Interview: Ned LeDoux ‘Proud to Carry on the Torch’ in Country Music
Ned LeDoux has music in his blood. Under the tutelage of his father, the late rodeo champion-turned-country star Chris LeDoux, the younger LeDoux spent much of his childhood and early adult years playing drums in his father's band and learning from some of the best country musicians in the world. Now, as LeDoux steps out on his own with his debut studio EP, Forever a Cowboy (released in December), the singer is hoping to honor his father's legacy while paving a path of his own in country music. The Wyoming cowboy recent spoke with The Boot about his EP, working with beloved produced Mac McAnally and writing songs with his dad, posthumously.
"My dad was the 1976 Bareback Champion of the World, and I got into rodeo when I was a little kid," LeDoux says of his father's early influence on him. But while the elder LeDoux began his career traveling the national rodeo circuit and riding bulls before making the jump to country music, his son found his musical calling much earlier in life.
"I think I was 5 years old when I got my first drum set," Ned LeDoux recalls, "and I just fell in love with the drums, and I knew that that was what I was gonna do."
It was the drums that would be LeDoux's entry point into country music: He spent most of his adolescent years touring the country with his father's band, Western Underground. It wouldn't be until after Chris LeDoux's death in 2005, from cancer, though, that his son would put down the sticks and pick up the pen.
"Singing never even crossed my mind when [my dad] was around because I was his drummer. I just wanted to be the best drummer I could be for him," Ned LeDoux tells The Boot. "When he passed away, there was just something that just kinda came over me ... so I sat down and learned "Rodeo Man," which is probably one of my favorite songs that Dad ever wrote and recorded. And from there, I just kept learning more and more of his songs, and then as the years went by, I started writing my own stuff."
"From there" resulted in a burgeoning music career for LeDoux, and his five-track EP, released on Dec. 2, 2016, under the guidance of McAnally, his father's longtime producer and a well-known songwriter in his own right. It was with McAnally that LeDoux pieced together a stack of song ideas and lyric snippets that his father left behind, to form brand-new music.
"There's a stack of papers that my mom found four or five years ago, and she realized that they were song ideas," LeDoux remembers. "She wasn't sure what to do with them, so she printed off four or five copies and sent them to [electric guitarist] Mark Sissel, and he emailed them to me and said, 'Man, you outta try to finish one of these and turn it into a brand new Chris LeDoux song co-written with his son.'"
Sissel, also part of Western Underground, knew that Ned LeDoux would be the perfect person to carry on his father's work, but LeDoux himself wasn't so sure ... until he teamed up with McAnally.
"It sounded like a great idea, but I had never really written a song before!" LeDoux admits with a laugh. "I happened to be in Nashville for something, and Mac found out about it ... so he invited me over to his house, and we sat down with a couple of these song ideas that Dad started, and we finished one."
That song, "We Ain't Got It All," became the first track on LeDoux's debut EP, produced by McAnally, and features Sissel on lead electric guitar. Heavily influenced by the legacy of his father, LeDoux wrote "The Hawk" in honor of his late dad, covers his 1989 track "Johnson County War" and gives him songwriting credits on the EP's title track.
"I probably wrote ["Forever a Cowboy"] eight different times ... I just wanted to write a song about the folks that I grew up with out in Wyoming," LeDoux says. "My bloodline is cowboy, so I wanted to write a song about cowboys and the West and what a cowboy appreciates. And then I thought, 'Well, I wonder if Dad has a line or two in some of that stuff that he wrote down years ago.' So the first two lines of the song ... that came from my dad."
Given his father's legacy, does LeDoux ever feel too overwhelmed by his family name?
"You know, I don't think of it as being in his shadow," he says. "I'm proud to carry on the LeDoux name and just try to keep my music as cowboy and western as I can. I'm just proud to carry on the torch."
The Forever a Cowboy EP is available for download on iTunes and Amazon. LeDoux has a number of shows lined up for 2017, and plans to head back into the studio in the later part of the year to complete a full-length album. For more information on LeDoux's upcoming concerts, visit his official website, NedLeDoux.com, or follow him in Facebook.
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