“[When I] played London again, they were gonna bump me up to, like, a mid-size venue. They did all this research – I don’t know how we do that sort of thing – and they came back and said, ‘You should play the 02 [Arena].’ And I was like, ‘What?!’ We put that on sale, and it did great… That’s been maybe two years ago. And now we’re going back again.
“This should be encouraging to any country artist that wants to go. It’s not like I have something all that special that they relate to over there or something. I tell ya, as a guy in a white cowboy hat, I’m exotic to them. I am the furthest thing from exotic in this land of the free and home of the brave. I am absolutely the poster child of ‘not exotic.’ And in England, I am an exotic delicacy.”
On the flipside, you just played a commemoration of the British Invasion of American popular music. You and Pharrell Williams performed Here Comes the Sun on a televised tribute to The Beatles coming to America. George Harrison was a very different style of guitar player than you are. Was there ever a time when you geeked out over The Beatles, and his playing specifically?
“Yeah. I was a later discoverer of them, because I came from a really country-influenced background. My mom and dad really liked The Beatles, I seem to remember. But I was raised on Buck Owens and George Jones.”
Well, Buck Owens could be a route to The Beatles.
“That actually is probably what got me headed in that direction – realizing their love of him. Once you discover The Beatles as a musician or a kid or a music fan, you dive in and it’s a phase you go through. You go through all of the various stages of The Beatles themselves.
“I had so many experiences the other night at that that I’ll never forget. I’ve gotten to know Ringo actually pretty well. I already knew him before I committed to this special, but I’d never met Paul till the other night."