She’s like one of my heroes. She’s so smart. I remember a quote from her. When she went to do pop music, or went to do a movie, they said, “Why are you leaving country music?” And she said, “I’m not leaving country music. I’m taking it with me.” So, I don’t know [laughing]. I just think there’s a big misconception for it, and that’s what keeps it in the closet, or keeps it in the box, inside that box. I think as more people get to know it, they realize there’s a lot more relatable music in country music than they would have assumed.
I definitely agree with you on that. Out of all your songs, I really love “Because You Love Me.” Even though you don’t directly mention God, I think the “love” you speak of can be interpreted vertically or horizontally.
Oh, yes! The song is definitely dedicated to Him. At that point in my life, I didn’t know a love like that. You know what I mean? I didn’t know a love like, “I’m alive because you love me.” That was one of those songs where my label was like, “Can you record this?” I’m like, “Well, I have to find a way to relate to it.” And I can’t relate to it from a man and woman perspective because I’ve never experienced that kind of love. And so I drew my strength for that song from God. And I dedicate that song to Him on my album. I don’t know if you saw that or not.
There aren’t a lot of artists that are comfortable spreading a religious message. Sometimes they don’t want to feel like they’re beating people’s heads with it. I really appreciate the message that you bring and that religious impulse. I’ve always appreciated you just being comfortable in your skin while you’re singing.
Well, I’m not pushing it on you. That’s just who I am.
Outside the world of music, you’ve been an ambassador for the Special Olympics. What kind of messages do you want to send out about the mission of the Special Olympics? Why is it so special?
The thing about the Special Olympics: people think it’s just about the games, and it’s not. They help their members with day-to-day activities and functions. They take care of them and make sure their eyesight and ears and everything’s all checked up. They equip the Special Olympics members with the ability to live a day-to-day life and to function in the day-to-day world. It’s more than the games. Yeah, they have the games and it’s a huge focus and it gives incentive to the athletes. But it isn’t just that. It’s about taking the quality of life all the way around, and making it better, not just, “Hey, let’s have a game.” It isn’t that. I think people should check into it and I think people need to get more involved. Us as human beings need to take our heads out of our own worlds and start giving time to other people and to make the world a better place. You can do that with the Special Olympics if you want. Even if you just want to be a hugger, which is someone who stands at the finish line and you hug the athletes — runners, swimmers, whatever —when they come across the finish line. Hey, who doesn’t want to give a hug?