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 “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” 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: What’s your favorite part about touring? What’s the most difficult?

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

Q: If you hadn’t become a country singer, what direction do you think your life might’ve taken?

A: I don’t know — I’d probably be doing something with cars — that’s what I was doing and what I always knew how to do and probably still could. I’ve 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 — 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? There’s room for everything out there, I think. And there’s some good stuff! Kids like it — I’ve 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 music’s about being in love, having your heart broke, drinkin’ and partyin’, livin’ and dyin’, family and where you grew up. It’s about real life and it still is, I think.

Q: You have a new song on the radio called “So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore” — what can you tell us about it?

A: It’s just one of those songs … when I heard it, it’s the kind of song that made me want to be in country music. I’m 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: What’s next for you?

A: Well, we’ve got this new album (“Thirty Miles West”) coming out in June that I hope people like and are going to be excited to hear. You’re always anxious and excited when you’re working on a new album because you want to create good songs and music for people.