By Tammy Everitt
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The last time country artist Billy Dean performed at the Country Music Expo his 2005 song “Let Them Be Little” had just been released.
Eight years later, this Sunday, Dean returns to the 19th annual show set to be held in the West Pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.
The Quincy, Fla. native got his start back in 1988 with a male vocalist win on TV’s “Star Search” competition. In 1990, Dean’s single “Only Here for a Little While,” was the first release from his debut album “Young Man.”
After several hits, “Somewhere in My Broken Heart,” “Only the Wind,” his signature song, “Billy the Kid” and “If There Hadn’t Been You,” he closed 1992 by being named Top New Male Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music.
The ‘90s reeled off hits “Trying to Hide A Fire in the Dark,” “I’m Not Built that Way,” and a cover of Dave Mason’s 1977 pop hit “We Just Disagree.”
Dean talked to The Herald Bulletin to catch fans up on what is going on these days.
After several hiatuses over the years to spend time with his kids, Hannah and Eli are now grown.
Daughter Hannah who just turned 18 will be attending Middle Tennessee State University to study nursing. Eli, who turns 20 in June, attends UTC Chattanooga majoring in business/marketing. He plays guitar and according to dad, has excellent taste in music.
“It’s been hard but I don’t regret stepping back to be a dad. It’s the best thing I ever did,’’ said Dean. “Years back a slideshow of my kids was being shown behind me while I was singing ‘Let Them Be Little’,” said Dean, recalling the song he and Richie McDonald of Lonestar co-wrote.
“I looked back at it and just completely lost it. So after that, every time I sing that in concert I try to find something crazy to get my mind off the lyrics.”
One moment that helps is a memory of Hannah and her boyfriend going to the Grand Ole Opry with her dad and her boyfriend who had a nose stud, lip ring and two ears pierced to the hilt. Dean introduced the youngsters to Mel Tillis.
“Son, you look like you fell into a ... a ... a tackle box,’’ said Tillis in his now-famous stutter.
Though there are no regrets about the time spent away from the music business and touring it has taken awhile to get himself back out there.
“It took a toll on my career and we lost contact with a lot of fans. But with social media, we are slowly reconnecting with the fans with some new music and the stuff going on at Dean Acres,’’ said Dean.
He and wife Stephanie own and operate Dean Acres just outside of Nashville, Tenn. One of the many things going on at the farm include planting and harvesting herbs such as rosemary, basil, oregano and thyme. They also host weddings, special events and concerts. There’s even a cabin that can be rented.
Coming up on Saturday, April 27, Billy, and friend and fellow country artist James Otto will host the second annual BBB (Billy’s Birthday Bash). Dean celebrated his 51st birthday on April 2.
“A Man of Good Fortune,” Dean’s latest CD and his first one out for fans in for to five years, was released last September for media and on his website. Its official launch happens next month with “I Can’t Leave a Good Thing” as the first single. Dean penned seven of the 10 songs.
Currently touring 60 to 75 dates a year, he will re-join past tour partner, Kenny Rogers, in Branson, Mo., as part of Rogers’ upcoming Christmas musical, “The Toy Shoppe.” The show starts Nov. 1 and will run for eight weeks at the Starlight Theatre.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever done a musical and dialogue too and that makes me kinda nervous,’’ said Dean.
Dean is no stranger to movies and television shows with roles on the former soap “One Life to Live,” “Lois and Clark,” “Wings,” and “Diagnosis Murder.” He also appeared in “A Face to Kill For,” with Crystal Bernard and “Blue Valley Songbird” with Dolly Parton.
“Dolly’s nephew has written a script and would like for me to commit to it,’’ said Dean. “We’ve also tossed around doing a reality show from our farm.”