Rockie Lynne: the Army gave this country music star his start in life [classic article]

As first seen in Military Money magazine

Singer-songwriter Rockie Lynne talks about other people being “good people”, but he’s the one who’s “good people”. Left for dead as a baby and raised in a North Carolina orphanage, he looked to the Army to give him opportunities in life. As a teen growing up near Ft. Bragg, a neighbor was in the Special Forces. Lynne has said about the experience, “The military turned out to be the most shaping experience of my life, on so many levels. I learned perseverance, self-discipline and respect, for self and others. My drill sergeant was a huge guy and I was a skinny kid. It was really tough, but I looked up to him and it was good for me. When I graduated from basic training, he told me that if I could finish that, I could do anything. I believed him.”

His self-titled major-label CD had three charting singles including Lynne’s breakthrough hit, “Lipstick,” which spent 10 consecutive weeks in the No. 1 position on Billboard’s Country Singles Sales chart. Another song from that CD, “Red, White & Blue,” is now played at most memorial service in Iraq for fallen U.S. servicemen and women. Billboard magazine named him its artist “Most Likely to Succeed” and he was picked as a “breakout artist” by ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America.” People magazine awarded Lynne 3 1/2 stars on his major label debut.

In addition to “Good Morning America,” Lynne has made countless media appearances, including performances on Fox News, CMT, GAC and more than a dozen appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. For more information, check out www.rockielynne.com.

Military Money: What are your latest projects?

Rockie Lynne: We’ve just put of an album called Songs for Soldiers. Last Christmas, we F oB’ssmall for the troops. I wanted to write something new for the soldiers, not something they had always heard. These people sent that everywhere. We got hundreds of emails, they wanted 100’s of the CD’s for their VFW, their graduations. The record label didn’t want to give money from the CD to soldiers, so we formed our own record label. I just  got nominated for 2 Grammys. On November 10, I’ll be on Sean Hannity’s show.

Military Money: Was it a hard business decision to leave your label for the CD?

Rocky Lynne: I’ve never done music for the money. I grew up in an orphanage in North Carolina. It’s something I don’t really talk about, but I was left in a garbage dumpster as a baby.

Military Money: How did you decide to join the Army?

Rocky Lynne: I grew up in an orphanage. I wanted to go to college and better my life. I did well on the ASVAB test. It’s interesting. I gave the Army 3 years and the Army gave me friends, a college education, structure.

Military Money: What was your rank in the service?

Rockie Lynne: E-4.

Military Money: How do you arrange to perform for the troops overseas?

Rockie Lynne: Some shows have been with the USO, NWR, Kendrick AFB in New Mexico. We were going out there, we called the health welfare services. A Colonel arranged it.

Miltary Money: Are there special logistics when you play for the troops overseas as opposed to stateside?

Rockie Lynne: When we do shows through USO, Stars and Stripes – the backline is provided. It’s very cool. But when we do shows on our own, we have to bring everything. This Christmas, we traveled with, 39 cases. It’s a logistical nightmare. Many times, you’re dealing with people who speak no English. But that’s okay, that’s what they (the troops) deserve. We bring PA (public address), generator. We might try to scale it down. If we have bags to carry through airport, it’s okay!

Military Money: How did you decide to create Tribute for the Troops, the charity motorcycle ride?

Rockie Lynne: I do like motorcycles. One of the first soldiers killed in Iraq was from Minnesota. I was living in Minnesota. I didn’t have a record deal. I played clubs. The third story down was this story, behind two others. I wrote a song called “Home”. I played this song every night after I left the Army. I thought, “Why don’t we record it, with the pictures of the eight (killed) soldiers from Minnesota?” We called those families and said, “We want to see you.” It was really awkward that first year. How to come to their house? They didn’t know us. We just raised $250,000 for the children left behind, for their college or what they need if they don’t go to college. We had 1,000 motorcycles. We are 501(c)(3).

Military Money: Your bio says that when you were forming bands in high school, you “kept getting fired” because the venues wanted you to play cover songs. Aren’t venues still often the same? Don’t people often yell for “Freebird”?

Rockie Lynne: I haven’t been in that situation for many years. I lived in Nashville for 10 years and always played the songs in my heart.

Military Money: You also speak of on your site the at least two hours a day that you practice. Many artists either shy away from that subject or maybe they aren’t practicing. People not in the business assume the life is “money for nothing, chicks for free”. Describe a typical practice/work day.

Rockie Lynne: Today, I got up at 4:30 in the morning. My whole family ran 3.5 miles, my daughter has to go to school. I did one hour of guitar, one of bass. I also engineer and write songs for other people. That’s why people climb mountains, because it’s hard. I expect to have to work for it. I don’t paint the end picture into a corner. I see it that there’s room at the table for everybody. It’s an absolute blessing to do what you love for a living.

Military Money: What about Pro tools?

Rockie Lynne: Ha! I’ll just do it until I get it right.

Military Money: How did you decide to use your GI benefits to attend the Guitar Institute of Technology?

Rockie Lynne: I took some night classes in college on post. Because I deployed a lot, I had a lot of my check saved. I did not a have fancy car and I ate on post. The house I grew up in North Carolina and I had saved within a few hundred dollars of buying the house outright. I bought it and still own it. It was a fantastic investment. Even though real estate is down now, there were still skyrocked prices. I worked one year and a semester at college. I was a music performance major.

Military Money: You took a lot of chances to be your own frontman. Describe the kind of gigs you got and how you lived when you left Nashville. How did you get those gigs?

Rockie Lynne: When I first started playing, I played for people. They had a bus, travelled really nice. I worked for three or four dysfunctional famous bands. I won’t mention their names. They had a bad self-destruction bent. This one guy would shoot himself in the foot very time before a performance, do something. I thought, “I can do this better. Music deserves better than this.” I worked on a demo. I’ve had the same band for 20 years. On my very first performance, it was a tough biker crowd, I said, “Thanks for listening,” I shook hands. I sold 14 records out of 24 people. My cars are paid for and my house is paid for. No debt. I understand that the music business is a customer service business. Our merchandising sells 25% better than any other act. It took 11 years to get a record deal. I was entertaining people who weren’t there to be entertained; they were there for slot machines, to drink beer. You have to engage them. Shake hands with every single human in there.

Military Money: No other country songs mention heroes from the Midwest or to put it more directly, the North. Do you get a lot of positive response from that?

Rockie Lynne: You wouldn’t believe how positively this record is received! I didn’t have roots. I loved it up in Minnesota. Those are good people. There are patriotic people everywhere. There are country people up north.

Military Money: What did you do with your first big paycheck?

Rockie Lynne: I have a daughter going to college. I save for that. I’ve got a little boy, too. I don’t have car payments. I don’t buy a car unless I have the money. I own the cheapest Toyota truck. Other musicians when their ship comes in, you’ll see them with a leased Mercedes or buy a BMW… I have a 1998 Pathfinder, have money to replace it. I have a friend in the racing business. I told him, “Make my Pathfinder cool.” I have a stereo system from heaven, you wouldn’t believe it. It was $3,500. He pimped my ride, ha!

Military Money: Do you manage your own money?

Rockie Lynne: I have an accounting firm: Smith Wiles. They do payroll, Social Security, health insurance. I personally I manage my own. I just take a small allowance. I have a small publishing company and a studio for demos, a full time song plugger to get my songs on tv, movies. I try to invest back in my business. The superstars like Bon Jovi and Kanye West invest back into their shows. Felix Cavalleri from The Rascals invests back into his shows and they’re great.

Military Money: Do you have investments?

Rockie Lynne: We have a condo we rent out. We have 401K’s, the same as others have. I invest in my kids’ educations. My accounting firm does that. I have a manager that looks after that. She’s my wife! She was VP of Capital Records.

A lot of people buy their way today into the record industry. There’s an old joke: wanna make a million dollars in the record industry? Spend two million. We’re lucky to make a living. We take one bus or fly if it’s cheaper. We don’t vomit money like some others do. There are a lot of people who have nothing.

Military Money: What’s a splurge for you?

Rockie Lynne: I have a really nice guitar collection. They have increased in value 50 times, 20 times. I’ll find them in a pawnshop: Martin, Fender, Gibson.

Military Money: What’s a complete waste of money to you, that no matter how much money you had, you wouldn’t buy?

Rockie Lynne: I wouldn’t buy a house that has a room in it that I don’t use. We visit homes where nobody uses all the rooms. I don’t understand that! We have a 3000 square feet house, it’s nice.

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