Alan Jackson is a blessed man and he knows it. Not only has the Georgia native’s career in country music exceeded his expectations, but his life away from the spotlight has been even more rewarding. He and his wife Denise have been married for more than three decades and are the proud parents of three lovely daughters. These days Jackson and his family have even more to be thankful for, as Denise is once again healthy after a battle last year with cancer. As he’s always done, Jackson has channeled the experience into his music.
“You just write about things that happen,” the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame member says simply of his approach. “With this album I wrote a song about Denise going through her cancer. There’s always something that comes along.”
Jackson penned the heartfelt song “When I Saw You Leaving” about his feelings during Denise’s illness. The song is the closing track on his new album Thirty Miles West.
“She’s been going back for scans and everything is clear and looking good,” Jackson shares with watchgmctv.com. “That chemotherapy is pretty rough, but she’s doing good now.”
Denise received the phone call telling her she had cancer in December 2010 when she and Alan were at their vacation home in Florida celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Alan said. “Denise is the healthiest person I’ve ever known. She never gets sick. She never has a cold, never has allergies bother her. She never has a headache, nothing’s ever wrong with her.... I thought I’d be gone long before her, so it was just a shock for both of us.”
The couple immediately flew back to Nashville and met with an oncologist. Soon after, Denise received radiation and chemotherapy.
“I just tried to be kind and take care of everything,” Alan says quietly. “More than anything I tried to make all the hospital and doctor things that I could; just be supportive.”
Denise’s illness had a major impact on their family and how they view life.
“It did change us in some ways,” Alan says. “It made us kind of back up and look at our whole life a little bit and what we value the most and what we wanted to make sure of for the future. We have re-evaluated a lot. We downsized a lot of our lifestyle just for that reason. What’s most important is spending our time together.”
A New View
Even before Denise’s illness, the couple had put their 135-acre Nashville estate up for sale. These days they live in a new home in a gated community.
“It seems like God just leads us to things,” Alan says, describing how he and Denise found the lot one day when they had dropped one of their girls off to visit a friend in the neighborhood.
“We just went down this street and turned around in a cul-de-sac and there was this lot [for sale],” Alan recalls.
The Jacksons built their new home on top of the hill. “We’re looking over Warner Park there where Steeplechase is.”
Alan admits he never really thought he’d live in a subdivision, but says there’s plenty of wide-open space.
“When they build these big neighborhoods, the county makes them maintain green space all through the neighborhood,” he explains. “You have to have so many acres of just woods, so we’re sitting here on four acres, but we’re surrounded by 125 acres of woods that can’t be developed. We’re sitting up here in these woods and we can’t see a house from anywhere and you can’t see our house from anywhere.”
Alan says Denise feels safe when he’s out of town on tour, which will come in handy as he hits the road this summer to promote his new album.
A New Venture
After more than 20 years with Arista Nashville, the new record is his first on EMI Nashville Records, which partnered with Jackson’s own ACR Records, releasing the album as a joint venture.
The title Thirty Miles West comes from a song on the album called “Dixie Highway,” which Alan named for the highway that runs from Florida to Canada. His hometown, Newnan, Ga., is 30 miles west of Dixie Highway. The song is a seven-and-a-half minute celebration of southern culture that features Alan’s good friend, Zac Brown.
The album also includes a lively tune titled “Her Life’s a Song” that Alan penned for his daughters.
“They’ve got their iPods and they’ll be blasting through the speakers out by the swimming pool. One minute it will be some old country thing, might even play one of my songs every now and then,” he sayswith a smile. “And the next thing it will be some rap thing that I have to go out there and tell them to turn that down because I don’t like it. Then it will be some pop thing. They just listen to all that kind of stuff. It’s just me writing about what I see in them and their music.”
Alan, the Dad
Their eldest daughter, Mattie, just graduated from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and plans to become a writer. Middle daughter, Ali, just graduated high school and will be heading to Auburn in the fall, and the youngest, Dani, will be a high school sophomore next year.
“They are all really creative kids,” Alan says proudly. “They can draw and they are pretty good at writing. They are good at photography. They all have a good eye for stuff like that.”
With a successful career that includes numerous accolades, among them 16 Country Music Association Awards – including three Entertainer of the Year titles – 35 No. 1 singles and 60 million records sold, Alan admits his life has far surpassed the dreams he had growing up in a tiny town. When asked if there’s anything on his bucket list he hasn’t accomplished, he’s hard-pressed to think of anything.
“I’ve done stuff that I didn’t even have on the list,” he says, shaking his head in amazement. “I never thought I’d end up being a pilot. I had my pilot’s license and flew for years, had float planes and landed in the lake. I flew everywhere and landed on a grass strip out at the house. I’ve ridden motorcycles all over the country. I quit flying a few years ago. Denise worried about me flying. I didn’t fly very much. We’d fly out to the lake or something around here. Just piddle around. If I went somewhere far, I’d take another experienced pilot with me.”
Alan is thankful for everything he’s been blessed with throughout the years and is particularly appreciative of the fans who’ve supported him.
“I sold a lot of records, so somebody out there likes my music,” he says with a self-effacing grin. “As long as I’ve been doing it, the crowd seems to keep evolving in the same direction. I still have the little kids out there and people older than me out there and everything in between, from country looking people to professional looking people. It’s always been that way from day one and it’s still that way. I’ve been lucky to have that unique mixture of people.”
Thirty Miles West released June 5 and Jackson is excited for fans to hear his new music.
“It seems like I say it every time I do an album, ‘Boy this is a great album. This is the best I’ve made,’” Jackson says with a grin, acknowledging the rush of excitement that comes with finishing a new project, “but I do feel like this one has some strong legs. We found some good songs and I think we worked hard to make the production special. I think it’s a stand out record and I’m proud of it. I know [producer] Keith Stegall is and everybody in my camp feels the same way. It’s a really good collection.”
News You May Also Like
Cool for LLAfter making a name for himself as one of hip-hop’s early innovators, LL Cool J went on to even wider pop culture attention as the star of many movies and “NCIS: Los Angeles” as special agent Sam Hanna. The two-time GRAMMY winner did such a bang-up job hosting last year...
Whether you’re picking up a new Steven Curtis Chapman CD at your local Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, watching Tim McGraw and Faith Hill perform together in Las Vegas or tuning into your favorite country radio station to hear the latest hit from husband-wife duo, Thompson Square, you...
Country music is well-known for its songs about break-ups, beer drinking and backroads fun, but leave it to country superstar Brad Paisley to take fans outside their comfort zone on his new album Wheelhouse. He’s ignited a firestorm of controversy with “Accidental Racist,” a duet...