Hello country music — is it Lionel Richie you’re looking for?
At last night’s 2022 CMA Awards in Nashville, the legendary singer-songwriter announced plans to craft and release his first-ever country album — decades after scoring his first hit in the genre with Kenny Rogers’ “Lady,” written by Richie, 73.
“The answer is soon. It has to be soon, because later is not in the option right now,” the former Commodores member told Billboard on the red carpet. “I am so vested in country music, you have no idea.”
Richie then listed off some of his contributions to the genre and nodded to his 2012 Tuskegee album, which saw the musician re-record many of his classic funk, disco and R&B songs alongside country stars like Rogers, 81, Willie Nelson, Alabama, Shania Twain, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney and Blake Shelton, among others.
“I’ve been here forever, it’s just that I didn’t put out the record myself,” said the four-time Grammy winner before further teasing his own country project. “It’s coming. It’s coming.”
Last week, Richie was announced as the recipient of the Icon Award at the upcoming 2022 American Music Awards — which will mark the “Hello” singer-songwriter’s 18th trophy from the annual ceremony.
“I’m immensely grateful for a career that has taken me to places I never imagined that I’d go, from arenas worldwide to studio sets to the AMA stage,” read a press statement from Richie, who will become the only artist to appear on the fan-voted awards show in every decade since its 1973 inception.
Richie’s announcement as this year’s Icon Award winner arrived shortly after the musician was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday. He opened the ceremony, held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, by performing a medley of “Hello,” the Commodores’ “Easy” (with special guest Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl) and “All Night Long (All Night).”
Elsewhere in his interview with Billboard at the CMAs, Richie said the recent honors have symbolically given him more than just his “flowers” at this stage of his career. “They gave me the whole orchard. They gave me the whole flower garden,” he told the outlet.
The American Idol judge then recalled the time he hosted the AMAs in 1985. “As I was going solo, Dick Clark said a wonderful thing to me. He said, ‘You’re going to go out, and you’re going to host the show.’ I said, ‘I have no experience hosting a show.’ He said, ‘You will after you finish hosting the first one,'” said Richie.
He added, “When you have someone like that to mentor you through what Luke [Bryan] is doing tonight — I had Dick Clark mentor me through that. It’s been a wonderful experience all the way through, and of course, ABC and just the whole family has been right there with me my entire career.”