Written by  George White  For FLORIDA TODAY

Alan Jackson has gone from humble roots to stardom to serving as the informal spokesman for a national tribute to the 9/11 attacks.

Born in Newnan, Ga., Jackson listened to gospel music before being introduced to such country artists as Gene Watson and Hank Williams Jr. He wrote his first song in 1983.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Jackson released the tribute song ďWhere Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),Ē which became a hit and put him in the mainstream spotlight.

Jackson, who has had 35 No. 1 hits and has been awarded two Grammys, talked about his career and life on the road.

QUESTION: Whatís your favorite part about touring? Whatís the most difficult?

ANSWER: I enjoy playing music for people. Iíve always said that as long as I feel like people still want to hear my music and see me in concert, Iíll still keep trying to do it. But I like being at home in Nashville, too, because that means Iím at home with my family.

Q: If you hadnít become a country singer, what direction do you think your life mightíve taken?

A: I donít know ó Iíd probably be doing something with cars ó thatís what I was doing and what I always knew how to do and probably still could. Iíve always been kind of a car nut. You know, my daddy was a mechanic and I grew up around a garage. I might be doing something like that or building houses ó I could see myself doing that, too.

Q: Country music used to be quite separate from mainstream or popular music. Do you think that has changed over the years?

A: I just do what I do, you know? Thereís room for everything out there, I think. And thereís some good stuff! Kids like it ó Iíve got kids in high school and college, and they like real country stuff and they like pop and rock stuff, too.

Q: Country music once was considered the music of regular, blue-collar folks. Do you think that has changed?

A: To me, country musicís about being in love, having your heart broke, drinkiní and partyiní, liviní and dyiní, family and where you grew up. Itís about real life and it still is, I think.

Q: You have a new song on the radio called ďSo You Donít Have to Love Me AnymoreĒ ó what can you tell us about it?

A: Itís just one of those songs Ö when I heard it, itís the kind of song that made me want to be in country music. Iím such a big fan of that kind of song. I think the sad songs and heartache songs are always the best ones to bring that emotion out.

Q: Whatís next for you?

A: Well, weíve got this new album (ďThirty Miles WestĒ) coming out in June that I hope people like and are going to be excited to hear. Youíre always anxious and excited when youíre working on a new album because you want to create good songs and music for people.



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