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Exclusive Interview: T.G. Sheppard and Kelly Lang Talk “Christmas Without You,” Opry Goes Pink, and More

Country music legend T.G. Sheppard and singer-songwriter and author Kelly Lang released their holiday single, “Christmas Without You.” This track, a holiday favorite among Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers enthusiasts, has cemented its place as a seasonal classic. The collaboration between Sheppard & Lang brings a distinctive touch that only they could deliver. “Christmas Without You” encompasses the emotions of love and yearning during the festive season through its heartfelt lyrics and soulful melodies. While paying homage to the traditional country sound, the song also introduces a fresh perspective, making it a must-listen for both long-time fans and those new to Sheppard and Lang’s music. 

Sheppard recently celebrated the 40th Anniversary of his #1 hit single “Slow Burn” which was released in September 1983 and was the title track of the hit album as well.

Lang recently made her official Grand Ole Opry debut for Opry Goes Pink, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Opry Goes Pink raises money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation to aid in the fight against breast cancer. Her latest album, ‘Dragonfly’ contains twelve songs, nine of them self-penned, including her popular singles “I’m Not Going Anywhere” and “I Think It’s Jesus.”

We got to sit down and chat with T.G. and Kelly about the Christmas duet, their recent and past successes, and what they have in store for 2024. 

To listen to or purchase the single, please click here.

You can watch the accompanying music video here:

GABBI CALVERT: Hey y’all, thank you for chatting with us here at Guitar Girl! So what was the motive behind choosing this specific song to cover?

KELLY LANG: This is a favorite song of mine from many years ago. The original, the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton version, was one of a lot of great songs on that particular Christmas album. So we chose this because we always liked it! We hope to record even more from that project and hopefully do a Christmas album and tour next year.

GC: Oh, fantastic! Well, I’m so glad because I’ve loved this version, and I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with next! Any fun behind the scenes moments you can share with us from actually recording the project?

T.G. SHEPPARD:  Well, you know, anytime we get a chance to record together, we will record in different modes. Kelly is kinda from memory, she has an uncanny ability to remember every word and I have to have it written out for me. If it’s got the wrong word in there, I will record the wrong word. I mean, it’s always fun when we’re in the studio recording together. It was fun getting in the studio to do this one because Kenny was one of my closest and dearest friends. I’ve worked with him for years. And of course, Dolly is still a friend of ours. So it is kind of special getting to honor those two people.

GC: Well, that is just beautiful. And I’m so glad that you do get to do that. I have a question for the people that are also with other musicians romantically like you two are. How do you think that your love for each other has helped your music grow over your career?

KL: That’s a great question.

T.G.: That is a great question…

KL: T.G. and I were both married before, and the partners were not in the music industry. They had no understanding of what we did or what made us tick. [We] find a commonality in our marriage, and to have so much in common that we can understand each other. And when he goes on the road, I know exactly what he’s talking about when he comes home from an event because maybe I’ve already played that same kind of show before. I have an empathy and understanding where somebody that wasn’t having the same kind of experiences wouldn’t understand. So it’s really been enhancing our relationship. A lot of people would think it would be competitive, but it’s really not. I have great respect, and I know who he is, and what he’s accomplished. I learn from him on a daily basis.

GC: Thank you for that answer, that is fantastic. I have a question about the track: who produced this track for y’all?

KL: We did!

T.G.: We produced it, it’s ours.  We enjoy studio life. We enjoy live performance, but we love creating, being in control. We’re happy that we’re in control of what we do, being producers, and we’ve always done that with our projects that we’ve done together. We’ve always produced them together.

GC: I love that. It brings such a special shine to it, too. Because you’re right! You do have that creative freedom and control to really put the motion that you guys want into it, which I can hear so…

KL: Well, thank you. We know what we love. And we know the musicians are just stellar. We have the A-Team in town and you know, all you gotta do is turn it on, and there they go. We’re there to tweak things, and we know what we want to hear from our own vocals, so it all works out really well.

GC: Since we are Guitar Girl, I do want to talk about guitars! Do you guys have any favorite guitars to play right now? 

KL: Well, I’ve got a sponsorship from Washburn. I really enjoy my Washburn, but my original 12-string when I was starting out was an Alvarez, and I’ve always just been really attached to that particular guitar. It was actually Johnny Cash that bought it for his daughter, but she didn’t want to play a 12-string, so my dad ended up buying it for me! So it’s got a sweet little history with that.

GC:  I love that. I love Alvarezes too. My biggest mentor and guitar player back home, he just passed from cancer, but he played the most beautiful Alvarez. And, you know, it was not the most expensive guitar or anything, but it was just his love for it and his passion that made it sound so fantastic. 

KL: One of my favorite guitars was a gift from my dad. It’s a white Washburn, and I also have, I guess, my favorite favorite guitar, just for the looks of it if nothing else, a red guitar that has my name down the neck of it. So it’s, you know, just a prized possession for me. I’m not the greatest guitar player, but I can play by ear, I can chunk along, you know, but I wish I had more skills at that. I just have never been able to pick it up as much as I’d like, but you wouldn’t know that by the 500,000 guitars laying around the house here (laughs).

GC: Right? Well, you have to have as many pretty guitars as you can…I think that’s just part of it! Alright, so another fun question. I love holiday traditions. What is your guys’ favorite holiday tradition as a family?

T.G.:   Well, as a family, it’s when our children are here. We always start off with the stocking stuffers, you know, we empty out the stockings that hang off the banner. And then we go to the gifts under the tree. We always try to take in a movie because Christmas time is when a lot of the people at the studios put out great movies to watch. We always wind up after having Christmas at home going into the movies with the hot dog and the popcorn.

GC: Oh my gosh, actually, my family has done the same thing. So I love that tradition, too. And yeah, all the best movies come out around this time!

T.G.: I also want to mention that we had just released our video of “Christmas Without You,” our Christmas single. It was released yesterday, and people can go to our Facebook pages to see it and or they can go to our YouTube channels. Kelly Lang’s YouTube channel or the T.G. Sheppard YouTube channel, and subscribe when you get there.

GC: Excellent, I’ll be sure to include that so people can go watch it!

T.G.: Yeah, it was a fun video to do. Kelly also directs and produces our videos.

GC: Oh, my goodness! You guys are incredible!

T.G.: Multitasking…everything. Yeah. Not much she can’t do. She’s not only a record producer and an author, you know, she wrote her book that came out and did very well…She does it all.

KL: I’m blushing over here, by the way.

GC:  Oh, you guys…I love it. Well, Kelly, I also want to talk about your official Opry debut for Opry Goes Pink. That event looked like an absolute blast! Tell us a little bit more about the fundraising that you do for the fight against breast cancer and tell us a little more about that event.

KL: Well, for those that might not be aware, I’m almost a 19-year breast cancer survivor now, and it’s been an incredible journey. I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way, Olivia Newton-John was a dear friend of mine. And a lot of my tactics to stay alive, and happy, and healthy are from her, which I put a lot of those tidbits in my book, I’m Not Going Anywhere. And I was really thrilled that the Opry allowed me the time to not only sing two of my songs, but they also wanted me to share my story to hopefully, you know, shed some light to those that might be just recently diagnosed there. It was a perfect night for that message, and I was very, very blessed to be there. I’ve sung on the stage before with T.G. of course, and Barry Gibb, but never alone, so that was a real thrill and a career-altering evening. I am still very, very blessed and humbled by that. 

GC: Absolutely, well, congratulations because that is just amazing. And T.G., you recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of Slow Burn. Congratulations on that! What do you think made this such a standout hit for you?

T.G.: Well, first of all, it was produced by Jim Ed Norman, who at that time was at Warner Brothers producing The Eagles. You know, those Eagles records were synonymous with harmonies. And so when Jim Ed came to me with Slow Burn, he said, “I think I found you one of your career songs.” And I said, “Let’s listen! And when I heard it, I knew I was with the right guy to do the harmonies behind it with Jim Ed. And yeah, it’s gone on to become, you know, we’ve been fortunate to have had 21 number one hits, but that one is one of the ones that sticks out the most. I enjoy doing Slow Burn in concert I guess more than any other. And it’s kind of held up and stood the test of time with the musical track.

GC: I totally agree. You guys have so much to be so proud of this holiday season including this new single! I absolutely love it. What is coming up next for the two of you in the new year? Any new singles or releases we can expect?

KL:  Well, I’ve got a new album that’s out already called Dragonfly. It’s basically an all-original, with the exception of a few songs that I wrote that we’re still promoting. T.G. and I are also in the process of doing a duet album that should be out by Valentine’s Day, so that’s that. We’re also going to be on the Huckabee TV show in December, and then we’re also going to be on the Daily and Vincent Christmas Show, doing our new single Christmas Without You. We’re pretty busy. 

GC: Oh my gosh, you are absolutely busy! It’s been lovely to talk to you guys, and I’m so excited to see what you guys do next!

Keep up with all things T.G. Sheppard and Kelly Lang at their websites or on social media.

Guitar Girl Magazine

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