I have to ask this.
Mr. TROY: Okay.
CHIDEYA: How many black people show up at your shows?
Mr. TROY: I don't know. I have noticed that over the last couple of the years there has been a darkening of the audience at our country shows. And I think that that has gotten to the point where, especially when I see e-mails posted or something like that, where people are saying that they are starting to feel more comfortable coming to the shows because, obviously, there has been some, sort of, stereotype about country audiences and it's, you know, semi-unfair, I think, you know. If you give people a chance, you know, I think they will surprise you in a good way.
CHIDEYA: And do you reach out to black audiences or, you know, even like, what do your cousin say, you know, when they're like, oh, yeah, my cousin is Cowboy Troy?
Mr. TROY: Well, my cousins usually get people who don't believe that we're related. They kind of think, men, can you by on my job? I'm like no, men, I'm not coming by your job just to prove that we're related but -
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. TROY: You know, one of the tenets of my objective, you know, is to strive for connection regardless of complexion, you know. I tried to reach out to anyone who's willing to listen. I don't necessarily make a conscious effort to, you know, target a particular ethnicity or anything like that, you know.
If you have fun to the music. You know, to me it doesn't really matter what you like, you know. I'm more concerned about - are you in to music, are you having a good time, are you good to your neighbor and good to your family that kind of thing, you know.
CHIDEYA: And something else that has got to be very cool to you is “Nashville Star.”
Mr. TROY: Yes.
CHIDEYA: - starting its fifth season tomorrow. You are returning as a co-host and for those who haven't seen “Nashville Star” tell us a little bit about the premise.
Mr. TROY: “Nashville Star” is what you have 10 finalists who are brought in to Nashville to compete for the honor of being called the Nashville Star and to win a recording contract. And, you know, it's a contest show where each week, contestants will display their varying skills for the American public to vote for them.
CHIDEYA: You get to be mean to them like Simon Cowell does on “American Idol.”
Mr. TROY: Actually, I'm not mean at all. My job is to make sure everybody has a good time and make sure the folks at home are entertained.
CHIDEYA: And what's next for you? Are you going to put out another album? Are you going to do more TV?
Mr. TROY: Well, I would say both. They decided to allow me to record another album. So my new album is just about done and it should be out probably late spring, early summer. And hopefully do more television when I'm not touring.
CHIDEYA: Cowboy Troy, thanks a lot for joining us.
Mr. TROY: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
CHIDEYA: Troy Coleman otherwise known as Cowboy Troy is the co-host of “Nashville Star.” The show starts its fifth season tomorrow on the USA Network.