At 87, William Shatner is still exploring new frontiers.
Shatner will make his Grand Ole Opry debut on Friday, Feb. 15 when he joins Alabama’s Jeff Cook to perform music from Why Not Me?, Shatner’s first country project which released on Heartland Records in 2018. Shatner is also set to emcee the evening.
Shatner, of course, is known for his love of country music, having made appearances in Brad Paisley’s videos for 2003’s “Celebrity” and 2007’s “Online.” Shatner also appeared at the 2015 CMA Awards for a segment with Paisley and co-host Carrie Underwood.
He’s also no stranger to a recording studio. Though Shatner is best known as a thespian, particularly for his signature role as Captain Kirk in Star Trek, as well as his portrayal of lawyer Denny Crane on The Practice and Boston Legal, Shatner also has 10 albums to his credit. His first, The Transformed Man, came in 1968 via Decca Records.
Shatner credits Heartland’s Brian Curl, a co-producer on the project, with suggesting that Shatner and Cook collaborate.
Shatner recorded the album at Cook’s home, which Shatner describes as a “castle,” in Fort Payne, Alabama.
“I had been performing in England and I arrived late on a Sunday or Monday night to Nashville airport and Brian drove me to Jeff’s house. It had a surreal feel to it,” Shatner told MusicRow. “I remember, arriving in the middle of the night, sleeping as best I could in a strange room, and then going into his studio the next day to lay down the tracks.”
Ever the professional, Shatner thoroughly rehearsed before heading into the studio. The pre-planning paid off when Shatner’s portion of each of the album’s 12 tracks was recorded on the first day.
“We gave ourselves a week to do the album, so it left so much time to work on the nuances and begin the orchestration,” he said.
For the upcoming Opry performance, Shatner and Cook will perform the album’s title track, which was penned by Corey Lee Barker and Shawn Sackman. The album version of the song also features Neal McCoy and vocal group Home Free.
“There are so many people in the world that need help and everybody says, ‘Let somebody else do it.’” Shatner says. “But the song challenges that. It’s that concept of feeling the responsibility and the conscience to help.”
Shatner was particularly moved by the universality of one track on the album, “What Some People Throw Away.”
“I approached it as an actor, so this character is filled with regret of a dissolved relationship and getting rid of the debris. He’s looking at this picture and wishing things had been different. The last line is about things people throw away, which is not only pencils and magazines, but relationships and love.”
The album is also peppered with humorous tracks “Too Old To Be Vegan” and “I Hate To Waste Good Beer,” and “Beam Me Up,” a lyrical ode to the signature Star Trek catchphrase.
Shatner still has plenty of creative avenues he’s eager to explore.
“They’ve asked me to do a blues album, so I’ve begun work on that,” he says. “I want to make a documentary, as well as an album. I’ve talked to Joe Louis Walker, Paul Nelson, B.B.’s daughter Shirley King and Arthur Adams. They will all be in the documentary, and maybe even on the album. It’s me diving into another musical subject I’ve loved all my life. But how to perform it? That’s another thing.”
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